The Spine Race Film tells the tale of the brutal event along the Pennines in winter

The Spine Race Film tells the tale of the brutal event along the Pennines in winter

“Are you concerned someone might die?” – “Of course,” comes the reply from Philip Hayday-Brown early in this film. He’s one of the race directors of The Spine, dubbed the country’s most brutal race.

If anything is guaranteed to send a chill down your spine, this simply told account of the travails of the competitors aiming to finish the 268-mile race up the Pennine Way is it.

The theme is wind, more wind, rain, snow, and even more wind.

The crowd-sourced 60-minute movie gives a true insight into the horrors of tackling the high ground of England in January. Throw in sleep deprivation, hallucination, blizzards causing ‘rainbows in my eyes’ and the inevitable physical injuries and you have a true flavour of this masochistic event.

Imagine suffering a kind of whiplash because your head dropped forward when you literally fell asleep while running. No need to imagine it; Beth Pascall suffered it.

When leadership contender Pavel Paloncy is asked in Kirk Yetholm, the finishing point of The Spine, why he’s happy, his reply is succinct: “Because it’s over.”

As Sir Ranulph Fiennes points out in a brief cameo interview, the type of soaking wet cold encountered in a 5C Pennine torrent accompanied by the gales that persist during virtually the whole race is every bit as hazardous as much colder dry conditions experienced in the Arctic or on the Greater Ranges. Competitor Guido Huwiler says: “If you stop moving, it gets dangerous.”

The Montane Spine Race Film has no delusions of art; it’s a simple tale, told by film-makers Ellie West and Matt Green, without emotional voiceover or high-tech graphics. The emotion and drama come from the faces of the runners, the elements battering the Pennines and the simple home truths uttered by the increasingly spaced-out competitors.

Anyone who has taken part in a long-distance endurance event will recognise the other worldliness of such challenges as pain, fear and sleeplessness merge into a kind of benevolent hell. Those familiar with much of the terrain will nod in appreciation as they recognise the pitfalls of traversing the spine of England. Even seasoned ultrarunners can take a wrong turn on Kinder Scout, though one believed the climb up Malham Cove was akin to the stairway to heaven.

Few will fail to appreciate the grit and strength of mind of these super athletes whom we see pitting themselves against their physical and mental weaknesses and the greater natural phenomena in this captivating little film.

The Montane Spine Race Film

Available from Summit Fever Media

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