Spine Fever

Effecting a small number of UK ultra runners each winter, with only one cure...
Credit Summit Fever Media rt
23 days ago
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Damian Hall

I ruddy love a British winter me. It just makes tea taste even better. And nut butter on crumpets.

Few things in life are as satisfying as the afterglow from a long run or hike in the mountains in winter.

Only problem is, it gives me a terrible fever...

Unsupported Winter Paddy Buckley Round, 2020 Credit: inov-8

I love being wrapped up in my Stormshell and Wrag, being attacked by the wind and snow in the Beacons or Snowdonia, playing at being Skywalker on Hoth (Ed - snow and ice covered planet surrounded by numerous moons star wars, fyi). You can’t feel your fingers and toes, your cheeks are like embarrassed radishes and there’s frozen snot across your face. That, dear reader, is living.

You probably had a moment where the wind was so strong you seriously considered turning back, but you didn’t (though sometimes it's fine and in fact very smart to do so). It’s like being allowed into the lion’s den at the zoo. How long will the ferocious big cat tolerate you? Will he pounce and tear you to bits, or just growl a couple of times and leave you alone?

There’s something about winter and the uncertainty of the weather that add extra drama, jeopardy and edginess to a bimble. And, of course, can make it incredibly beautiful too.

Me in the Brecon Beacons

Every year, as the colder end of the year approaches I start to get a bad illness which makes me itchy and restless. It’s called Spine Fever. If left untreated it escalates. The only way to cure it is to commit to an outdoor UK winter challenge.

In 2019, I ran an unsupported Paddy Buckley Round. Last winter we were in lockdown and weren't allowed out much, so I just run a lot in the mountains of Wiltshire. This January, if Boris allows, I'll be running the Spine Race for a third time.

The Spine is a 260-mile race up my beloved Pennine Way. It's mostly dark and miserable. Water bottles freeze. People get trench foot. Hallucinations are par for the course. It's epically awful. I ruddy love it.

There's just something about the simplicity of it all, the strong sense of mission, the questions and doubt, the fear and vulnerability, the amazing people around the race, the tidal wave of good will that pushes you ever northwards. It's hard to describe. But it's special. Winters are special.


Widely regarded as one of the world's toughest endurance races

268 miles between Edale and Kirk Yetholm (closely following the Pennine Way)

Participants get seven days to finish

The inaugural race took place in 2012 when there were only three finishers

13300m of ascent

Mandatory kit list to be carried along the full course. No support crews.

Takes in the Peak District, Yorkshire Dales, Northumberland National Park and the Cheviots

This Sidetracked Magazine article from 2017 gives a pretty good idea of what the Spine Race entails...

We'll be watching Damo's dot bimble northwards on Sunday 9th Jan. Good luck Damo 👊

Bikepacking trips for 2022