Spine 2024 - Thoughts and Expectations

In the coming week I have the 2024 edition of the Spine Race to look forward to.  I finally managed to get the monkey off my back after 2 failed attempts (2022 Winter & 2022 Summer), both due to injury, before finally finishing the latest edition of the race in 17th place in a time of 118 hours and 47 minutes.

Although finishing in 2023, the race was not without drama, particularly towards the end due to extreme hallucinations.  At its worst, it included seeing the Cheviots covered in plastic bags instead of grass, prayer flags all over the mountains, my name written in grass and then being convinced I was being chased down by head torches behind me (next competitor was 4 hours behind).  It resulted in a total break down once reaching Kirk Yetholm.  More details can be found in this blog.

Greg's Hut - 2023

I could be forgiven for not wanting to have such an undertaking ever again, but there is something special about the race that sucks you back in.  I have no idea what will entail, but in some ways that is one of the big draws of the race for me.  Whilst previous editions have also told me that there is no point in putting too much effort in targeting an outcome, I do feel that there is significant room for improvement. 

All told, I feel that if conditions allow (which is a big if), it is possible to finish sub 109 hours i.e. 10 hours quicker.  This is quite a big ask, as to do so would mean out of 520 individuals that have finished the race thus far (excluding 2015 due to significant course changes), it would place me inside the top 30 (only 12 of which have cracked 100 hours!).  Most of the gains will hopefully be earlier in the race where I had a mediocre first leg to Hebden Bridge, but particularly between Hebden Bridge to Hawes where I really suffered from swelling in my feet in shoes that were too small and it being 50/50 whether I was even going to be able to get to Hawes.  I'm under no illusion that particularly with the Spine Race its impossible to achieve a perfect outcome.  After all, the biggest variable of them all is the weather and it is entirely possible that the best laid plans get thrown out of the window through something that cannot be controlled.

Weather wise, as I write this it looks like it will be fairly mild, probably wet and underfoot conditions are going to be as poor as they can possibly be.  This is likely to make conditions slower than last year but I still expect times to be fast due to the quality of the field in 2024.  As for me my base fitness for much of 2023 has been decent but I won't be troubling the front end of the race.  My frame of mind is very much complete not compete, albeit I would like finish in a better time than last year.

Although I've never done any ultra specific training whatsoever (gasp!), my base form is reasonable, albeit the aging process prevents me getting back to the lofty heights of sub 2.20 marathon fitness from 2019.  Whilst some people think this is impressive, it requires the body to be attuned to maximising VO2 and use of carbohydrate stores, both of which provide little to no value for a race like this.  That said, I've done a few ultras this year and had some reasonable results, including race wins at the High Peak 100km and Yorkshire 3 Peaks 100km.  The latter was run in October where a good chunk of the route overlaps the Spine Race and what was pleasing was that I finished like I felt there was more in the tank.

In the more recent weeks I've had a few issues to navigate that have threatened to spoil my race.  My ankle issues that resulted in over 12 months away from running in 2018 returned.  Its resulted in most of November being a write off and then I got Covid for the first time in late December which I am still recovering from.  The base fitness will still be there, but some of my sharpness will have fallen away.  This would be more of a concern if I was building up to a marathon, but will be less of an issue for the Spine.

So here goes another race into the unknown, but one thing for sure is that it will be another adventure!


  1. Good luck Lloyd, I will keep an eye out for your dot!

  2. the weather goat15 January 2024 at 21:22

    good luck following your dot at time of writing you are just dropping down into Thwaite. .


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