Eoin Keith. Photo: Bob Smith/grough

Eoin Keith. Photo: Bob Smith/grough

The lead of the Montane Spine Race has changed again, with Eoin Keith now heading the field and heading over the final section along the Border Ridge.

Eugeni Roselló Solé pulled out of the event on Wednesday, the third leader to do so.

The Spaniard retired before reaching the Bellingham checkpoint, handing the race lead to the Irish runner. Both men are veterans of the event, with Solé winning in 2013 and Keith in 2016. Kim Collison, Damian Hall and Eugeni Roselló Solé all retired while in the lead, and Sabrina Verjee pulled out of the race while holding the female lead.

Nicola Somers, who was running a strong third place in the women’s competition, also retired on Wednesday.

Debbie Martin-Consani is the lead woman in the Spine Race, in sixth position overall.

In the men’s race, Doug Zinis and James Leavesley are running together in second and third position. Elaine Bisson is second-placed woman with Lizzie Faithfull-Davies third.

Event organisers said Solé was safe and well. “Eugeni has been a regular feature of the Spine Race since its earliest days, winning the event in 2013 and coming 3rd in 2017,” they said.

“This isn’t the first time this race has ended in heartache for him, and we know how passionate he is about this race.

Debbie Martin-Consani leads the women's race. Photo: Bob Smith/grough

Debbie Martin-Consani leads the women's race. Photo: Bob Smith/grough

He is a huge character behind the scenes and an exceptional athlete. We hope to see him again next time around.”

During the 2019 event, he pulled out just 6km short of the finish at Kirk Yetholm, pressing his emergency button at one of the refuge huts on the Border Ridge.

Eoin Keith is currently progressing over the Cheviots, the final range of hills on the 431km (268-mile) route up the Pennine Way, which involves 13,135m (43,093ft) of ascent. Competitors set off from Edale on Sunday morning and have seven days to complete the route.

Runners are being taken by vehicle 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.

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

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