Tom Hollins leads The Spine Challenge

Tom Hollins leads The Spine Challenge

The event dubbed Britain’s most brutal race is underway, with competitors currently having to cope with driving rain as they negotiate the Yorkshire moors in the dark.

The Montane Spine Race and its shorter cousin The Spine Challenge began this morning in the Peak District.

Runners on The Spine will attempt the full 431km (268 miles) of the Pennine Way over five days. 61 men and seven women started the race from Edale at 10am on Saturday.

Three hours earlier, the field of The Spine Challenger, covering the southern 174km (108 miles) of the national trail, set off from the village. They are due to finish at Hawes in the Yorkshire Dales.

Already, six Challenger entrants have dropped out, along with one from The Spine.

For the first year, organisers have inaugurated a Mountain Rescue Challenge along the 108-mile route, for members of the UK’s mountain rescue teams.

Matt Bennett and Beth Pascall are running together

Matt Bennett and Beth Pascall are running together

At the time of writing, last year’s winner Pavel Paloncy and Spanish runner Eugeni Roselló Sole were at the head of The Spine, having overtaken early leader Richard Lendon. Irishman Eoin Keith is close behind in third.

The leaders are currently north of the flood-hit town of Hebden Bridge and are heading towards the Brontë moors.

Tim Budd is leading The Spine Mountain Rescue Challenge

Tim Budd is leading The Spine Mountain Rescue Challenge

In the Challenger, Tom Hollins is still out in front, having overtaken second-place Matt Bennett just short of six hours into the race. With Bennett is leading woman in the Challenger, Beth Pascall, who is about 14 minutes behind the leader. All three are now in North Yorkshire, heading for the Dales.

Leading man in the Mountain Rescue category is Tim Budd of Glossop, who has a near two-hour lead over second-placed Joe Farnell of Edale.

The public can follow the progress of runners on the live feed page for The Montane Spine Race.

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