108 miles in 60 hours from Edale to Hardraw in January. How hard can it be? Pretty hard is the short answer. The MONTANE® Spine® Challenger set off at 8am on Saturday, January 13th and, as always, provided a great three days of racing – both for the competitors and for those following the live dots as they sped over the hills.
Going into the race, the course records stood at 28:00:28 held by Dominic Layfield for the overall record and 30:18.00 for the current women’s record, held by Beth Pascall.
Both records fell in a really fast race. Wouter Huitzing came in first at 25:44:21, followed by Simon Bourne with 28:42:17 and then Ian Magee with 29:02:47.
Wouter had this to tell us after he finished, “It was a great race. Conditions were perfect (or definitely better than the previous year). But it was hard working. I was hoping to go for the win, and the first 3 hours I was on my own. Then Simon catches up and we run more or less together. I am noticing that he looks to be a better runner, but I am the stronger hiker and climber. So I try to stay with him on the flat bits and near Malham Cove I get a chance to make a move. So I start climbing and pushing hard. And it worked out. However, I have been constantly watching over my shoulder, expecting him to catch up. “
For the women, Emma Hopkinson was first with 29:39:35, Cass Chisholm was second with 35:38:20 and Jen Scotney was third with 37:12:45.
Jen spoke to RunUltra after the race, “It felt amazing despite the state of my feet! It felt such a privilege to be in this race. I love this type of wild terrain and similarly wild weather, and had trained hard for 5 months for the race. It was my first 100 miler and I had absolutely no idea my body could do anything like this. Really special to cross the finish line for that reason, especially with my husband/coach (Marcus Scotney) waiting for me, just as I was when he won it in 2014.”
The course is famed for its difficulty and the vagaries of the British weather, and if you like a bit of during-race cossetting, then this is not the race for you say the organisers:
“There is very little hand holding on this race. We expect you to travel with a degree of self-sufficiency and skill which sets this race apart from others. Why? You should never embark on an adventure of this magnitude without the appropriate knowledge and skill to make yourself safe in a time of need. There is nothing more personally reassuring than being secure in your own abilities. That said, we still attach a GPS tracker to you with an emergency button just in case!”
For more on The Challenger and its big sister, the Spine Race, join the RunUltra chat.