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Records tumble in Spine Challenger North as Nikki Arthur and Joe O’Leary star

Jonathan Turner
News Director
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It wasn’t just in the 268-mile Montane Winter Spine Race that records were shattered – it was a common theme in the supporting events.

Lissauer and Weller win Challenger South

First off was the Spine Winter Challenger South where Samantha Lissauer and Daniel Weller took the victories, though that was the only event where new course bests didn’t happen.

Weller won the men’s/open 108-mile race in emphatic style with a commanding lead over his closest rivals.

For a while he was close to that seemingly unbeatable Jim Mann course record but freely admitted things got tough overnight and from the 70-mile mark he was dragging his tired legs along the trail as he clocked 24:48:21 to win by nearly three hours.

Aside from some chilly spells on the highest summits the night running was kind. When asked what his highlights were Daniel immediately said ‘the people’. James Graham took second place, and Paul Haigh and Jamie Pond were joint third.

Lissauer won the women’s race after a bitterly cold 33hrs 16 minutes and 28 seconds on the Pennine Way. This was Samantha’s first time running further than 100km so there were plenty of unknowns to face, but she managed everything that came her way and arrived well ahead of second-placed Helen Dale and Sam Borrett in third.

Allison doubles up in Sprint

Record did fall as Jessica Johnson and last year’s Summer Sprint hero Rupert Allison claimed the titles in the Winter Spine Sprint over 46 miles.

Jessica set a new course best of 10:04:42, taking over 90 minutes off the previous fastest time. Completing the woman’s podium was Alice Kershaw followed by Sarah Doherty, who along with Helen Williams all beat the course record set by Louise Venables last year.

Meanwhile Allison crossed the finish line in remarkably fresh condition considering he’d pushed hard enough to take more than 40 minutes off the course record set by Jon Shields with a time of 7:28:09.

He described the conditions as excellent and said that this was one of those rare days where everything went 99% to plan. Rupert is now in the impressive position of holding the CR for both Winter and Summer editions of a Spine Race. In the men’s podium, Ian Cocks was second and Curtis Firth third.

Astonishing times from O’Leary and Arthur

“It’s like a dream come true, only I couldn’t even have dreamt it,” was Joe O’Leary‘s reaction after winning the 160-mile Winter Spine Challenger North in emphatic fashion – taking over 16 hours off the existing course record.

Joe OLeary wins Challenger North Montane Spine Race 2024
Joe O’Leary was elated with the win [Photo credit: Montane Spine Race]

Joe finished third in the Winter Spine Challenger South in 2022, and then third in the full Montane Winter Spine Race last year. He said he came here planning on coming third in another Spine Race event but far surpassed that goal.

Tom Hollins, the only men’s Winter Spine Race winner from the last 10 years not to line up in the full event this time, took second.

Nikki Arthur was the winning female athlete and also clinched third place on the overall podium.

Staggeringly she took over 20 hours off the current course record, finishing in 52:17:19.

Nikki and three other runners formed a solid quartet early on. After a rest at Alston, Nikki had the fresher legs as the others began to slow down.

She rapidly opened up space behind her and reeled in the athlete ahead, John Shield, to move into third overall.

By Bellingham, Nikki was looking fresh, positive and ready for anything which, given her finishing time, she clearly was.

It was an expertly executed race from a runner taking part in not only her first Spine Race event but her first ever time at this distance.

Nikki Arthur Challenger North 2024 Montane Winter Spine Race
An incredible Spine debut from Nikki Arthur [Photo credit: Montane Winter Spine Race]
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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