First-time ultra runner smashes Spine Race 46-mile 'sprint' record

Molly Browne wins the 2024 Montane Summer Spine
(Image credit: Montane Summer Spine)

First-time ultra runner Molly Browne, 31, has shaved an incredible 11-minutes off the record for the “sprint” section of the Montane Summer Spine race this weekend.

Her time of 8hr 30min 29sec beat Hannah Rickman’s previous course record. She was also fourth overall, only beaten by three of the male runners – and she was less than nine minutes behind the men’s winner, Stephen Earle (8hr 21min 49sec). Lizzie Broughton and Debbie Martin-Consani came second and third in the female race.

Of course, this is not a sprint in the way most of us understand the term – Browne actually covered 46 miles to claim the new record. It’s just a sprint in terms of ultra running (which some argue is more akin to hiking), and the full Montane Summer Sprint actually comprises four separate races run along the UK’s Pennine Way, the longest of which – from Edale in the Peak District to Kirk Yetholm on the English-Scottish border – is 268 miles, and is still in progress (it can take up to six-and-a-half days before organizers call a halt to it).

The other two races are the 108-mile Summer Challenger South and the 160-mile Summer Challenger North, which are basically the north and south sections of the main race. The “sprint” is the first section, from Edale to Hebden Bridge.

And they do it all twice a year – there’s the Winter Spine too: the same set of races, just chillier.

The race began in the pouring rain at midday on Sunday with 100 runners assembled at the start line.

After crossing the finish line, Browne said, “It has been so tough, but I got to halfway and caught a couple of the guys, a nice group to run in and the atmosphere along the course is great. This was my first ultra so I wanted to finish before midnight. So a good day on the Pennine Way and some of the views are amazing.”

Chris Cope 2024 Montane Summer Spine

Chris Cope was leading the Montane Summer Spine on the second day of the race (Image credit: Montane Summer Spine)

In the other race completed yesterday, Rupert Allison – winner and course record breaker of the Winter Spine Sprint – won the Summer Challenger South, crossing the line in Hardraw with a time of 22hr 31min 02sec, breaking Tim Pigott’s Challenger South course record by around half an hour.

The win is Allison’s third Spine Race course record in a row after setting bests for the Summer Sprint last year and the Winter Sprint in January.

“It was a torrid afternoon,” summed up Allison. “I am really tired, but it has been a really nice last hour, a gorgeous morning and this is pretty special. It is a relief to finish; glad to be done and really delighted with the time in the end.”

In the women’s race, Ursula Sullivan won in 31hr 05min 00sec in her first ever 100+ mile race.

The two other races are ongoing.