Pavel Paloncý has won the 2018 Montane Spine Race, a record third win of Britain's most brutal race. The Czech Republic ultra-runner arrived at the Border Hotel, Kirk Yetholm, the end point of the Pennine Way National Trail and the Spine Race at 21:50, in an overall time of 109:50.
Paloncý becomes the first person to win the race three times and the first to complete it five times (he also has two runner-up placings). “It's a great feeling to be here… Again,” he joked as he touched the wall of the Border Hotel. “I'm really happy it's over to be honest. It was long – but it always is. But every Spine Race I've done has been different".
The 2018 race saw three previous race winners – Keith, Eugeni Roselló Solé and Tom Hollins – all fail to finish, as well as Mann, who led for much of the event. Paloncý outlasted all of them.
“It was like two different races,” he said. “The first four stages were really fast, we were ahead of record time and like we might finish in under 90 hours, and that was fine. But then everything changed and the last two stages were really hard. The last stage was very hard, especially. In the Cheviots I had to work hard . It was quite frustrating.”
Paloncý looks set to be joined on the men's podium by Simon Gfeller (SUI) and John Knapp (GBR), who are running together over the Scottish Borders' remote, snow-covered Cheviot Hills. Gfeller placed eighth in last year's race, while Knapp was joint fourth.
“We're not racing,” said John at the beginning of the Cheviots. “This is all about the two of us having a big day out together in the mountains. The company and safety are more important than racing for positions.”
The day, again, had started dramatically. The race had been paused overnight, due to severe weather warnings which threatened to compromise competitor and staff safety. At 6am, all competitors were released, but at around 9am 2017 Spine Race-winner and third-placed runner Tom Hollins (GBR) retired from the race with badly swollen ankle tendons causing him to move too slowly.
In the women's race, current champion and course-record holder Carol Morgan (IRL) still leads, albeit by a reduced distance of around 21km, and is seventh overall as she makes her way up into the Cheviots.
“I feel great!” she said, on Hadrian's Wall – blanketed in a foot of snow – in the morning. “The enforced rest has rejuvenated me. It's so beautiful here.”
Kirsty Williams (GBR) continues to make strong progress in second place, forcing a gap of some 25km to third-place Daphné Derouch (FRA).
There have been 49 retirees from the race so far, with 69 runners remaining.
Those remaining runners have until 8am on Sunday to get to Kirk Yetholm.
The Montane Spine Race continues through the night…