Local ultra-runner conquers Britain’s most brutal race

SADDLEWORTH ultra-runner Colin Green has conquered the Montane Spine Race 2019, a 268-mile race along the Pennine Way over seven days and nights in January – and finished as ‘last man standing’.

Badged as Britain’s most brutal race, it is widely regarded as one of the world’s toughest endurance races.

It involves racing non-stop along the most iconic trail in the UK during the winter.

Colin, 48, who lives in Greenfield, completed the race in 166 hours, finishing as ‘last man standing’ as one-by-one the competitors behind him dropped out of the gruelling race. As 40mph winds, -20 degrees windchill, snow and fog hit the Pennines and weather conditions worsened, he eventually found himself as the final runner on the course, finishing last with just 90 minutes to spare before the cut-off time.

“This was the hardest race I have ever run in my life,” said Colin, an experienced ultra-runner who has completed more than 30 marathons, the 200-mile Trans-Pennine Trail and the 214-mile GB Ultra ‘Race Across Scotland’.

“The conditions were tough. By the end I was completely exhausted. The biggest challenge is sleep deprivation. I had 30 mins sleep in the first 48 hours when I covered 108 miles and a total of 13 hours over the whole week.”

Colin, who is clinical director and a specialist neurological physiotherapist at his company Physio Matters based in Hollinwood, trained for 12 months for the race.

It was his second attempt after being forced to pull out of the race in January 2018 when he fell crossing a river and broke his ribs.

However, he stayed on to join the volunteer team and support other runners still on the course.

Colin, who set up Greenfield Greyhounds in 2011 to introduce absolute beginners to running as a hobby and sport, admitted there were times he was close to pulling out, explaining: “After a short sleep in the woods in Kielder Forest on day five, I woke up in a lot of pain, cold and extremely tired and thought, ‘I can’t go on’.

“But I’d come so far and this year I was determined to succeed.

“I visualised being at the finish line and focused on just putting one foot in front of the other.”

In total, 126 runners entered this year, with competitors from around the world including the USA, Canada, Japan, Spain, and Denmark as well as the UK.

Colin finished in 73rd place at 6.29am on Sunday, January 20. Fifty three runners dropped out along the way.

Colin also started hallucinating towards the end: “Through sheer fatigue, I must fallen more than 50 times on the final descent off the Pennines in the dark to the finish line.

“I even started hallucinating – thinking I could see writing in waterfalls, cars on the moors and even the faces of old film stars in the fog. It was bizarre and just shows what tricks a tired brain can play on you. The race took a lot of mental strength and grit to keep going.

“Thank you to everyone who supported me and followed my progress on the online tracker. I’m so proud to say I was the ‘last man standing’ and I’m a Spine Race finisher!”

• Colin’s post-race interview has so far been viewed by more than 16,000 people on Facebook: www.facebook.com/TheSpineRace/videos/2255953057756533/

For many ultra-runners, the Montane Spine race is one of the biggest challenges they can tackle, which tests their physical resilience and mental fortitude. The race began at 8am on Sunday, January 12 in Edale, Derbyshire, and then followed the Pennine Way until the finish line at Kirk Yetholm, Scotland, which must be reached within seven days, before 8am on Sunday, January 20.

Competitors need experience of running ultra-events before they can take part, such as mountain marathons, adventure races, orienteering events, fell races, expeditions or long distance in bad weather, plus the ability to navigate and be self-sufficient.

There were five main checkpoints runners must reach along the way before specific cut-off times or else they are timed out of the race. These are at Hebden Hey, Hawes, Middleton-in-Teasdale, Alston, and Bellingham.

Here, racers can access hot meals, hot drinks, somewhere to sleep like a bunk bed or wooden floor, toilets, medical staff, weather updates and race information. Other than this, the runners are not allowed any other support from friends and family along the way – they are on their own.

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