The Spine Race 2016

As you snuggle under your duvet tonight (other bed coverings are available), spare a thought for the 80 folk entering their first night of the 2016 Spine Race – a 268 mile ordeal on foot up the full length of the Pennine Way. In winter.

For those unfamiliar with the geography of the UK, the online route tracker looks like this:

Map of the Spine Race

There’s also another bunch of people doing slightly shorter Spine Challenger route, although we’re still talking 108 miles…

The winning Spine Race times from two years back (last year was apparently very heavily affected by weather, so timings are a bit weird) were 110hr 45m for Pavel Paloncy and 153hr 17m for Debbie Brupbacher. That’s a fairly staggering average of 2.4mph and 1.7mph (or a pace per km of 15:24 or 21:18, if that’s more your style of metric). Like long distance cycling, you’ve got to build up time to eat and sleep, so both their moving speeds would have been much higher. Up and down mountains, in gale force winds and thick snow.

Whilst it’s not completely unsupported (the organisers provide checkpoints every five miles with hot food, shelter and medical support as part of the £700 entry fee), competitors still need enough stuff to keep themselves out of trouble. The mandatory kit list includes: rations for 48 hours, a stove, bivvy bag (and optionally a tent), full waterproofs, navigational kit, a not-overly-minimalist medical kit, and a proper rucksack. I know money can buy some pretty light gear, but that’s got to add up to a reasonable amount of weight.

To steal a cycling phrase: chapeau.

There’s a live tracker for this year’s event here, and race twitter account is @theSpineRace.

PS: The Met Office mountain forecast for the Yorkshire Dales tomorrow is “Thick cloud and several bands of rain and snow over the peaks throughout the morning. This may be associated with isolated thundery outbreaks mainly towards the western parts of the park. Snow along with strong winds will lead to blizzards and hazardous conditions on the tops”. Sounds delightful.

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