The most eagerly-awaited edition of the Montane Winter Spine Race is now nearly a day old.
Over 170 runners are tackling the 268-mile route from Edale in the Peak District up the Pennine Way to Kirk Yetholm on the English-Scottish border.
Big names battling for Spine glory
American ultrarunning legend John Kelly, who won the race on his last visit in 2020 and again starred at last year’s Barkley Marathons as he finished the infamous event for a second time, lines up against his great friend Hall.
And so do three-time Winter Spine winners Pavel Paloncy and Eoin Keith.
An icon of the sport in Nicky Spinks will be looking to dethrone Bannwarth on the female side of the race which is billed as ‘Britain’s most brutal’.
How the early stages unfolded
Dot watchers can follow all the action right here via the live tracking and plenty of the big guns made a fast start as they covered just over five miles in the first hour.
They included last year’s one-two Hall and Jack Scott, as well as Kelly and 2013 winner Eugeni Roselló Solé, who was one of the first withdrawals 12 months ago.
Also in the mix in the leading pack were the first two at the Montane Cheviot Goat in late 2023 – Simon Roberts and James Nobles.
Nobles, winner of the Northern Traverse last year, is making his Spine Race debut while Roberts took the Spine Challenger North title in 2022.
The first checkpoint of the race was Torside and the group was pretty much still intact at that point but by the time they got to the second at Standedge there was a familiar look to the front of the race as Hall and Kim Collison, just as they did early on last year, led the way.
But as the tweet below from the race’s official feed shows, the weather was somewhat different…
Kelly losing ground
Going deeper into Sunday evening things stayed relatively static at the front.
By the time of the Cowling checkpoint more than 12 hours into the race it was Hall, Collison, Scott and Konrad Rawlik who were now the lead quartet.
Nobles and Roberts weren’t far behind but a big gap was developing to Kelly. Early days or more than that?
Bannwarth out on her own – again
There was also a sense of deja vu with the women’s standings as Bannwarth forged to the front early on, reaching Torside just over two minutes ahead of last year’s runner-up Hannah Rickman.
However Rickman overtook her to shake things up but ‘normal’ order was restored by the Hebden Bridge checkpoint on Sunday night as Bannwarth was back in front with a 20-minute advantage.
Elaine Bisson was third, Victoria Morris fourth and Lucy Gossage, who we spoke to before the race, was into fifth.
Dot Watchers can follow the progress of the runners pretty much in real time by tracking their GPS signals via this link.