Cheviot Goat Ultra 2023 Review

The 2023 Montane Cheviot Goat Ultra returned amid a big freeze in the UK, bringing with it challenging conditions in the wintery Cheviot Hills of Northumberland.

Photos: Eric Murphy

An ultra set in the depths of winter in the UK always has a chance of bringing with it extra challenging weather and this year the Cheviot Goat Ultra did not disappoint! Snowfall, ice and freezing cold temperatures all combined to put runners thoroughly through their paces. 

As ever, this year once again involved an international mix of participants ranging from the UK to Canada, Denmark and even the Maldives. 202 signed up in total and 105 crossed the finish line. Each braved the elements, turning up with their head torches and thermal running gear in tow - ready to head into the dark, remote Cheviot Hills for several hours of brutal racing over freezing bogs. For those unsure what to expect, take a look at our dedicated origins story of the race

Cheviot goat ultra 2023

Also towing the startline and eager to reclaim their former Cheviot Goat title, included our very own Simon Roberts (who won the race back in 2021) as well as new #TeamMontane athlete James Nobles. Find out more about their reasons for entering in our official pre-race Q&A. Keep reading to see how they got on…

Race Results

The first male went to Simon Roberts who crossed the finish line in 13 hours 4 minutes and 6 seconds. He was closely followed by fellow Montane racer James Nobles with a time of 13:16:16 and Sam Downing in 3rd place with a time of 13:35:17. Nicky Spinks was the first female over the finish line with a time of 15 hours 11 minutes and 13 seconds, 2nd female went to Fiona Horsfield who came in with a time of 17:09:35 and Louise Goddard was 3rd female, with 18:41:09.

Simon Roberts wins the Cheviot Goat Ultra 2023

Race Highlights

Having reclaimed Cheviot Goat glory 2 years on from first taking part in 2021 and with a year of frustrating injury to contend with, #TeamMontane racer Simon Roberts was looking back on form. Here’s how his race unfolded…

"So here we are, I have found myself at Ingram for the 3rd time, for another edition of the Montane Cheviot Goat race. This race is not for the faint-hearted, it carries a great reputation for being one tough race! The hills rocks, mud, bracken …..oh and the bogs, all in winter conditions, provide a key test for the competitors. The last time I had run this was at the rescheduled 2021 race which was in March so provided quite a different experience. In this 2023 edition, the weather gods had answered and given us true winter conditions, well below-freezing temperatures and snow!! Perfect Cheviot Goat weather. 

I have a great relationship with this race. I adore this place, the Cheviot hills are beautiful, but extremely unforgiving in the Winter, the perfect place for a winter ultra race. I also love the people. The volunteers on the race are awesome, so friendly and helpful. I have done well in previous races and achieved 2 podiums, so I was looking to do well again. 

#TeamMontane was in force! I was joined by our latest recruit, James Nobles. Really happy to have James on the team, a great runner and a super cool guy. James and I have a small history where he managed to get one on me at the 2022 Dragons Back Race. It was great to see him here!

James Nobles on the Cheviot goat ultra 2023

So, let’s talk about the race itself. I parked up and noticed the temperature on my dashboard, -7.5°! I questioned my layer choices, I went for the Dart Thermo XT base layer and the Protium Lite Fleece, as I intended to be moving fast, and I thought this was sufficient for me. From the start we set off on an already frozen track, already slipping, we had to take care. James and I shot off, we shared some miles together, having a chat and having fun running on the snowy hills. We were a bit shaky on the navigation, it is pretty tough doing it in the dark. 

At about mile 10, I was now on my own. Wether Cairn is where the first bogs should be, but they are frozen over. I thought this could really speed things up, until, boom! Falling through the ice into the bog. I then tried tip-toeing and treading carefully so I wouldn’t break through, mostly that was quite successful and I could get through the boggy sections quite well, but would also break the ice every now and then…

Up until the aid station at Barrowburn, the course was running fast, but things started to change. I guess we started to hit the ‘proper’ snow. The snow on top of the boggy ground really started to slow things down. I was also kindly greeted by a ‘stitch’ in my side, I just had to wait that out for an hour or so. 

By mile 30, the course was getting very tough. The snow was getting deeper, the weather was getting colder. The climb from ‘hut 2’ to Auchope Cairn was a tough one. It's steep and with the snow, made it a very tough section. Following on from that was the out-and-back on Cheviot, with fresh snow on the ground locating the path was a challenge. I would step off the path into bogs a few times, it was hard getting up there and it took a lot out of the legs. On my descent off the Cheviot, I was greeted by James on his ascent, a quick fist bump and I cracked on. I was now trail-breaking my way through the snow. It was so tiring. 

Simon Roberts on the Cheviot Goat Ultra 2023

Mile 50 came and I was starting to slow down. my eating had slowed, and the struggle was on. The climb up Hedgehope Hill was tough. I could now see the head torches in the distance behind me, I wasn’t at the end yet so needed to fight on. The last 5 miles were tough, I was quite desperate to finish, so just had to be patient. I knew James was gaining time as his head torch was getting closer, but on my descent down to Ingram, I knew I had done enough. I got through the trees and arrived at the Ingram café, greeted by Drew who noted I had returned to do the ‘proper’ race. I was also greeted by James’s parents, so had a good to chat with them. 

It was great race and a great day. Conditions were exceptionally challenging. My time was so much slower to my previous races. I found the snow very challenging. Many thanks to Drew, Barry and all the crew and volunteers. A huge thanks to the mountain rescue teams. Now, all roads lead to the Winter Spine Race in January. See you all there!" Simon Roberts, #TeamMontane ultra running athlete

Also taking part in this years race was new #TeamMontane athlete James Nobles, we caught up with him after the race to find out his thoughts…

I couldn’t wait to get stuck into this year’s event – even more so when the forecast predicted sub-zero temperatures, no wind, and sunshine (yep, you read that right – it's December and we’ve had one of the wettest winters on record).

Simon and I set off hard from the start, but he opened up a lead around 10 miles in. Despite hoping that he might fade later in the race, he stayed incredibly strong and maintained his lead (to my annoyance 😉) to the end. Hats off to that man on a cracking race.

We anticipated that this was going to be quite a quick race and that we would “skim” over the bogs. If only. The inch-thick ice sitting on top of the bogs gave way easily, resulting in partial arctic submersion and some smashed-up shins. It seems no matter what the weather, this course maintains its reputation as being a seriously tough 60 miler. It’s a proper opportunity to roam about in some stunning British wilderness.

This is a perfect standalone race and, I think, a great warm-up to the Spine events in January. Pop it on the list if not already on there! Kit-wise, the PRIMINO T-Shirt and the Dart XT Thermal Long Sleeved Top is an ideal combination for cold-weather running. Only once on the Cheviot did I need to put a coat on!” James Nobles, #TeamMontane ultra running athlete

What’s next?

Can’t wait for more mid-winter race action? Good news, you don’t have long to wait for our next long-distance race. January sees the return of ‘Britain’s Most Brutal race’ the Montane Winter Spine Race, which athletes Simon Roberts and James Nobles will also be taking part in. Find out more on our Spine Race Hub