Competitors will battle winter conditions in the brutal race

Competitors will battle winter conditions in the brutal race

Runners will line up this weekend for a gruelling race along the length of Britain’s first national trail.

The Montane Spine Race involves running the full 268-mile Pennine Way in winter conditions with minimal daylight hours.

This year’s race sees the strongest starting line-up in the event’s seven-year history, with four previous race winners being joined by other long-distance ultrarunning specialists.

The Montane Spine Race starts at 8am on Sunday, with more than 100 entrants expected to start the men’s race. Last year’s women’s winner will be joined by 12 other female competitors.

The shorter Montane Spine Challenger, which runs from Edale to Hardraw, starts 24 hours earlier and a special Challenger race for mountain rescue team members will also take place.

Tom Hollins was last year's surprise winner. Photo: Bob Smith/grough

Tom Hollins was last year's surprise winner. Photo: Bob Smith/grough

Organisers of the event, dubbed Britain’s most brutal race, said: “After his surprise victory at the 2017 Spine Race, Tom Hollins returns for the 2018 event.

“The Yorkshire anaesthetist will again race two-time winner Pavel Paloncý, who could become the first person to complete the 431km (268-mile) Spine Race five times.”

Czech runner Paloncý and 2013 winner Eugeni Roselló Solé of Spain were narrowly beaten by Hollins last year. The Spaniard is returning for a record sixth start.

Pavel Paloncý, left, and Eugeni Roselló Solé in last year's Spine Race. Photo: Bob Smith/grough

Pavel Paloncý, left, and Eugeni Roselló Solé in last year's Spine Race. Photo: Bob Smith/grough

Course record holder Eoin Keith of Ireland will also be in Edale for his fourth start, after he had to pull out of last year’s race with a broken rib.

Race organisers said: “Those four all raced each other in 2017, but they haven’t raced Jim Mann, winner of the 300km multi-stage Dragon’s Back Race in 2015 and holder of multiple mountain-running winter records in the UK.

“Mann lives in the Pennines and knows the course well, but that isn’t the case for another podium contender, [Italian] Oliviero Bosatelli. Bosatelli won the similarly gruelling 330km single-stage Montane Tor des Géants in 2016, which like the Spine Race is part of the 5Legends series.

“In fact the fireman has placed on the Tor des Géants podium three times, but how will he cope with British weather and terrain?”

Several strong Spanish runners also join a field that’s more international than ever, with 48 foreign competitors representing 19 countries, with 134 runners in total.

Carol Morgan smashed the women's record in last year's Montane Spine Race. Photo: Bob Smith/grough

Carol Morgan smashed the women's record in last year's Montane Spine Race. Photo: Bob Smith/grough

In the women’s race, 2017 winner and course record-holder Carol Morgan of Ireland is returning. Last year she pulled away early and only increased her lead, finishing joint-sixth overall in a time of 109hrs 54mins. Briton Sarah Kirsty is among the 12 women seeking to make it harder for her this time around.

Saturday morning sees the start of the Montane Spine Challenger, 108 miles along the Pennine Way from Edale to Hardraw in the Yorkshire Dales national park.
After several ultra-distance race wins and impressive mountain-running achievements in the past two years, Andrew Berry of the UK is the favourite for a win. The Spine Challenger has 130 starters, with 21 overseas competitors representing 10 non-UK nations. The women’s race is 13 strong, with local Briton Jen Scotney and Christina Calderon possible contenders.

Half an hour after the start of the Spine Challenger, the Montane Spine MRT Challenge starts with, with 19 runners from rescue teams, following the same 108-mile route along the Pennine Way as the Spine Challenger.

The Montane Spine has established itself as one of the world’s toughest endurance races. The inaugural Spine Race took place in 2012, with only 11 entrants, of which three ultimately crossed the finish line in Kirk Yetholm in the Scottish Borders. This year, 283 runners – including 69 from overseas – will line up at the start of the three Montane Spine races.

Competitors’ progress can be followed on the race’s live tracker.

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