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Kelly and Paloncy both make shock exits in first 24 hours of Winter Spine Race

Jonathan Turner
News Director
Updated on
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The big overnight news from the Montane Winter Spine Race is the shock retirement of American legend John Kelly.

Kelly was the winner of the event on his first attempt in 2020 and the current holder of the ‘fastest known time’ for the Pennine Way.

Sprained ankle for Kelly

He had been in the front pack very early on after the 268-mile race – billed as ‘Britain’s most brutal’ – started at 8am on Sunday but by the middle of that day had dropped 20 minutes behind the leaders.

And when he reached the Cowling checkpoint 13 hours into the race he decided the event was over for him, later explaining on social media: “Sprained my ankle heading down into Lothersdale, about 65 miles into [the race].

“I was sticking closely to my sub 80-hour schedule, trying not to get too eager early on. Conditions are fantastic & I hope the remaining runners can continue enjoying them.”

The Spine Race themselves also posted the news, saying: “We have our first shock of a race that seems destined to have many.

“John is an astounding athlete, but this is not to be his race.”

john kelly winter spine race 2024
[Photo credit: Montane Winter Spine Race]

Paloncy out at Malham Tarn

Kelly has since been joined on the sidelines by three-time winner Pavel Paloncy, with the Czech star pulling the plug at Malham Tarn in the early hours of Monday morning due to a knee injury.

And that was the point earlier where Simon Roberts, the winner of the Montane Cheviot Goat late last year and who had been going well up front, exited the race.

Another Spine Race statement confirmed the news: “Minor injuries had slowed all three and the trio have plenty enough experience to know when you have to make the hard choice for the sake of staying safe.

“As Pavel said over his morning chilli, you can’t run the Spine on one leg. It’s not to be their year, but the Pennine Way isn’t going anywhere.”

Pavel Paloncy made an early exit at the Winter Spine Race 2024
Disappointment for Pavel Paloncy [Photo credit: Montane Winter Spine Race]

All of which leaves three men clear at the front – defending champion Damian Hall, Kim Collison and Konrad Rawlik, husband of the overall course record holder Jasmin Paris.

That trio are over the 100-mile mark and went through the Hawes checkpoint just before 8am on Monday – they are also well ahead of the record pace in what remain excellent, if chilly, conditions.

Bannwarth set for a battle?

Meanwhile in the women’s race all the big names remain and at present we’ve got a closer battle than last year up front.

Reigning champ Claire Bannwarth does lead the way but by Malham Tarn her advantage over last year’s runner-up Hannah Rickman was less than 10 minutes.

Lucy Gossage, who we featured in the build-up, is going brilliantly on her debut in third, with ultrarunning icon Nicky Spinks in fourth.

Dot Watchers can follow the progress of the runners pretty much in real time by tracking their GPS signals via this link.

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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