Spine Race Part 2: Setting off into a blizzard


This post is part of a series reliving the highs and lows of Rob Brooks’ epic adventure on the 2022 Winter Spine Race.

Edale to Hebden Bridge, 47 miles (depart 8am)

As we all stood nervously on the start line we were informed that 3 runners in the Challenger had DNF’d by eye damage caused by not wearing goggles and to prepare accordingly. Forecast for the day was stiff winds and snow blizzards turning to rain on lower ground and poor visibility – typical Spine weather.

A quick countdown and then we were off!!

Everyone started running and I had to really resist the urge to join them – stick to the plan and don’t be stupid I kept on telling myself. I had prepared myself for being at the back end of the field and no-one else mattered. As long as I could move at 2-3 miles an hour in the early stages and then 2 miles an hour later in the race then I’d make the cutoffs including the maximum 8 hour stay in each checkpoint.

I managed to find I was of managing my cough – most of the time I tried to cough shallowly and if I needed a deep cough then I’d kneel and brace myself with my poles which just about made the pain bearable although it wouldn’t have made for a particularly gracious gait for anyone watching me.

Once up onto the Kinder plateau it began to blizzard and I decided to stop and put on my goggles – no point in taking any chances this early in the race. Sadly no view was to be had because of the thick clag so it was just a case of pushing on to Snake Pass where Claire and Sarth were waiting to cheer me through. A lot of this section is flagged but most of the flags were submerged in snow melt or covered in ice so progress wasn’t quick.

Bleaklaw is a very appropriately named fell and the long trudge up through the peat bogs was especially grim only interspaced by a steady stream of fell runners coming the opposite direction on the Trigger fell race from Marsden to Edale.

On the next long slog up to Black Hill and I passed Mark (Smith) at this point who was moving well. He’s twice completed the Summer Spine and was looking to add the winter addition to his list of accomplishments. Sadly, I later learned that he’d became ill with a bug and was forced to retire at Hebden.

It started to get dark as I reached Harrop where an MRT team were waiting with hot drinks and snacks which were very welcome.

Further north at the M62 road crossing I also refuelled at Nicky’s food bar with a Bacon sandwich, crisps and another hot drink. Lush!!

Shortly afterward I caught up with another competitor called Mark (Thomson). I didn’t know it at the time but our paths would cross many times in the remainder of the race.

It had now stopped raining and the clag lifted revealing the distant lights of Manchester and other surrounding settlements and I enjoyed this section.

Just before the turnoff to Hebden Hay checkpoint I caught up with another competitor. He’d lost his GPS and wasn’t sure where the turn off was so we walked together for a while.

He assured me he knew the area like the back of his hand and when I took a slight wrong turn through a farmers field I wanted to retrace my steps until he informed me that this was definitely the right way. Looking at my watch it appeared the track I was on re-joined the main path in a short distance so I just went with it. We were then attacked by dense vegetation covering the path for which a machete would have been useful. “I’ve never been through here” he informed me. “this definitely isn’t the right way”. Hmm maybe just trust my own nav the next time.

I arrived at Hebden at 10pm.

Upon entering the Scout centre I spotted Richard – he’d unfortunately taken a dunk in the beck at Dean Clough and decided to retire from the race.

I hadn’t originally planned on sleeping at Hebden but plan B entailed at least an attempt. After eating and faffing for an hour I retired to a darkened dorm and lay down for 3 hours trying and failing to sleep. Even so I felt a bit better afterwards and after another half an hour faffing I was on my way.