Kim Collison leads Damian Hall across White Hill in the South Pennines gloom. Photo: Bob Smith/grough

Kim Collison leads Damian Hall across White Hill in the South Pennines gloom. Photo: Bob Smith/grough

Both the men’s and women’s leaders in the Montane Spine Race have pulled out of the event.

Kim Collison withdrew after setting a blistering pace along with Damian Hall on the first day of the gruelling event in difficult conditions.

Hall now heads the event with a commanding lead over Tian Erwee and Eugeni Roselló Solé.

Before the race, asked how he felt about his return to the Spine Race after two previous finishes, Hall said: “Terrified. I think as runners we develop amnesia about past races but when I think back to six years ago, yeah it was kind of awful – but also amazing. The Pennine Way is very special and this race is very special too.”

Hall is a past holder of the fastest time for completing the Pennine Way and also set the record for the quickest traverse of the Coast to Coast Walk.

Sabrina Verjee on day one of the race. Photo: Bob Smith/grough

Sabrina Verjee on day one of the race. Photo: Bob Smith/grough

Women’s leader Sabrina Verjee retired from the race at Horton in Ribblesdale. She was marking her birthday running in first place, but withdrew after summiting Pen-y-ghent.

Debbie Martin-Consani and Elaine Bisson are neck-and-neck in the women’s race, with Nicola Sommers in third place.

Competitors faced a brutal first day of the event, with heavy rain, low cloud and high winds making progress difficult as runners made their way north from Edale, into the South Pennines and Yorkshire Dales. Despite this, Hall is ahead of the schedule for what would be a record time, and about 25km in front of Erwee and Solé.

Debbie Martin-Consani stepped up into first place after Verjee's retirement. Photo: Bob Smith/grough

Debbie Martin-Consani stepped up into first place after Verjee's retirement. Photo: Bob Smith/grough

Runners face the unusual prospect of being bussed along part of the course because of the closure of a forest section of the Pennine Way between Bellingham and Byrness due to safety concerns after Storm Arwen felled thousands of trees in the area. The consequent 15-mile reduction in distance of the course means no official record time can be set this year.

The course record was set in 2019 by Jasmin Paris, who completed the full length of the Pennine Way in 83hrs 12mins 23secs, smashing the previous race record by more than 12 hours.

Runners head north after crossing the M62 motorway at night. Photo: Bob Smith/grough

Runners head north after crossing the M62 motorway at night. Photo: Bob Smith/grough

Josh Wade won this year’s Montane Spine Challenger, run over the section from Edale to Hardraw, with Kendra Wedgwood taking the women’s trophy. The MRT Challenger, which was open to active mountain rescue members, was won by Joe Parsons, with only six competitors completing the course.

The Spine Sprint event, which finished in Hebden Bridge, was won by Jonathan Price, with Alice Kershaw the fastest woman.

The Spine Challenger North, which sees competitors running from Hardraw to Kirk Yetholm, is currently being led by Simon Roberts, with Victoria Roberts the lead female athlete.

Racers’ progress can be followed on the Open Tracking website.

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