This year’s Montane Spine Race was won by Eoin Keith (IRL) in a time of 92:40:30. The first female to cross the line in the 10th anniversary year of the 268-mile (431km) ultra running race on the Pennine Way was Debbie Martin Consani in 104:08:22. Both winners were several hours ahead of their nearest rivals. Debbie came seventh overall.
Eoin ran his own race and outlasted a field of high-profile ultra-runners, race winners and record breakers all, including Damian Hall, Kim Collison and Eugenie Rosello, all of whom retired.
Eoin said: “This was a special win for me. I didn’t think I had a hope, I thought I’d give it my best, but there were just so many class runners here.”
Meanwhile, for Scottish ultra runner Debbie, it was the news that Sabrina Verjee had pulled out early in the race that saw her adjusting her race focus.
When asked how about her victory, she said: “It’s quite unbelievable. Nobody is more shocked about it than me.”
On learning that Sabrina had withdrawn from the race, she said: “It changed the whole make-up of the race. I’d just been doing my own thing and then I had to think about how everyone else was doing. It changed the last few days completely.”
This year, a 15-mile section of the course required vehicle transfer because of the closure of a forest section of the Pennine Way between Bellingham and Byrness. This is due to safety concerns after Storm Arwen felled thousands of trees in the area. The reduction in distance of the course means no official record time can be set this year.
Eoin’s second Spine race win
It was Eoin’s second win in the Montane Spine Race. He has also been runner-up three times and previously held the course record.
In 2021, he also won the summer edition of the race and set a new course record for that race, too, making him the first athlete to win back-to-back summer and winter Spine Races.
After finishing this year’s race, Eoin said: “I ran my own race. It was my most comfortable and balanced Spine race. I don’t have gear five anymore but I’ve always said if you run your own race, and optimise your own performance, your best performance will come out.”
Second and third placed runners were James Leavesley and Doug Zinis, who ran together for several days and finished together in 96:06:30.
Debbie’s triumph in women’s race
It is Debbie’s second Spine Race finish and she arrived in Kirk Yetholm three hours ahead of Elaine Bisson (107:00:38). In third place was Lizzie Faithfull-Davies in 112:47:47.
Debbie ran through some tough times and arrived at the finish line leaning badly to one side due to a back injury.
The race organisers said: “It was the very definition of leaving it all on the trail. Debbie has bent herself in half to get to this finish line and remained gregarious, friendly and generous of spirit throughout. She is an exceptional athlete.”
About the Spine Race
The Spine Race starts in Edale, England, and heads north to finish inKirk Yetholm, Scotland. The first Spine Race took place in 2012 with 11 entrants, of which three crossed the finish line.
In 2018, 283 runners – including 69 from overseas – lined up at the start of three races – the 268-mile Spine® Race, the 108-mile Spine Challenger and the 108-mile MRT Spine Challenge. The Spine® Flare and Fusion races are the summer versions of the Spine Race and started in June 2018.
As per 2018’s rule change, runners are no longer allowed to be supported by an accompanying vehicle and also, aside from the five main checkpoints where competitors can sleep, eat hot food, access a drop bags and get medical attention, there are three minor check points. Runners are allowed to be at these for a maximum of 30 minutes.
MONTANE Spine Race stats:
Distance: 430km/268 miles
Overall ascent: 13,135m/43,093ft
Overall descent: 13,255m/43,487ft
Highest point: 892m/2,926ft (Cross Fell)
Start: 08:00, Sunday, 12 January 2020
Time limit: 168hrs (seven days)
MONTANE® Spine® Race record: 83h 12m (2019), Jasmin Paris (GBR)
MONTANE® Spine® Race record (M): 87h 53m (2020), John Kelly (USA)
Simon Roberts wins sister race: Montane Spine Challenger – North
Simon Roberts triumphed in the inaugural Montane Spine Challenger – North, a sister event of the Spine Race. The Welsh athlete completed the 160-mile course in 43:48:17, some 4.5 hours ahead of the runner up.
Simon set a fast pace in the early stages of the race on the tough northern half of Pennine Way, opening a lead that he never relinquished.
He had to battle through a tough last day, which saw him take a short recovery sleep in his bivvy by Hadrian’s Wall, but he still crossed the line in Kirk Yetholm well ahead of Roland Kelly in 48:23:18. Howard Dracup was third in 49:12:52
Simon, who revealed that he had expected to win, said: “I went out to race hard and race relentless. That is what I managed to pull off.
“I am competitive and that is what drives me on. I want to win and I have to work hard to make sure I win.”
First female was Victoria Morris in 52:51:38, then Hannah Rickman in 57:05:26 and Fanny Jean in 58:53:01. The top two ladies were fourth and fifth overall.
After crossing the line, more than four hours ahead of the female runner up, Victoria said: “I don’t really pay attention to positions and things, I just really enjoyed being part of this new race. I wanted to see how hard I could push myself.”
The new Montane Spine Challenger – North follows a section of the Pennine Way from Hawes to Kirk Yetholm.