Spine Race 2024 - Negative Experience

The story so far has concentrated on how the race unfolded, but there is another story to be told and unfortunately it is one that involves a negative experience of the race itself.  In the 20 years or so of having a running themed website I don't recall ever having written similar before, so it's not something that I have a propensity towards.  I am an avid reader of other peoples race experience and in the literal hundreds of blogs I think this is probably the first with a negative slant.

Interviewed at the Finish, but not expressing how I really felt.

Upon arrival at the monitoring station at Tan Hill at about 1.30am on the second (Monday) night I was told by the volunteer that they needed to pass on some news.  I was told that the Race Director had been made aware of my wife uploading videos on Youtube of my progress, that they needed to stop and any further uploading would be construed as receiving assistance and that I would be penalised accordingly.

Now before we go further I need to be clear what was actually happening in practice.  My wife, as she has done without issue for the previous 3 Spine Races follows me up the course with my 18 month old son and videos me on occasion as the race progresses.  This is done at a distance, is never pre-arranged so there is never any knowledge on my part if and when I will see her.  Up to the point of receiving the news at Tan Hill I had seen her at Brun Clough on the first day and then about two minutes prior to the check point at Hawes (so of no benefit anyway if about to enter a checkpoint).  That was it in the first 108 miles.  Alongside this I was videoing from my GoPro this year and then remote uploading to the Cloud that she could then access.

Bear in mind I received the news at 1.30am, so about 41 hours into the race and up to this point had not really had any sleep and was extremely sleep deprived.  The volunteer delivering the news clearly felt awkward and then showed me the internal Spine Race Whatsapp messages.  I admit that these precise words were not used, but the insinuation was that I needed to 'control my wife' - clearly it is still 1958 somewhere.  Obviously any questions I had couldn't be answered by those delivering the news at Tan Hill.  I was stunned as I knew I (we) had done nothing wrong, but it was made clear that the decision had been made and that was it.  I then felt obliged to call my wife at 1.30am with dodgy mobile reception (bear in mind time of day) to pass on this news.  I couldn't tell her anything more other than she needed to stay away.  She was clearly upset.

In my view the Race Director went about this completely the wrong way and I hope they take the time to reflect.  The correct way forward would have been upon my arrival at Tan Hill for the volunteer to ask me to contact Race HQ at the earliest opportunity.  They could have then directly raised their concerns with me, I could have clarified the situation (e.g. how the GoPro videos were finding their way to my wife) and then if they had come to the same conclusion at the end of the discussion then fine, and that would have been the end of the matter.  To ask a volunteer who clearly felt awkward to deliver a message and effectively do the Race Organisers dirty work for them was not the right way.  They may say in reply that they are busy directing a race so have other things to do, but if you have the time to think there might be an issue, then you have the time to speak to the competitor concerned before making a balanced judgement.

I actually suspect there is another (real) reason for the attitude being taken and comes back to the race organiser making comments about the Youtube videos.  As far as I'm aware we are the only people that do uploads whilst the race is still live and I think the organisers saw it as direct competition to their own media outlay that is tightly controlled.  The first video had some 3.5k hits and I think it clearly ruffled some feathers in the media team and/or RD.  If this suspicion is even part true then I think its pretty pathetic really.

The following day my wife did speak with the organisers and I won't go into detail as much of it is already covered above.  But two additional points came out of it - 1) the organisers felt that my wife needed media accreditation to be able to shoot video of the race and 2) that we as runners were told the night before (i.e. 12 hours before the start) as part of the briefing that we can only be seen once by family out on the course.  To make such a change to policy at this late stage is ridiculous, but they then rolled back and said they were sure the same message had gone out via email previously (it hasn't).  It hadn't been well thought through though, so those (many) family members at the start in Edale - is that their only support visit out on the course done in the first few seconds of the race?

Some people may well say well you did actually break the rules as you were allowed one visit but had two.  Well no, a) the rules themselves still only refer to receiving outside assistance which shooting a couple of videos from an iPhone clearly isn't, b) the briefing was made only 12 hours prior to start of the race and isn't reflected in the rules in any case c) its a free country - people can and do visit the race and as long as they do not directly interfere with the competitors (as in the case here) then I do not see the problem.  I and others had plenty of visits by complete strangers out on the course, some offering real assistance such as food and drink, yet strangely this is technically within the rules.

The irony of it all, was that if I received any outside assistance it was actually from the race organisers themselves.  Prior to hearing the news I was extremely sleep deprived and ready for a sleep at Tan Hill.  Once told I was fuming and it gave me at least a further six hours or so of time on my feet and this alone more or less got me to the vicinity of Middleton.

Needless to say from the point after Tan Hill the race was ruined from my point of view.  I can accept it if I had done something wrong, but the truth was that I hadn't and I had no right of reply.  I and many others have previously referred to the 'Spine Family', and the volunteers were as usual fantastic so my issues in no way reflect their support.  I guess every large family has a Black Sheep and I guess that's now me.

It goes without saying that I will not be returning.  Me and the Spine Race are done.


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