Eugeni Roselló Solé nears the summit of Pen-y-ghent. Photo: Mick Kenyon/Montane Spine Race

Eugeni Roselló Solé nears the summit of Pen-y-ghent. Photo: Mick Kenyon/Montane Spine Race

The two leading runners in the gruelling Montane Spine Race were each given a 30-minute penalty for inadvertently taking a short cut.

Pavel Paloncý and Eugeni Roselló Solé missed out the village of Thornton-in-Craven, west of Skipton, and had to take an enforced 30 minute stop as a result.

Despite this, the Czech runner and the Spaniard still lead the race, ahead of last year’s victor, Irishman Eoin Keith.

Another Irish runner, Carol Morgan leads the women’s race. Top Briton is Yorkshire anaesthetist Tom Hollins, who won the shorter Montane Spine Challenger in 2016.

The two previous race-winners broke away from 2016 winner and course record-holder Eoin Keith within the first two hours of the start on Sunday.

Keith was often only 1-2km behind them during the night. But as dawn broke on Monday morning they began opening up a gap, with Keith saying he was suffering from the ‘sleep monsters’ as he climbed the 694m (2,277ft) peak of Pen-y-ghent in the Yorkshire Dales national park. The term describes hallucinations experienced by ultrarunners during events such as the Spine Race due to sleep deprivation.

Paloncý and Roselló Solé reached the race’s second major checkpoint at Hawes, 108 miles into the race, early on Monday afternoon. They left after just eight minutes, with Keith arriving an hour later.

The Irishman slept at the checkpoint for about two hours, leaving at around 6pm. By that time Tom Hollins had had arrived and left, overtaking Keith and moving into third place.

When the two frontrunners arrived at Hawes, they were served with their time penalties, for inadvertently shortcutting the course during the night.

Their unauthorised route was adjudged to have benefited them by about 20 minutes and the race directors punished the two runners with a 30-minute time sanction – 20 minutes that they gained and a 10 minute penalty, 50 per cent of the time they gained.

One runner receives attention during a stop. Photo: Yann Besrest-Butler/Montane Spine Race

One runner receives attention during a stop. Photo: Yann Besrest-Butler/Montane Spine Race

Paloncý and Roselló Solé chose to serve the stop-and-go penalty at the third major checkpoint, Middleton-in-Teesdale, later that night, during which they were not allowed to access the checkpoint facilities.

Carol Morgan, a previous women’s winner of the Montane Lakeland 100 and the Fellsman ultramarathons, leads the women’s race, from Helene Dumais of Canada. Morgan made good progress throughout Tuesday and was in sixth overall place late into the evening as she approached Dufton.

Late on Tuesday, the Czech and Spanish race leaders were taking a pause at the Alston checkpoint, with Eoin Keith and Tom Hollins on Cross Fell and Little Dun Fell respectively.

Relatively benign conditions for January, with temperatures largely above freezing, have been countered by low cloud providing navigational difficulties for runners. By Tuesday evening, 33 competitors had dropped out.

By Tuesday night, the field was spread out along more than 40 miles of the Pennine Way, with Bruce Ballagher bringing up the rear on Dodd Fell.

Dominic Layfield’s new record for the Montane Spine Challenger was confirmed at 28hrs, and the women’s Challenger race was won by Sarah Davies in a time of 37hrs 53mins.

Ella Corrick was fastest woman in the Montane Spine MRT Challenge with a time of 58hrs 18mins.

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