Wednesday, 8 January 2014

Challenge 3 - Back to the Hills

Ok, so this is it.  Challenge number 3.

The Spine Race.

The Spine Race will start on Saturday and is the longest, coldest and most demanding mountain marathon in Britain. 268 miles of rain, snow, cold and savage winds and 15 hours of darkness at night making the navigation even more challenging. Competitors will have 7 days to complete the race (that's averaging 38.3 miles each day) which runs the entire length of the Pennine Way, South to North, from Edale to Kirk Yetholm, passing through the Peak District, the Cheviots, the Yorkshire Dales, the Northumberland National Park and finishing on the Scottish Boarders. (

I would like to say that I am as fully prepared as I possibly could be for this challenge, but having read the blogs and FB entries of some of the other competitors, both of this years race and the previous 2 Spine Races, I am sure I could have done more.

After my solo circumnavigation of the UK last year I found my capacity for running had greatly reduced which resulted in my DNF of the SVP100, 10 days after completing my voyage.  So I had to bring my mileage back up and later I went back to finish the SVP on my own and added some extra miles for good measure.  I have also converted myself back to the British Grid system instead of Lat & Long, swapped my charts for maps and have re-familiarised myself with a handheld GPS (mandatory kit for The Spine) after using my yacht’s chart plotter for 4 months.  

As far as equipment and clothing is concerned, I have a mixture of some brand new kit, Ebay bargains and also some old issue kit from my military life.  I must admit it is somewhat a novelty to be able to choose what I wear and use, instead of having to manage with what I am given - I hope I have made the right choices. 

Statistically, less than 30% of those that line up on the start line of the Spine Race reach the finish, so I’m entering this race with the ambitions of being in that 30% and within the 7-day time limit; in other words, surviving.  As previous competitors have written, this race is all about self-management and I’m hoping my experience of living out of the pack on my back will stand me in good stead.

In the past I have lived in a snow-hole at -40 degrees inside the Arctic Circle, survived in the Mojave Desert at +40 for 6-days on a single days rations, stayed awake long enough to the point of experiencing hallucinations and patrolled the humid jungles of Belize for a week at a time, chasing drug-runners.  But something tells me this is going to be one of the more demanding weeks I’ve encountered and I am going to have to draw on all of my past experience and knowledge just to get through it.

As I said at the start, this is challenge number 3 and, as before, I continue to raise money for the East Anglian’s Children’s Hospices.  My target is £2680, that’s £10 for each mile of the Spine Race - so if you can spare a few pounds, please do follow this link and help me reach my target:

If you are interested in tracking my progress throughout this event, the organisers are fitting all competitors with a GPS tracker which will give our positions and update the leaderboard here:

I doubt I will be posting anything online during the race, but I will hopefully be able to check FB and emails on my mobile occasionally, so any words of encouragement and motivation will be very much welcomed and appreciated.  When you are inside your warm, dry homes next week, spare a thought for the 80 competitors heading north up the Pennine Way, just for the fun of it!

My next blog entry will be a post race report.

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