Don’t be fooled into thinking the Summer Spine Race is an easier option than its older winter edition! With the possibility of heatwaves or torrential downpours, racers will need to be well prepared and able to adapt to a wide range of weather conditions.
For those unfamiliar with what to expect, hear from former race finisher Ed Gwynne Harris on our podcast to find out more. Alternatively, you can watch our Crash Course Spine Race video for a fun, informative overview of the race.
Last year's event saw heatwaves, dusty trails and records smashed as racers navigated the undulating 268-mile route from the Peak District to the Scottish Borders. With the race returning on the 17th June 2023, we wanted to catch up with some of the #TeamMontane runners taking on the challenge this year! Keep reading to hear from Kevin Hadfield, Stefan Kliemann and new #TeamMontane athlete Jon Shield.
Tell us more about yourself
Jon: I’m from Shropshire in the UK and a self-employed Paramedic Practitioner. I love running a variety of races, from 50km to multi-stage races all over the world.
I got into running properly a few years ago during lockdown when Covid became prevalent. During this time, a long-standing parachuting injury was resolved after I found an excellent physio. As soon as I found I could run pain-free, I kept running and started picking some of the harshest races in the harshest environments.
Kevin: I’m based in Carbondale, Colorado in the US. I’m a nightshift Cardiac Care Nurse and certified Death Investigator in my professional life. In my free time, I am a Mountain Ultra Trail athlete.
I began running trails after a decade+ of primarily climbing and mountaineering. I was forced to take a break from climbing due to a hand injury. Since I cannot sit still, I bought a pair of second-hand trail shoes and ran a popular local 5K trail loop. My ramp to longer trail distances was very steep. Since then, I’m grateful to have raced some of the iconic events in our sport and I frequently can be found out in the Elk mountains or the western Colorado/eastern Utah high desert, enjoying long days of putting a line on a map.
Photo: #TeamMontane ultra runner Kevin Hadfield
Stefan: Hi, I'm Stefan from Berlin, Germany, working as a Teacher at a secondary school. When I am not at work, you can find me in the nearby forest where I like to hit the trails with a couple of friends. Before establishing a trail running community in Berlin, I was running solo for fun and to check out my personal limits. I love to be outside exploring the local nature and spending long days in the mountains as much as possible.
What has been your greatest running achievement to date?
Jon: It has to be winning the Beyond The Ultimate Ice Ultra and Jungle Ultra last year. This exposed me to completely different environments, ranging from -38 degrees to +36 degrees.
Kevin: Every time I have finished the Tor des Geants (3x) it has been so special. I have some FKTs, I’ve won some races, I’ve pioneered some awesome mega-project routes… honestly just every “achievement” is “great”. I celebrate and don’t celebrate them all the same.
Stefan: Starting ultra running in Berlin on the road, I heard about the UTMB and was fascinated by running through the mountains. In 2018 I crossed the finish line of the TDS in Chamonix before completing a lot of qualifying trail running races.
Photo: #TeamMontane Stefan Kliemann on the Lavaredo Ultra Trail
Why the Spine Race?
Jon: I entered the Winter Spine Sprint at the start of this year. I had no real ambition to do the Spine races or further beyond this, having never been on the Pennine Way until a couple of recces prior to the race. However, winning it and setting a course record, along with loving the route and how runnable it was, made me change my mind. Now I’m about to do the Challenger South this summer and Full Spine in January 2024! It’s special.
Kevin: I’ve been fascinated by the Pennine Way and the Spine race since I first was introduced to the race; I love the point-to-point format. I can't wait to take on the full route! Additionally, there is some extra motivation to run around the hills in the Peaks, due to some family history in this region. My great-grandfather on my dad’s side emigrated from the Hadfield/Glossop area, which is just a short distance from the Pennine Way, in the early 20th century.
Stefan: The Spine Race Challenger South is a new style of race for me because, until now, I never ran unsupported and on my own. Sure the Spine has checkpoints, but it’s the idea of the race to have everything you need with you that really appeals. I’m looking forward to this adventure and I’m curious how it may change my perspective of running and my abilities for doing long distances.
Photo: A Summer Spine Race participant takes on the Pennine Way trail
What is one piece of important advice you have received that has helped your running?
Jon: I very much feel that I’ve ‘learnt on the job’, having no idea when first entering races and getting my backside kicked. I’ve learnt so much along the way and I’ve tried to absorb it like a sponge. I now research races, environment, terrain, test kit, test nutrition and look at controlling all the variables I can prior to a race.
I’d say recceing, I feel, is fundamental if possible. Learning a route prior to a race is so useful, where you can push, ease off, take on nutrition, what type of training is required for that specific race, estimating best and worst case scenario finish times and so on.
Photo: #TeamMontane ultra runner Jon Shields
Kevin: I used to “redline” from the gun and see how long I could hold on. Now I take a more calculated “Yacht rock-punk rock-metal” approach to races/long efforts.
Yacht Rock: https://youtu.be/9gbQVj4MR3M | Easy does it, just cruising the highs and low w/ an even keel. Navigating the waves of total confidence and self-doubt. Day 1.
Punk Rock: https://youtu.be/-KfSNTazeDE | Things can get messy, it’s all about self-determination and a DIY attitude. The punk rock phase is grimy but it’s all about pushing forward. There may be puke… puke and rally!
Metal: https://youtu.be/OnzkhQsmSag | It’s time to “barn-run”. You can smell the end… just gotta get there. At this point in the race, it won’t matter if you have nothing left, just blow it all out and go HARD… as hard as you’ve got. Last 50-100K (whatever your “known” distance is!).
Basically, a long day/couple days event or objective requires the appropriate effort rationing to complete, otherwise what’s the point? I’ve always felt that if you DNF, were you ever really in the race?
Stefan: I guess there are a lot of rules you can follow, but I am not good at following any rules. So maybe just two short ones:
1) You have to be slightly cold before starting the race (even if you have to run up a mountain - it’s getting hot very soon!)
2) Find your own rhythm - this could mean you have to run alone, but that’s okay too.
What Montane kit will you be relying on, on the Pennine Way?
Jon: The aim is to go as light as possible for a fast effort on the Challenger South. The kit will be weather dependent looking at the forecast prior. The plan is to use the Gecko VP12+ Running Vest Pack (not really planning to need to get in the pack - as long as it holds the kit it will be snug), Slipstream 5” Shorts (light and breathable with useful pockets and Dart T-shirt (breathable, light, moisture wicking).
Kevin: I have a few Montane items that I will be relying on along the way...
Dart Zip T-Shirts (Long Sleeved & Short Sleeved) - the zip neck is critical for versatility!
Dragon Twin Skin Shorts (all-time favorite) - look great, feel great and come with awesome pockets in the waistband for gels/gel trash.
Minimus Nano Waterproof Jacket and Trousers - So lightweight and reliable for most events/runs. These pieces live in my running pack and have seen HEAVY rotation.
Switch Gloves with pull-out mitt - Easy transition from cool to cold/wet. Love the versatility.
Photo: Kevin hits the Colorado trails for essential training
My kit will depend on the conditions I face on the route. For warm weather, I will have my Slipstream 5” Shorts, with two pockets at the waist for extra storage, as well as a Dart Base layer T-Shirt. I really like the 100% recycled APEX ECO fabric and the POLYGIENE permanent finishing; that has helped me to save water and energy since they last longer in between washes!
If it looks like we’ll have bad weather on the Pennine Way, I will switch to my Slipstream Trail Tights and Fireball Nano Hooded Jacket, which is warm+comfy+light = a perfect mix. For extremely wet weather, I'll dig out my Phase Nano Waterproof Jacket and Minimus Nano Pants which are guaranteed to keep me dry and confident that I can finish in the harshest of conditions.
Storage-wise I am torn between my Gecko VP20+ or Trailblazer LT 28L. It depends on the extras (*top secret*) I like to have during the race.
Keep up with the Spine action
The Summer Spine Race kicks off on the 17 June. Check out our event hub to find out more about this non-stop ultra along the Pennine Way.