Ultra runners outlast field in gruelling 268-mile winter race

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Eoin Keith wins Montane Spine Race 2022 (Image credit: Adam Jacobs)

One of the world's toughest endurance races witnessed the retirement of numerous big names in the running world this month.

Damian Hall, Kim Collison, Eugenie Rosello, as well as Sabrina Verjee and Anna Troup pulled out during The Montane Spine Race.

The 268-mile race on the Pennine Way from England to Scotland was eventually won by Eoin Keith, of Ireland, in a time of 92:40:30, while first female was Debbie Martin Consani, of Scotland, in 104:08:22. 

Both winners were only hours ahead of their nearest rivals. Debbie took seventh place overall.

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Eoin Keith was thrilled to win the race again (Image credit: Adam Jacobs)

spine race 2022

Eoin said he was surprised to take first place (Image credit: Adam Jacobs)

Eoin Keith wins The Spine Race again

In the 10th anniversary of The Montane Spine Race, which has an overall ascent of 43,093ft, Eoin outlasted the field of high-profile ultra-runners. It was his second win in the Montane Spine Race.

He said: “This was a special win for me. I didn’t think I had a hope. I thought I’d give it my best, but there were just so many class runners running, too.”

Eoin has also been runner-up the race three times and he previously held the course record. 

After finishing The Spine Race 2022, Eoin said: “I ran my own race. It was my most comfortable and balanced Spine race. I don’t have gear five anymore but I’ve always said if you run your own race, and optimise your own performance, your best performance will come out.”

Second and third placed runners were James Leavesley and Doug Zinis, who ran together for several days and finished together in 96:06:30.

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Debbie outlasted many big names in the ultra running world (Image credit: Adam Jacobs)

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A tenacious win by Scottish runner Debbie (Image credit: Adam Jacobs)

Debbie Martin-Consani wins female race

Meanwhile, for Scottish ultra runner Debbie, it was the news that Sabrina Verjee had pulled out early in the race that saw her adjusting her race focus.

When asked how about her victory, she said: “It’s quite unbelievable. Nobody is more shocked about it than me.”

She said: “When I heard that Sabs had pulled out of the race it changed the last few days completely for me. I’d just been doing my own thing and then I had to think about how everyone else was doing."

It is Debbie’s second Spine Race finish and she beat runner up Elaine Bisson in 107:00:38 and third placed Lizzie Faithfull-Davies in 112:47:47.

Debbie gave praise to the other runners. She said: "I knew Elaine and Lizzie would be pushing hard. Elaine, in particular, kept me on my toes. Her pace was unrelenting."

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Delight for first female Debbie in Montane Spine Race 2022 (Image credit: Adam Jacobs)

Debbie had only three hours sleep in total during the ultra endurance event. She also ran through some tough times and arrived at the finish line leaning badly to one side due to a back injury.

The race organisers said: “It was the very definition of leaving it all on the trail. Debbie has bent herself in half to get to this finish line and remained gregarious, friendly and generous of spirit throughout. She is an exceptional athlete.”

This year, a 15-mile section of the Spine Race course required vehicle transfer because of the closure of a forest section of the Pennine Way between Bellingham and Byrness. This is due to safety concerns after Storm Arwen felled thousands of trees in the area. The reduction in distance of the course means no official record time can be set this year.

The Montane Spine Race record is held by Jasmin Paris in 83:12. The men's record was set by John Kelly in 87:53.

Fiona Russell
Outdoor writer

Fiona Russell is a widely published adventure journalist and blogger, better known as Fiona Outdoors. She is based in Scotland and is an all-round outdoors enthusiast with favorite activities including trail running, mountain walking, mountain biking, road cycling, triathlon and skiing (both downhill and backcountry). Aside from her own adventures, Fiona's biggest aim is to inspire others to enjoy getting outside and exploring, especially through her writing. She is also rarely seen without a running skort! Find out more at Fiona Outdoors.