2022 Spine Race - Preamble

This is the big one.

In a few days I will be starting the 2022 Spine Race which is a 268 mile non-stop race that follows the entire length of the Pennine Way from Edale to Kirk Yetholm.  Just to make it even more spicier, it is held in January so you have to face the best that British weather can throw at you and you have to be self-sufficient, albeit there are five checkpoints along the way where you can replenish.

I've purposely done zero recceing of the route as I want it to be an adventure, even if this compromises the race aspect.  I do know bits here and there, such as the first four miles out of Edale and the bit that overlaps the Hadrians Wall Path, but in the main most of it will be totally new to me.  This should add to the 'fun', but whether it will feel like fun when lost at 3am having had no sleep time will tell!

Frankly, the thought of the Spine scares me in a way that the Marathon des Sables didn't.  Whilst ultra-marathons were a new phenomena to me, the MdS drew comparisons to running that I was more used to - i.e. a defined distance each day and I knew the long stage of 51 miles was within my toolbox.  The only unknowns were the terrain and the heat.  As it turned out, I still had every reason to fear the race as it was the hottest race on record (peaking at 56c) and a sickness bug swept around camp resulting in half the field dropping out (normally a 95% completion rate).  Thankfully, not knowing the actual conditions I was going to face in advance meant I couldn't fear something that had never happened before and in the end I had a decent race, finishing 11th overall (despite my lack of fitness and after effects of Lyme's Disease) and =5th of all time individual British performances over the 35 editions of the race.

In contrast the Spine contains a huge number of unknowns for me - sleep deprivation, the non-stop nature of the race and the brutal conditions I'll face.  Its more akin to an expedition at speed rather than running in the traditional sense.  I also have very bad circulation in my hands and feet so am slightly worried about this aspect too.  As always though, I'm determined to give it a good crack and get into the mix of it.

This year the race is well stocked with former champions and others with great CV's in the ultra world.  In contrast I'll be on the start line as a total unknown (again!).  At the sharp end of the race I know I have next to no chance as it will heavily favour those with prior Spine Race knowledge, route  awareness and those who have experience managing sleep and sleep deprivation.  Despite this, I hope to have a disruptive influence on the front of the race if I can.  In practice this might mean being well in the mix in the early stages with my natural pace, before dropping back into a more normal position as the race progresses.  My number one goal is to finish as typically 60% drop out.  However, if things go well then my 'B' goal is a top 10.

Lets see what happens!


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