The Montane Spine Challenger is a 108 mile, non-stop, 60 hour, winter mountain marathon between Edale and Hawes. This challenging and extremely technical section of the Pennine Way is not just the baby brother to the Spine Race – it is a physically and psychologically demanding route that demands concentration and respect.
The Montane Spine Challenger is an extremely difficult event. From appearances 60 hours looks like ample time to complete this course; however, appearances can be deceptive. The rugged and very technical nature of this race is mentally taxing as you have to constantly be aware of foot placement. Coupled with the limited daylight hours, and the necessity to run in the dark, you can start to build a very clear picture of the race.
In 2014 armed with a greater knowledge we would see a much higher number of finishers within the 60h limit in extremely tough conditions, with extreme boggy sections, mud, snow, hail, cutting winds and poor visibility commonplace.
The Spine Challenger was, like the Spine Race first attempted in January 2012. Officially only 1 Challenger athlete finished the first Spine Challenger and this was the winner, Mark Brooks.
In 2013 returning ‘Spine Breaker’ Mark Caldwell was narrowly beaten by French athlete Philippe Gatta in an incredible sprint finish Philippe’s record time, some 4 hours quicer than the previous record was 32h18m. 2013 also saw the first female finish to the Challenger race, Anne Green completing the course in an impressive 53h38m.
2014 witnessed our largest field of Challengers to date and they did not disappoint! Neither did the weather… Marcus Scotney set an astounding record for the men, completing the course in 29h01m chased all the way by the dogged Grant MacDonald. Jacqui Cooper set an amazing new record for the women completing the race in 42h13m the only female athlete to officially complete the 2014 Challenger event.
Time: 60 hours, non-stop
When: 10 Jan 2015
Checkpoints: 1, 1.5 (finish at Spine Race CP2)
Beds: Yes (at CP1)
Food/ Water: Provided at CP
Resupply Bag: 1x 20kg bag moved CP to CP
Medical Support: Yes
Support Staff: Yes
Training Event: November 2014 (£100 supplement)
Course Record M: Marcus Scotney, 29h01m
Course Record F: Jacqui Cooper, 42h13m
Mark Brooks, 2012 Spine Challenger Winner
I had not planned on a second night! But the Trail was so rough, technical, and rock-strewn that foot placement became the overiding concern. Getting to the finish was the priority. To hell with my time! I had to finish, and eventually I did. My planned sub-30 hour race had turned into a 36 hour epic.
Starting in Edale you will race over Kinder Scout in the Peak District, following the Pennine Way until you reach Hebden Bridge. There is a slight detour here to the CP but beds, showers, hot food and medical attention await you. Most athletes that make CP1 have an average arrival time somewhere between 15-18 hours. You are permitted to stay at a CP for up to 12 hours.
After Hebden Bridge you rejoin the Pennine Way and continue to Hawes, tackling some beautiful peaks and fells found in the Yorkshire Dales. There is also a smaller run through checkpoint established on the course (between CP1-2) with medical attention, hot water and some creature comforts made available.
We move a resupply/ drop bag for you to the next CP (CP1 and Finish) as you progress through the race. The drop bag must weigh no more than 20kgs.
The longest day on the race is the second day. This is the longest section of the course between CP’s (approx. 60 miles). The average completion time for this section was between 22 and 30 hours. Most competing athletes withdrew at this point of the race. If you are competing in the Spine Challenger you can start to build a picture of why you may need 60 hours. The leading Challenger athletes spend very little time at CP1 as they push on to CP2. It is a hard gruelling section of the race course and conditions are variable to say the least.
The Spine Team also monitor the course 24/7 to ensure competitor safety and our support vehicles carry additional hydration for competing athletes. Along with the course monitoring you are permitted the use of a personal support team. For further information about the personal support team, please consult the Race Rules.
To complete the race safely it is required that you carry all of the COMPULSORY equipment listed in the Race Rules. Your equipment may be checked on the course or at a checkpoint by any member of the Spine Team. If you do not carry all of the equipment you may find yourself wanting on the course and place the safety of you and the Spine Team at risk. In this situation you may incur a time penalty or disqualification from the event.
In 2014 we used GPS Trackers provided by Open Adventure. We hope to employ the same system for 2015 to help keep you guys safe.
The current course record (M) is held by Marcus Scotney. The ‘Scotney’ record is 29h01m. The current record (F) is held by Jacqui Cooper. The ‘Cooper’ record is 42h13m.
We take your safety very seriously and staff the event with appropriately skilled professionals who are capable of dealing with emergency situations, should they arise. There is the very real potential for cold weather conditions such as hypothermia caused by freezing temperatures, wind, rain and winter weather.
If all of this hasn’t put you off and you want to take on one of the toughest challenges you could possibly find; visit the Apply section.