Eugeni Roselló Solé in action during last year's Spine Race. Photo: Bob Smith/grough

Eugeni Roselló Solé in action during last year's Spine Race. Photo: Bob Smith/grough

Runners face forecast winds of up to 80mph as they begin a winter challenge up the Pennine Way.

Almost 100 competitors are expected to make the start of the Montane Spine Challenger Race on Saturday, with 174km (108 miles) of brutal terrain and weather ahead of them.

And the following day, 163 runners will follow, as the Montane Spine Race gets underway, covering the full 420km (268-mile) length of the national trail, from Edale to Kirk Yetholm.

Organisers said they are expecting the British weather to throw the kitchen sink at runners. Spine safety team manager Stu Westfield has warned the 98 runners in the Montane Spine Challenger and those in Montane Spine Race itself to expect gale-force winds of up to 80mph on high ground over the weekend and snow later in the week.

The Spine Mountain Rescue Team Challenge, which is on the same course as the Spine Challenger but only open to active mountain rescue personnel from England, Wales and the Scottish Borders, starts at 9am on Saturday, an hour after runners in the open race leave Edale. A total of 25 mountain rescue members are due to compete.

Competitors register at the Edale starting point. Photo: Jimmy Hyland

Competitors register at the Edale starting point. Photo: Jimmy Hyland

Race director Phil Hayday Brown said: “It’s an exciting year with quite an open field; it could really be anyone’s race. The Pennine Way weather could well be the real decider.”

Organisers said one to watch will be returning runner Briton Jen Scotney, taking on the Challenger for the third time, and hoping to improve on last year’s third placed finish.

The 2020 Montane Spine Race is scheduled to start at 8am on Sunday and will see 163 runners – 21 women and 142 men – from 18 countries attempt to cover the entire length of the Pennine Way in under 168 hours.

Last year’s runaway winner Jasmin Paris won’t be defending her title this year, so past winners Eoin Keith of Ireland, whose record Paris broke last year, and Spaniard Eugeni Roselló Solé will have their eyes firmly set on the podium.

Other names to look out for in the long race are summer 2019 Montane Spine Fusion winner Sabrina Verjee of the UK, previous Montane Spine Challenger record holder Wouter Huitzing of the Netherlands, 2017 Barkley Marathons winner and sole finisher John Kelly of the USA as well as Team GB 24-hour runner Debbie Martin-Consani.

Forecasts for Saturday include developing heavy rain as well as storm-force winds, with the possibility of wintry showers on high ground on Sunday.

Runners’ progress can be followed via the Live Tracker website.

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