Spine: random musings


What does it take to finish the Spine race? (n.b. I’m talking here about finishing it, not racing it. The only thing I’ve ever raced was the three-legged race at primary school).

Well you definitely don’t need to be fast. My marathon PB is 4.18, fastest Fellsman time 21.47, and I’ve finished last at the Long Tour of Bradwell. Twice. In fact (having see the way they marched past me towards the end of my first two 100s) I’m guessing some of the speedier LDWA members could do it, without running a single step.

IMHO what it takes is some combination of preparation, (mental & physical) strength and pain. If you’re sufficiently strong and/or willing to suffer you can wing it on the preparation front. But for me spending several months focussing on the race, and spending time in the hills on similar terrain was essential.

Physically there’s definitely a bit of a luck-factor in how well your body holds up. However there are things you can do to minimise the likelihood of problems, in particular working out how to stop your feet blistering. And if your main goal is to finish, I’d definitely suggest thinking about whether it’s worth running (and risking a fall) on the slippery wet/icy flagstones.

What I struggled with most was the sleep deprivation. I don’t have problems running through a single night, but keeping going for a week on a handful of hours a night was another story. The problem is, this is something that’s hard to prepare for. Before doing another race like this I’d definitely look into techniques/strategies for sleeping more efficiently.

I’ve been asked lots of times how the Spine compares with other things I’ve done. The answer is nothing else comes close. It was far, far harder than any other race I’ve done. It’s hard to quantify, but (for someone slow like me whose goal is to finish comfortably within the time-limit) if the Spine is a 8 then Ironman (the most over-hyped thing in the Universe) is at most a 1, a flat 100 a 2 and a hilly 100 or GUCR a 3.