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‘Unfinished business’: James Nobles already focussed on Montane Winter Spine return

Jonathan Turner
News Director
Published on
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Many of the headlines at the Montane Winter Spine Race may have been made by record-breaking Jack Scott – or Claire Bannwarth defending her women’s title in fantastic style.

But those who followed the race will also have logged the display of James Nobles.

The Team Montane athlete’s recent running achievements include winning the 2022 Montane Dragon’s Back race and the 2023 Northern Traverse (as well as finishing runner-up in the 2023 Montane Cheviot Goat).

And he was right in the mix in his first appearance at the Montane Winter Spine in what was by far his longest continuous race as it headed 268 miles up the Pennine Way.

Unfortunately injury would derail his chances, but not before he’d make his mark and by the sounds of it the experience has only strengthened his resolve to go all the way in future editions.

Finding his own pace

Chatting to RUN247 and asked whether things had panned out as he’d hoped before the injury, he said: “Very much so. It’s really difficult going into an event like this when you have never done something similar before. My intention was to stick with the lead pack and see how it felt.

Jack Scott leads Montane Winter Spine Race 2024
Jack Scott leads the front pack, including Nobles, early on at the Spine Race [Photo credit: Montane Winter Spine Race]

“Everything went well through to Hebden Bridge and my legs felt strong, but it was quicker than I wanted to go, and I was having difficulties eating. So, leaving that checkpoint, I made a conscious decision to run at my own pace from there on.

Ironically, I don’t actually think I ended up going much slower on my own, but I was moving completely at my own rhythm, happy, and eating well.

“Even when I caught up with some of the guys in front, I made it very clear to them that I was sticking at my pace, and if they wanted to go quicker, they could do. So next year, my plan is to find my own pace early on and stick with that. If that means running 268 miles on my own, then so be it!”

‘Overwhelming disappointment’

But from going well, things took a dramatic turn for the worse as Nobles explains: “I moved pretty slowly down from Gregs Hut into Garrigil, and I was struggling at that point with sleep deprivation, so I’d made a plan to get an hour or so of sleep in Alston and then to go hard from there. However, as soon as I hit the road in Garrigil, pretty much 50m outside the centre of the village, I got a sharp and sudden stabbing pain on top of my foot.

“I met a few marshals in the village who could see I was in a lot of discomfort, but I agreed with them that I would get down to Alston and have the medics check it over. As soon as I attempted to jog lightly on it though, the pain intensified rapidly. I’ve had tendon irritations and tendonitis before, so I knew this was something different. I made the call then and there to stop, just on the edge of the village, turned around and went back to the marshals.

“My immediate feeling was one of anger and frustration, followed quite quickly by overwhelming disappointment. I shouted and cried on that walk back to the marshals. Once I met them, I think I’d processed what had happened and felt okay then with the decision. Whilst it was massively frustrating, it wasn’t something that was within my control, and I used that knowledge to help move past it.”

Nobles added: “I haven’t looked at this as a negative result really. Don’t get me wrong, I wanted to get to Kirk Yetholm as quickly as I could, but as soon as the issue in my foot started, I knew that was the race over. All I am left with now is a massive fire in my belly to do better at the 2025 Montane Winter Spine.”

‘Unfinished business’

And he should rightly take a huge amount of confidence into that renewal after what was an eye-catching display, even if it didn’t end on the way he’d hoped.

He told us: “I took so many positives from this race; I could move comfortably at a strong and fast pace for a long period of time, I was able to contend against the best in the game, and more than anything, I got so much enjoyment out of being there. There were plenty of things that didn’t go as well as I would have hoped, so this knowledge has given me a lot to focus on in the coming year.

Ultrarunner James Nobles [Photo credit: Team Montane]
[Photo credit: Team Montane]

“It was incredible to be part of it and was probably why I ended up running a little quicker than I would have liked through to Hebden Bridge, but I was caught up and consumed by it. In almost every photo I have seen, I have a big cheesy smile on my face, which I think shows how much I must have been enjoying it. I don’t know whether or not I will ever get the same opportunity to run with such a talented group of people.

“My initial thoughts were ‘the Montane Winter Spine is way too far for the human body [or at least my body] to run’, but then a few days later, I was 100% committed to doing this again in 2025. I have unfinished business with the Montane Winter Spine race and a lot more to give!”

And he was keen to sign off the chat by paying tribute to the whole Spine Race family and volunteers, adding: “It epitomises the ultra-running community at large and brings out the best of it. Everyone you meet on the Montane Winter Spine cannot do enough to help you – it’s wonderful.

“It really feels like the volunteers have a vested interest in seeing each and every runner get to the end. It all seems so well organised and resourced which ensures that the volunteers have the opportunity to be as supportive as they are. I definitely want to be part of that volunteer team in the future! The volunteer community, and the people more generally, around the Montane Winter Spine make this event what it is.”

Check out the second part of our interview on Sunday when James shares some of his learnings over nutrition, sleep and gear for a race like the Spine – plus his bucket list races for the future.

Jonathan Turner
Written by
Jonathan Turner
Jonathan Turner is News Director for both TRI247 and RUN247, and is accustomed to big-name interviews, breaking news stories and providing unrivalled coverage for endurance sports.  

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