Sabrina Verjee is set to defend her Montane Spine Race title beginning on Sunday as one of the world's toughest races has again attracted a top field.
Verjee, who completed the 260 miles from Edale, Derbyshire, to Kirk Yetholm, Scottish Borders in 2020 in 60 hours 7 minutes 17 seconds, is one of around 150 on the start list.
The route covers the popular hiking trail along the "backbone" of England. It includes some of the most technical terrain on the British Isles and as it meanders through the Peak District, Yorkshire Dales, Northumberland National Park, Hadrian’s Wall and the Cheviots.
Competitors will have up to seven days to cover the route, which has more than 11,000m of vertical gain, coping with treacherous weather conditions as they do so.
It is the event which made international news headlines in 2019 when Jasmin Paris won the race in a female and outright course record of 83:12:23.
Verjee, who holds the outright record for completing all 214 Wainwrights summits, was fifth overall two years ago. She also won outright the Montane Summer Spine Race over the same route in 2019.
Likely to provide tough opposition will be Anna Troup, who was first woman in last year's Summer Spine in a record 80:28:35. She also holds the female record for a traverse of the Pennine Way with 76:46:37. Also in the line-up are Debbie Martin-Consani, who was second woman in 2020.
On the men's side, Damian Hall, who set a since-beaten fastest-known time for the Pennine Way in 2020 (37:35:15), is back for a third attempt here. He was fourth in 2014 and third in 2013 but has improved since his days as a comparative beginner.
Ireland's Eoin Keith is a regular in both versions of the Spine Race. The winner in 2016 was second outright in 2019 and 2020 as well as the Summer Spine Race champion last year.
Paddy Buckley Round record-holder Kim Collison, 2020's third-placer Simon Gfeller of Austria and Douglas Zinis, winner of the 2020 Spine Challenger race will be others in contention.
The Montane Spine Challenger race begins tomorrow and is a 108-mile non-stop race from Edale to Hardraw. Then follows the Montane Spine Sprint over 43 miles, also starting Saturday.
The Spine Race itself starts at 8am Sunday. At the same time, the new Montane Spine Challenger will begin at Hawes, covering the 160 miles to Kirk Yetholm.
Main pic: Sabrina Verjee winning the 2020 Montane Spine Race (credit: Jimmy Hyland)