Spine and Splashing

Calder Valley Fell Runner – 17 January 2022

The Spine

The Spine Race is touted as Britain’s most Brutal race, covering the full 268 miles of the Pennine Way from Edale in the Peak District, passing through Charlestown, Blackshawhead and Colden to Kirk Yetholm in the Scottish Borders. It’s also held in the middle of winter so competitors have 16 hours of darkness to cope with too.  Tiredness, fatigue, sleep deprivation and exposure to the extremes of winter weather are all to be expected.

Many top ultra-runners had entered this year’s race along with Calder Valley’s, Bill Johnson, Doug Gurr, and hotly tipped Dougie Zinis.  Dougie is building a reputation as an up and coming ultra-runner after winning the 108 mile Spine Challenger race in 2020 and gaining the record for a double Bob Graham, a mountainous 132 mile Lake District route.

Starting a week last Sunday, after a couple of days many of the favourites started to succumb to the energy sapping route.  Kim Collinson, previous winner of the Lakeland 100 and Sabrina Verjee, holder of the Wainwrights record both dropped out, while in the lead, at Malham.  Damian Hall, previous record holder for the Pennine Way and current holder of the Coast to Coast record, then took the lead only to drop out at Alston.  Previous Spine winner, Spaniard Eugeni Rosello Sole was then in 1st place, before dropping out himself after trying to recover by resting at a farm near Bellingham.  This left Eoin Keith to take the win in 92 hours 40 minutes and 30 seconds; bear in mind this time includes sleeping and eating.

Dougie tucking in for the long road ahead

All this time, self-reliant Dougie Zinis had kept on moving, running his own race.  With Eugeni dropping out, he moved up to joint second place with James Leavesley, winner of the summer version of the Spine.  This pair joined forces at Middleham, and ran together to the end, crossing the line in joint second place after 96 hours 06 minutes and 30 seconds.  Dougie had aimed to finish in less than 100 hours so was pleased with his time.

He said afterwards “I’m over the moon with my race, getting a podium finish was beyond my dreams but also the whole Spine experience, the Spine family, who really treat you like royalty. I’ve met some wonderful people and learned some massive lessons and sure I’ll be back for more.”

Bill at the end of the Spine

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