Race leader Jim Mann has set a blistering pace. Photo: Bob Smith/grough

Race leader Jim Mann has set a blistering pace. Photo: Bob Smith/grough

Montane Spine Race leader Jim Mann is continuing to set a blistering pace as runners contend with harsh winter conditions in the northern Pennines.

Organisers of the race are having to open checkpoints five hours earlier than anticipated as the Durham-based athlete heads up the course.

Mann arrived at Hawes in the Yorkshire Dales ahead of the record-breaking winning time of Wouter Huitzing in the shorter Montane Spine Challenger.

The Spine Race leader slept about an hour at the checkpoint, briefly allowing second-placed runner and course-record-holder Eoin Keith to leapfrog him into first place. But a rested Mann left Hawes 18 minutes behind Keith and soon powered past him on the way up Great Shunner Fell.

On Monday Mann arrived at check point three, Middleton in Teesdale, 216km into the race, seven hours ahead of course-record pace.

He said: “It was really good fun out there today. Beautiful. Nice, big, deep bogs.”

Eoin Keith. Photo: Bob Smith/grough

Eoin Keith. Photo: Bob Smith/grough

Second-placed Keith had a failed attempt at a power nap at the Tan Hill Inn, Britain’s highest pub, before giving chase again. The Irishman described the weather as ‘brutal’.

Two-times Spine Race winner and record four-times finisher Pavel Paloncý of the Czech Republic is third, after sleeping unusually early at Hawes for two hours. Last year’s race winner Tom Hollins arrived at Hawes in good spirits and slept for five hours. Simon Gfeller of Switzerland who also slept at Hawes, edged ahead of Hollins into fourth but the Yorkshire anaesthetist has regained the place as the runners head up Teesdale.

Carol Morgan. Photo: Bob Smith/grough

Carol Morgan. Photo: Bob Smith/grough

The women’s race hasn’t been smooth for the leader. Irish athlete Carol Morgan, the current women’s champion and course-record holder, arrived at Hawes looking weak and tired, and spent time with medical staff.

This, along with food and about 1½ to two hours’ sleep revived her. “I’m feeling good,” she said. “Much better than when I came in. I’ve eaten lots and lots and lots.”

France’s Daphné Derouch is in second place in the women’s race. Sarah Kirsty Williams is third, a few kilometres behind her.

 Eugeni Roselló Solé is out of the race. Photo: Bob Smith/grough

Eugeni Roselló Solé is out of the race. Photo: Bob Smith/grough

Spain’s Eugeni Roselló Solé, the 2013 winner, pulled out of the race at Malham Tarn after suffering failures of both his GPS units. There have been 34 retirements so far.

Contestants in the event, dubbed Britain’s most brutal race, faced overnight snow and sleet showers, and these are forecast to continue through Tuesday, with the added hazard of thunderstorms on Wednesday, with winds gusting to 65mph.

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