John Kelly had a lead of more than 30 miles. Photo: Bob Smith/grough

John Kelly had a lead of more than 30 miles. Photo: Bob Smith/grough

Runner John Kelly has scored a resounding victory in the Montane Spine Race.

The USA athlete had an unassailable lead as he approached the finish at Kirk Yetholm on Wednesday night.

Two main challengers, Briton Jayson Cavill and Spaniard Eugeni Roselló Solé dropped out of the race, leaving the American runner more than 30 miles ahead of his nearest challenger, Eoin Keith of Ireland.

Kelly set a fast pace throughout the event, leading for almost the whole course. He increased his speed on his fourth day as he traversed the Cheviot Hills and the Border Ridge before finally dropping down into the finish point, 268 miles after starting from Edale on Sunday. He completed the course in a provisional time of 87hrs 53mins 57secs.

Sabrina Verjee currently leads the women runners and is also the leading Briton, and at the time of writing was in fifth place overall, behind Simon Gfeller of Switzerland and Wouter Huitzing of the Netherlands.

Huw Davies of the UK is sixth at present.

British runner Cavill withdrew at Byrness after pushing the race leader for much of the route, leaving the Bellingham checkpoint 20 minutes behind the UK-based American. But tendonitis, which had been troubling him since the second day of the race, flared up again, reducing his speed to a crawl.

The Yorkshire-based runner said: “I don’t want to put myself on the Cheviots, crawling in the cold and some poor sod have to come and rescue me.”

Sabrina Verjee leads the women's race. Photo: Bob Smith/grough

Sabrina Verjee leads the women's race. Photo: Bob Smith/grough

Race director Scott Gilmour praised Cavill. He said: “Jayson has shown his world-class calibre over the last few days. He is an immensely strong runner who we know we’ll see on many a podium in the future.”

Previous winner Eugeni Roselló Solé was also forced to retire at about 4am on Wednesday.

Race organisers said: “His battered feet required the collected effort of the medical team to get strapped up, squeezed in and ready for him to move on. It didn’t prove enough though and his pace dropped below the point where he was able to stay warm and safely continue.

“Eugeni is an amazing athlete and larger-than-life character who we have no doubt will go on to major wins in the future.”

British runner Debbie Martin-Consani is second-place woman, with fellow UK runner Patricia Patterson third female in the race.

Last year’s race was won by Jasmin Paris, who set a new fastest time of 83hrs 12mins 23secs, smashing the previous record by more than 12 hours.

Interviewed at the end of the race, Kelly said: “Everything hurts.

“My body shut down at the final hut. I wanted to push past it and finish, but I was cold and didn’t want to risk it after what happened to Eugeni last year. But then I warmed up and I wasn’t numb anymore.”

Asked if he’d enjoyed the race, he said: “It was really exciting, especially coming out of Bellingham. I didn’t know if Jayson would be right on my heels. It was later I heard that Jayson was out, which I really hate for him.”

Kelly’s time is a new course record for men.

Scores of runners are still out on the course, north of Middleton in Teesdale, and have until 10pm on Thursday to reach the next cut-off point at Alston. Participants must reach the Border Hotel at Kirk Yetholm by 8am on Sunday.

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