Two runners break course record at the 2023 Montane Spine Race

Renowned British ultrarunner Damien Hall, 45, won the 432-kilometre (268 mile) Montane Winter Spine Race on Wednesday, a race often touted as ‘Britain’s most brutal,’ running in alongside the second-place finisher jack scott (also of the UK).

Damian Hall 2023 Spine RACe
Photo: Montane Spine Race

Both runners beat the previous male course record of 87:53:57, held by US-based John Kelly, with Hall clocking 84:36:24 (while Scott ran in with Hall, he had accrued a 40-minute time penalty). Scott’s performance, on almost any other year, would have easily secured him the win, and the race was a thriller right down until the last few kilometers.

Both runners fell short of the overall course record, 83:12:23, held by the UK’s Jasmine Paris.

Hall and Scott began their journey along the Pennine Way National Trail on Saturday, Jan 14, lining up with more than 500 runners from around the world.

Jack Scott Spine Race 2023
jack scott Photo: Montane Spine Race

Five winter Spine Race events start together: the 268-mile Spine Race, the 160-mile Spine Challenger North, the 108-mile Spine Challenger South, the 108-mile MRT Spine Challenge, and the 46-mile Spine Sprint. Runners in the Montane Spine Race have until Jan. 22 to finish.

The inaugural Spine Race took place in 2012 with only 11 entrants, three of which ultimately crossed the finish line at Kirk Yetholm, Scotland.

Men’s race

Hall created an impressive lead, pushing a strong pace alongside fellow frontrunner Kim Collinson (the pair also led the race in 2022, but both had to drop out) until Collinson dropped from the race after 125 miles.

Scott, 28, was focused and determined to close in on the frontrunner. The battle between the pair had the ‘dot-watchers’ on the edge of their seats (the race has become very popular in the UK, and fans can follow the athletes, shown as tiny dots, as they traverse the Pennine Way). Hall told press: “I thought we were going to have a nice time running together but every time I saw Jack he seemed to keep pushing harder.”

Jack Scott 2023 Montane
jack scott Photo: Montane Spine Race

“Over the Cheviot Hills we were knee-deep in snow for about 10 hours. Jack pushed me right to the end. Retiring last year with an injury really frustrated me so I wanted to come back and do better,” Hall shared. “It’s been an incredible race.”

Scott began ultrarunning to aid him in recovering from a gambling addiction.”Running has become something within me that I now can’t remove,” Scott shared post-race. “I’m pursuing some goals and taking some risks. I want to see how far and how fast I can run.”

Third place was shared by Britain’s Douglas Zinis and Ireland’s Joe O’Leary, who crossed the line together in 96:50:53. O’Leary and Zinis, along with runners at several of the other distances, opted to finish together, speaking to the extremely challenging conditions out on the course.

Women’s race

France’s Claire Bannwarth took the first woman and fifth place overall in 97 hours, 39 minutes, 58 seconds, almost a full 24 hours ahead of the women behind her. Bannwarth shared that she only managed to sleep for two hours during the race, particularly incredible when taking into account the mental dexterity that is required to navigate throughout the race, particularly at night.

Clare Banneworth Montane Spine Race
Photo: Montane Spine Race

Bannwarth pushed ahead of the other women in the field steadily throughout the early parts of the race and ran for some time with Zinis and O’Leary in joint 3rd. Bannwarth is an immensely prolific endurance athlete, racing a remarkable amount in 2022.

Claire Bannwarth 2023 Montane Spine Race
Photo: Montane Spine Race

Bannwarth boasts multiple UTMB finishes and ran both the renowned La Diagonale des Fous (Grand Raid at Réunion Island) and the challenging Transgrancanaria (held in the Canary Islands) in 2022. Her experience and grit was obvious throughout this race.

Britain’s Hannah Rickman ran to second place in 121:23:52, finishing early Friday. While Bannwarth was far ahead of the other women, Rickman had to fight to maintain her position in second place and met every challenge by pushing harder. Rickman was also the second woman in the 2022 Montane Winter Spine Challenger North (160-mile race), finishing in fifth overall in that race.

All Spine Race events are self-sufficient and all runners carry their own food, clothing, medical supplies and sleeping bag along an unmarked route they must navigate. No planned outside support is allowed and pacers are not permitted.

At the time of publication, the third-place woman in the 2023 Montane Winter Spine Race has not finished.

For results in the other Montane Spine Race events or to follow along as the rest of the finishers complete their journey, head here.

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