Summer Spine Race 2022 - Me and the Spine Race Just Don't Get On

Well its Two v Nil to the Spine Race and I write this with the race still in full flow.

After dropping out of the winter version of the race in January just after Dufton with a litany of injuries, I decided to give the race another crack to make amends.  I decided to go at my own pace at the start and to keep things nice and slow.  Despite this I was in second place at the point of the start of the Pennine Way proper, with the leader, Tiaan Erwee off at an incredible pace.  I took it nice and easy and everything was so relaxed but I noticed that just after the steep bit of Jacobs Ladder I was slowly catching Tiaan bit by bit with no one in sight behind. I was really enjoying it and got to within 30 seconds of him after about 4.5 miles into the race and then before I knew it I hit the ground and twisted my ankle.  Again.

It was all going so well...

I instantly knew it was bad.  I got up and couldn't put any weight on the ankle at all for about 60 seconds.  I progressed into a hobble and convinced myself that I could run it off.  Not a chance.  The thing was I twisted my ankle on absolutely nothing, it was just sandy millstone grit.  A couple of minutes later I could feel wet on my knees and soon realised I had badly grazed my knees in the process.  Eventually the blood started to run down from my knees to my socks and continued to ooze throughout.  I had also grazed my hand.

I eventually managed to get going again but it was at a comparative snails pace.  Every step was now ow ow ow ow and so on.  It was all I could think of.  I got to Snake's Pass and I could tell my knees looked terrible as passers by tried to give me first aid.  I politely declined (not sure it is even in the rules but that's another debate).  It became a theme for the rest of the day with loads of people asking whether I needed assistance.  The knees looked worse than they were though, it was the ankle that was giving me the grief.  Just before the descent into Torside I started to get passed by various competitors who all showed considerable concern.  Deep down I knew my race was over.

I made it my goal to get to Hebden Bridge (46 miles in) and take it from there.  With the benefit of hindsight it was a stupid idea, I should have just called it at Snake Pass but thought I'd just look like a fool who went too fast and binned it.  There were brief bits of respite, I could break into a shuffle jog when it was flat, but my ankle increasingly became as stiff as a board.  Frankly I didn't want to look at it for two reasons - 1) Denial and 2) I could feel that my feet had swollen inside the shoe so there was more than a fair chance I wouldn't get it back on again.  When the footing became unstable, which was most of the time I had no pace whatsoever.

Eventually fatigue took over, I guess simply down to pain taking its cumulative toll and then I started to get shivers possibly due to a bit of shock.  I still plodded on though losing place after place.  I saw my wife at Wessenden who burst into tears when she saw me and she wanted me to drop out there and then.

I eventually got to Nicky's Food Bar just before the M62 and one of the Spine Crew was there who bumped into me.  He wanted to give medical attention there and then, but I politely declined as now it was just around 14 miles to Hebden.  Nonetheless he took a photo of my knees so it could be sent to the medical team as he was concerned about the amount of mud mixed into the graze.  Just after the White House the ground got a bit better again and I got into a shuffle but I was fooling myself.  Just before Stoodley Pike I was now 90% certain that my race would be over at Hebden and with just 3-4 miles to go at the first road crossing past Stoodley I called my wife to arrange a pickup.  At that point I was 80% slow walking.

I rolled into the Checkpoint a good 45 minutes slower than I did in the Winter Edition which speaks volumes (more so since there were lots of aid stations at the road crossings which weren't there in the summer edition).  Upon the welcome I said I'm dropping out and need to see a medic - I didn't need to explain why as the evidence was obvious.  The checkpoint team were brilliant but clearly try to discourage people dropping out prematurely on entry to the checkpoint.  I explained the same to the lead medic who said my knees just need to be cleaned up, but then I rolled down my socks and it was plain to see.  It looked even worse than I thought.

I went 40+ miles with my ankle like this...

Frankly I think people were surprised (at the stupidity?) that I had gone over 40 miles this way.  My race was now formally over.  Strangely this time I'm not as disappointed; I theorise that perhaps it is because it happened so early so wasn't quite as invested in the race.  If anything I'm embarrassed.


Knee after a shower.

In theory I'm entered for Winter Spine 2023 but I need to give it a good think now.  I know I have weak ankles, I always have due to having rolled them many times as a child.  Any rough ground, of which there is plenty on the Pennine Way puts me at a significant risk of rolling them.  There might be a couple of solutions - proper boots with ankle protection, but means that I will be limited to walking only and I'm not sure that's me or 2) wear a proper ankle brace and is something I'll investigate.  Otherwise I will limit my ultra adventures to firmer ground or stick to the road.

I have no plans in the immediate future so I just need to let my legs recover.

Maybe third time lucky?!


  1. Speedy recovery and when you do complete it next time the finish will mean all that more.


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