Montane athletes to tackle Britain's "most brutal" endurance race

Trio set to toe the line in Montane Spine Race on January 13

Jen Scotney on her way to third in last year’s Spine Challenger (credit: John Bamber)

Jen Scotney on her way to third in last year’s Spine Challenger (credit: John Bamber)

Jen Scotney, Jayson Cavill and Kevin Hadfield are the Montane-sponsored athletes who will compete in the Montane Spine Race next month.

The Montane Spine Race is a non-stop 268 mile winter ultra-marathon encompassing the entire length of the Pennine Way, and is widely regarded as one of the world’s toughest endurance races.

Since its inception in 2012, which saw 11 entrants and only 3 finishers, it has enjoyed a hard-earned reputation as a truly epic challenge and a true test of racers physical resilience and mental fortitude. On 13th January, over 250 will toe the start line, hoping they have what it takes to run the spine of Britain.

Scott Gilmour, Montane Spine Race organiser explains: “The Montane Spine Race was born out of a desire to test not just ultra-racing skills, but expedition skills. We watched as the ultra-distance race trend grew and grew, and wanted to take that challenge to a whole different level.”

The Pennine Way National Trail is a 268-mile (429km) route from Edale in Derbyshire to Kirk Yetholm, Scotland, tracing the backbone of England. It crosses some of the finest upland landscapes in the country, from the Peak District, through the Yorkshire Dales, across the North Pennines and over World Heritage-listed Hadrians Wall, before finishing North of the Scottish border in Kirk Yetholm.

Britain’s Cavill, who was fifth in the Montane Lakeland 100 in 2017, said: “I’m really looking forwards to whatever is thrown at us; the solitude, the like-minded people, travelling through such diverse and iconic scenery and trails while being semi self-sufficient is hugely exciting and at the same time quite daunting. It will be a great test in all things endurance.”

Racers are self-supported, and aid stations are few and far between. They will need to be tough, clever, and resourceful enough to endure the harsh British winter, and all the rain, hail, sleet, snow, mud, cold, and wind that entails. The fastest time of 95 hours 17 minutes was set in 2017 by Eoin Keith, with many taking more than seven or eight days to complete it, and it is little wonder over 50% typically do not finish.

Jen Scotney, who was third last year, said: “The route is the biggest pull of this race for me, growing up near the Pennine Way with tales and photos from my parents’ walk along it in 1974. Add to that the unpredictability of 100-plus miles, the roulette of January weather, the hours and hours of darkness, this race will undoubtedly be an adventure and one I am so happy to be returning to.”

Alongside the main Spine Race there is also the Spine Challenger, which is shorter at 108 miles, but no less brutal. Sharing the start, exactly the same route, the Challenger and MRT both finish at Hardraw. Completing the complement of races is the Spine MRT Challenge with the same course as the Challenger but specifically for active members of mountain rescue teams.