Sunday 24 February 2019

Morgan wins second Spine

Ultra man Eoin Keith. Photo: Sportsfile
Ultra man Eoin Keith. Photo: Sportsfile

About as far as you could get from indoor athletics last week was the brutal and fearsome Montane Spine Race, which takes in 429 km of wild British uplands along the Pennine Way.

Irish ultra-runners have a good record in this race, with Eoin Keith winning in 2016 and Carole Morgan, who is based in the UK, the first woman last year.

In summer, the route which starts from Edale in Derbyshire and takes in Peak District, the Yorkshire Dales, the North Pennines, Hadrian's Wall, and the Cheviot Hills is a rambler's delight, boasting some of the most glorious landscapes in Britain.

For the ultra-runner in winter, it presents an entirely different challenge - as Eoin Keith, who has started the race four times, knows all too well.

In 2015, he finished second. A year later, he won it in a new record time of 95 hours 17 minutes. Last year, he slipped, fell and broke a rib early in the race, eventually forcing him to quit.

This year, Keith was leading the race after completing 338 kilometres but, like over 66 others from the 118 starters, lost the battle with blizzards, howling winds and knee-high snow drifts.

His retirement handed a third victory to Czech athlete Pavel Paloncý, So severe was the weather that the organisers ordered a 12-hour pause.

Morgan battled on, reaching the finish point in an overall time of 130 hours and 37 minutes - well off the record time of 109 hours 54 minutes she had taken a year earlier.

In case anyone is interested, a summer version of The Spine starts on June 23. The winter version returns next January.

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