Britain’s “Most Brutal Race” Pushes Runners To The Limit Across 268-Mile Course In Freezing Conditions

Runners continue to drop like flies in Montane Winter Spine Race

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Britain's "Most Brutal Race" Pushes Runners To The Limit Across 268-Mile Course In Freezing Conditions 1

In the heart of winter, against the backdrop of some of the British Isles’ most challenging terrains, the Montane Winter Spine Race 2024 began on January 14. 

A test of athletes’ physical endurance and mental resilience, this ultramarathon has drawn 165 adventurers into a 268-mile non-stop odyssey along the treacherous Pennine Way from Edale, Derbyshire, to Kirk Yetholm, Scottish Borders. 

Regarded as Britain’s most brutal race, the Spine is a physical and mental challenge that will push participants to their limits.


A Star-Studded Lineup

The starting line boasted a constellation of decorated ultrarunners, including the defending champion, Damian Hall, and one of last year’s top contenders, Jack Scott, who narrowly missed victory due to a navigational error.

American athlete John Kelly, triumphant in the 2020 edition, added an international flair to the competition. 

The women’s field showcased defending champion Claire Bannwarth alongside formidable contenders such as Hannah Rickman and the surprising debutant Lucy Gossage, a former triathlon champion.

Britain's "Most Brutal Race" Pushes Runners To The Limit Across 268-Mile Course In Freezing Conditions 2
Photo Credit: Montane Spine Race

Early Triumphs and Heartbreaking Retirements

As the race unfolded, a lead pack formed on the first day, featuring Kelly, Hall, Scott, and Kim Collison

Regrettably, Kelly’s journey concluded prematurely at the 65-mile mark due to a sprained ankle, a setback shared on his social media channels.

Adding to the drama, Pavel Paloncy, a three-time winner, bowed out at Malham Tarn in the early hours of Monday morning, succumbing to a debilitating knee injury and joining Kelly on the sidelines.

Britain's "Most Brutal Race" Pushes Runners To The Limit Across 268-Mile Course In Freezing Conditions 3
Photo Credit: Montane Spine Race

Leaders Emerge Amid Challenging Conditions

In the men’s race, Hall, Scott, and Rawlik established themselves as frontrunners after Collison was forced to make his exit from the race. 

Their relentless pace remained well ahead of the record schedule as these elite athletes continue to create a thrilling and promising competition.

The women’s race saw Bannwarth leading the charge, closely pursued by Rickman and the remarkable debutant Gossage, who surged into second place, defying expectations with her performance.

Britain's "Most Brutal Race" Pushes Runners To The Limit Across 268-Mile Course In Freezing Conditions 4
Photo Credit: Montane Spine Race

Navigating Unexpected Adversity

The racers encountered a significant obstacle in the form of seriously icy conditions, leading race organizers to announce a diversion at Cauldron Snout. Runners were directed away from the River Tees at Saur Hill Bridge, rejoining the original route after passing Cow Green Reservoir.

As participants grappled with freezing temperatures, frozen ground, and the looming specter of snow and ice, the Spine Race evolved into an arduous test of physical and mental endurance against the unforgiving elements.

Britain's "Most Brutal Race" Pushes Runners To The Limit Across 268-Mile Course In Freezing Conditions 5
Photo Credit: Montane Spine Race

Latest Developments and Challenges

On the third day, high-profile retirements persisted, with Eugeni Roselló Sole and James Nobles exiting the race at CP3 and Dufton, respectively.

Scott maintained a slight lead over Hall in the men’s race, both ahead of the record pace.

Meanwhile, Bannwarth extended her lead in the women’s race, with Gossage solidifying her position in second.

Britain's "Most Brutal Race" Pushes Runners To The Limit Across 268-Mile Course In Freezing Conditions 6
Photo Credit: Montane Spine Race

As the Montane Winter Spine Race continues to unfold, participants navigate not only the challenging terrains of the Pennine Way but also their own physical and mental limits. 

Stay tuned for further updates as the race unfolds.

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Jessy has been active her whole life, competing in cross-country, track running, and soccer throughout her undergrad. She pivoted to road cycling after completing her Bachelor of Kinesiology with Nutrition from Acadia University. Jessy is currently a professional road cyclist living and training in Spain.

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