Pavel Paloncý now leads the Spine Race. Photo: Bob Smith/grough

Pavel Paloncý now leads the Spine Race. Photo: Bob Smith/grough

Irish athlete Eoin Keith, who took over the lead of the Montane Spine Race when frontrunner Jim Mann retired, has himself dropped out of the race.

Pavel Paloncý of the Czech Republic, who has twice won the event, is now at the head of the runners as they enter the final leg of the race along the Border Ridge before dropping down into Kirk Yetholm.

Paloncý is currently sleeping at Byrness, while Swiss runner Simon Gfeller and last year’s winner Tom Hollins are both taking a break at Bellingham, about 24km south.

Swiss runner Simon Gfeller is in joint second place. Photo: Bob Smith/grough

Swiss runner Simon Gfeller is in joint second place. Photo: Bob Smith/grough

Leading woman Carol Morgan of Ireland is just south of Hadrian’s Wall in a group of four with Gavin Woody, Mark Turner and Gwynn Stokes in fifth position.

Keith, who holds the record for the race, ceded the lead when he returned to Bellingham to collect his snow shoes for the section north of the checkpoint, but subsequently withdrew from the race.

Carol Morgan has a commanding lead in the women's race. Photo: Bob Smith/grough

Carol Morgan has a commanding lead in the women's race. Photo: Bob Smith/grough

Runners faced deep snow on parts of the Pennine Way and Paloncý’s map blew away as he made his way through the night.

The Czech athlete now has 43km to go to the finish, seemingly unassailable ahead of Gfeller and Hollins, though the latter won the Spine Race last year by timing his sleep breaks better.

More snow and high winds are forecast as the race leaders enter their final few hours on the Pennine Way.

Forty-three competitors have now retired from the Montane Spine Race.

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