Dougie’s 1st place Montane Spine Challenger Adventure

It’s January 2019 and I’m addicted to Dot watching!! For days and nights on end I’m checking up on Simon Bourne in the Spine challenger. And in the full spine John Minta and Bill Johnson. Spine fever is upon us and I’m on it. 108 & 268 miles in the January weather #superhuman #inspirational

Simon finishes 4th  in the challenger 😁

In the full spine Bill gets injured 😥 and John gets 6th 😁. Totally different emotions and I feel them both 😥😁. How can anyone do that? How can you be prepared for that? Can I?

February and Spine entries are open!! And I’ve just entered the challenger🤪. Why the challenger? I felt at the time I could do myself more justice over 108 mile (providing I finish as this is my first 100 miler).

Training 2019

During the year of 2019 I did both the Bob Graham and the Paddy Buckley so was happy with the miles and climbing in my legs. Through September I made sure I ran easy with no weeks breaking the 30 mile barrier. I had a plan to train for 9 weeks doing 50 to 70 mile weeks, with a 2 week taper before the race. So from the last week of October I increased my mileage.

I recced the whole of the route in 4 sessions

  1. Edale to Whitehouse
  2. I ran from slack on the Pennine Way in reverse, doing 6 reps of Stoodley Pike’s face then to Whitehouse and then back to the car in Slack
  3. I did a night recce from Hebden Bridge to Horton, setting of at 10pm to get use to the night section carrying a full pack.
  4. Horton to Hawes and back and again carrying a full pack.

Other training sessions I did were back to back 15 mile runs after a day at work to get use to running while tired. I tried to do a local run most weekends around my home town, a 20 mile undulating circular route through muddy fields and woodland. I had a full pack on alot of the time in the last 4 week. I also did my weekly club run at CVFR. We do a road session in the winter and found these good for A. Fitness and B. Getting my feet use to the pounding on hard surfaces which got my feet ready for the slabs.


I decided on a 2 weeks taper through Christmas and New Year. I’d not had any alcohol from the first week of December. I cut my mileage down and rested where I could (being a barber it’s our busy time of year).


I had been collecting kit throughout the year. I went for:
Garmin GPS64s handheld GPS
Inov8 protec jacket
Inov8 roclite G290s
Waterproof beanie hat
2 x Merino wool base layer tops
2 x leggings, 1 x winter leggings
Kalenji waterproof pants from decathlon
Screwfix safety goggles
Inov8 ultra race mitts
3 x inov8 base gloves
6 x technical t shirts
3 x buffs
Kahtoola Micro spikes
Windproof lighter, swiss army knife, cooker, gas & a spork (I got a pan which fit all these in nicely)
OMM classic 25ltr backpack
2 x soft flask 500m hydration bottles
Harvey’s Map
Compass & whistle
2 x OMM 500m bottles
Xtar Warboy headtorch
Petzl Tikka spare head torch
2 x Injini toe socks
2 x Sealskins waterproof socks

(I borrowed a sleeping bag and mat from Simon Bourne (and got loads of excellent tips)

Helly Hansen lightweight fleece
Pete Bland bumbag (for food)

Mountain Fuel feel good bars
Mountain Fuel jellys
4 X Cheese and Onion pasties cut in half
1 bag of Haribo Teddybears
Jaffa Cakes
Snickers bars & Kitkat Crunchys
Salted nuts


I stopped at the YHA so got up at 5.45am and went for a breakfast to fill me up and dropped my drop bag off. I went outside to fill my bottles and to test the temperature and decided to start with my vest, merino baselayer, technical tshirt and Inov8 jacket. The forecast was windy but warm until the afternoon then turn to persistent rain at around 4pm.


Now I asked everyone I knew who had done the Spine or the Challenger for advice and absorbed the information. I also analysed what time I did on each recce and combined them together giving me a total of 26 hours.

Now with the forecast alot different to my recces and the fact it was my first 100, I factored in mistakes, tiredness and conditions and did a estimated time of 28 to 32 hour. Looking back at previous results told me if I finish as planned I had a chance of top 5 if I didn’t set off like a madman.

And we’re off…

8am.  After the crowds and excitement of Edale it was nice to get into a rhythm and get going up to Jacobs Ladder and I kept to a steady pace and enjoyed the moment. The wind was strong and blew my race number off my pack on Kinder and I remember thinking thank you for the peace and quiet 😁Getting Kinder out of the way was a good point (I’d been lost up here before on 2 occasions 🤣)

At the descent to Torside Reservoir I caught a group and stuck with them for abit and felt good so kept to my rhythm and passed them.

On the ascent to Black Hill I was warm so stopped to change a layer and was passed and lost the chap in the distance. I kept my rhythm and was soon on Standedge.

 After a refill of water from another fantastic mountain rescue team I was off and towards home turf. On route a friend popped up and informed me I was in second but with still a long way to go I asked myself had I set off like a nob?


The rain started 😥

As I approached the mountain rescue van I could see the leader shooting off past the reservoir, I had a refill and half a cup of tea and decided from then on that I might be able to push this, so off I went.

Stoodley Pike…

The rain got worse 😥 I was told by some club mates who were cheering me on! 😁 I was 8mins behind


I caught the leader up and decided that instant that I should have a fast stop at the Hebden checkpoint.

I put waterproof pants on, a change of base layers, new sock, swapped wet gloves and got the waterproof mitts ready, swap food, water, eat some fantastic veggie bolognese and drink some tea in 19mins. And the spine team were top class. Every single one of you with banter, caring, on point😁

To Top Withens…

I came out in 1st place – I was on home turf – my advantage😁 I decided to push on to Ponden to try to make a lead. And so I did, bumping into a chap in the dark at Ponden congratulating me on my 20 minute lead. I then went into plod mode.

Now I knew from my recces that all the fields were 1..undulating and 2..hard to move well in the mud especially with the pouring rain and floods. So I made sure my nav was spot on to stop any time wasting and kept an efficient pace. As I got through the night the wind dropped, the rain stopped but the damage to the fields was done. There were lakes and water flowing through usually green fields. And to keep a sure footing was really hard as it was so slippy. On a detour around a particularly big pool I ripped my sleeve of my Inov8 Protec jacket (which had kept me dry all this time) on a fence 😥😥

Malham Tarn…

I decided to have a cup of coffee and get straight off to keep any advantage as the ground now was much better and I could push on over Fountains Fell. It was then on to the ascent of Pen-y-gent that I could see a head torch on the top of Fountains Fell.

Boom race mode, I took the decision to smash the descent to Horton checkpoint and have half a cup of coffee and then push on to the high point of Cam ‘the never ending’ road 😁 and my gamble played off (even though I stiffened up on the last mile)

I came in at Hawes to the jubilation of loads of familiar face from previous checkpoints (and friends who came and enjoyed the journey 😁)

I had finished 1st in 29hrs 😍

Dot Watching…

It’s January 2020 and I’m addicted to dot watching!! For days and nights I’m watching the full spine in action, and despite my aching body I’m jealous !!

Can’t wait for the full spine next year 😁😁

Thanks to all the spine family who made my journey amazing 😍 and thank you to all my friends and family who popped up and watched my dot you pushed me on 😍

Best kit…
The Inov8 protec all weather jacket, it kept me dry and warm throughout.
The Injinji toe sock/sealskin combo, my feet were fine after.
Kalenji waterproof pants from decathlon for £35 the bees knees
Inov8 roclite G290 shoes

Worse kit…
Screwfix safety goggles, they steamed up