Ultra Running & Reviews

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The Spine Race 2015 (A brutal walk to the shops)

by on Mar.26, 2015, under Race Reports

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A few thoughts on The Spine Race 2014-2015 

I’m not going to write another review or report about The Spine Race. It’s been done to death by better story tellers than me. What I do want to do is a blog post which will help me remember the reason this years race (2015) seemed easy compared to last year. A way for me to remember what was different so I don’t make the same mistakes again. If it helps anyone along the way, well that’s good to.

The Spine 2014 & my mindset going into the race

I thought it would be just like any other long multi-day ultra event. You know the way it goes. You show up, run as fast as you can carrying as little as possible & slog it out to the end. That was my main mistake, The Spine is a different animal as far as other races go, I can’t compare it to any other race. You can’t just batter it into submission, it will fight back. Last year I had a terrible time on The Spine race, suffering the runs (the bad kind) for the first 18 hours then falling coming off a mountain in the dark & getting concussion. This caused me to slow down and eventually get hypothermia.

The Spine 2015 

I needed to finish this one, it was my main race of the year. The Pennine Way & I would share our 50th birthday in 2015, which made it even more special for me this year. It’s the oldest National trail and the hardest to complete.

What I needed this time was a new strategy. The main thing I did differently this year was go with the flow. No trying to change things outside my control. No expectations for things going how I want them. No expecting anything & if good things happened then great! If they didn’t happen, get on with it & don’t look back. It’s not the type of race to dwell on bad stuff, bad stuff will happen. If you fall into a bog or fall on your ass don’t let it spoil your day, move on.

Good stuff will happen to, like a great sky or the sun shinning or a fantastic view. You’ll probably laugh lots (I did) & meet some fantastic & inspirational people. You’ll all have something in common, the goal of finishing the race & getting to the end in as good a shape as possible.


The important stuff . . .


The idea this year was not to have a strategy but to go with the flow. I managed to make it to a checkpoint before I fell asleep almost every time. If I managed to sit down anywhere for longer than 5 minutes I would try to have a cat nap. I had one hour of sleep over the first three days! Split roughly into 20 minutes at each checkpoint. This was mainly due to not being able to get any sleep at the checkpoints & being hyper when I could have slept.

I don’t sleep much at home though so it wasn’t a big deal. The section before the Tan Hill Inn I got really tired. The pub had closed when we arrived in the early hours of the morning & once inside the front porch I sat down for a quick rest before taking on one of the boggiest sections just after the Tan Hill. Don’t remember a lot about the next section through the bog but I remember not being able to keep my eyes open in the pub porch. My eyes just kept closing & I couldn’t stop myself falling asleep. As soon as we got outside I started falling asleep whilst running which I have had before but not for as long as this phase lasted. By the time I’d got my head back together the bog was behind me & I don’t remember how I got through it. This was good, the worst bit of the race was over & my mind refocused on the goal.


Most of the food I took with me was still in my drop bag when I got home. I ate anything that would fit in my mouth from anywhere I could get it. We had some good food at the checkpoints but mainly porridge & toast. I had some good food in a couple of pubs on the course & also in the guest house at Forest View Walkers InnThe owners Joyce & Colin made us feel really welcome & even let us have a quick nap on the sofas with our dirty gear on. We later found out that they had donated the food we had for nothing!

The good stuff for me far outweighed the bad. The worst parts for me happened in the last 10-20 miles. On the last section from hut 2 to the finish I fell on my ass about 20 times or more. The ground was ice on top of grass & you couldn’t tell which bits were ice & which bits were grass. Especially looking at it through tired eyes and the light of a head torch. A few days earlier my snow spikes fell to pieces which didn’t help.

I fell & landed on my elbow & it went numb from my elbow down to the tips of my fingers. My first thought was maybe it had snapped on the fall. This happened just before Allan Rumbles, Colin Searle & myself all shook hands & agreed we had been on one hell of a journey & we had shared some great laughs along the way. This made me forget about the pain in my arm & we set off for the finish about a mile away. The finish was like nothing I had felt before, not the feeling of having completed a great race but the end of a journey. Somehow a bit of an anti climax. I’m missing the race already & can’t wait for next year!


Colin Searle & Myself at the finish


Gear that helped me get to the finish . . . 

I’ll probably do separate reviews on this kit at some point but for now this is just a list of the stuff I think helped get me to the finish.

Hilly Socks 

30061I used the Merino Wool Off-Road for alternate sections which keep you warm & wick away the water fast. The thinking here is that you will get wet feet wearing trainers so it’s better to plan for this by wearing a fast draining sock. At the end of the race I had no blisters, so this stuff works for me. It may not work for you, but it’s worth a try. If you are doing The Spine for the first time I would recommend doing at least two sections with full gear before the race itself. Just to make sure all your kit is good & wont fall to pieces.

hi-000412_h00013_trail_peak_compressionHilly Off-road compression socks for every other section. I wore these with my boots to give my feet a rest & stop blisters or trench foot. The extra compression also stopped some of the swelling which happens when on your feet 23 hours a day.

Buff Headwear

Polar Buff Always used these as they’re great multi function items. Attached to a couple of carabiners on the shoulder straps of my pack. They dry fast & keep the draught out.

Flag UK/Navy

La Sportiva Bushido Trainers

These were great on mud, snow & wet rocks. I live on the edge of the west Pennine Moors & it’s about the same terrain as The Spine (we even have the slabs), the mud we get around here destroys Salomon shoes in a matter of days but these had 200 miles on them when I wore them on The Spine. They were still good at the end of the race.

Scarpa Terra GTX

Terra GTX Men's Walking Boots

Used the Scarpa’s on every other section to give my feet a rest from the wet. They do keep feet dry but on The Spine water tends to go over the top of the boots it’s that deep. Obviously if your wading through rivers you will get wet feet but they keep most of the water out, most of the time.

Montane eVent Air Jacket


I used this for the first couple of days when running & it kept me warm & dry. It’s very breathable & managed to flow enough air to keep me from getting sweaty. It did however wear out in certain places, it has worn right through. Not what I expected from a £240 jacket!

Mountain Equipment Kongur Jacket

ME-000133_Me-01028 NeptuneNautilus

A great GORE-TEX Pro jacket which proved it’s worth in the snow & high winds later in the race when the pace slowed. Not very breathable but if your moving slow & need warmth more than breath-ability you can’t beat a full-on mountain jacket.


Well it’s taken me a long time to do this blog post. I’ve just found out I’m in The Spine 2016! Really looking forwards to doing it all again & hopefully a bit faster this time. Although not to fast as to make it miserable, I do like to take it all in and enjoy the journey. Finishing this beast is enough, I’m not going for any records.

Happy Running! . . . . . .




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