Keith retires, Paloncý takes the lead

Eoin Keith retires from Britain’s most brutal race, leaving Pavel Paloncý in the lead; Carol Morgan retains her 30km lead in the women’s race; extreme weather temporarily halts the race

Episode 6 • Montane Spine Race TV 2018

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Posted by Montane Spine Race on Wednesday, 17 January 2018

Highlights from Wednesday 17th January Spine Race

Bellingham, Northumberland, UK, Wednesday, 17 January, 2018: It was another dramatic day at the 2018 MONTANE® Spine® Race, with the retirement of race-leader Eoin Keith (IRL) 345km into the 420km race.

Course record-holder Keith had been in first place since the retirement of race leader Jim Mann (GBR) at check point (CP) four, Alston (276km), on Tuesday.

Two hours after leaving CP5, at Bellingham (338km), on Wednesday morning however the Irishman headed back to the check point to get his snowshoes, saying they were “a must” to cope with the deep snow in the next section. In so doing Pavel Paloncý (CZE) moved into first place.

Due to heavy snow on the ground however, it took practically all the daylight hours for the two-time Spine® Race-winner and four-time finisher to travel the 23km to CP5.5 at Byrness. Paloncý talked of “waist-deep snow”. He added: “I feel fine, but it’s so slow.”

In a surprising development, members of the race’s media team found Keith walking along a road, off route. The 2016 winner had decided to retire from the race, citing exhaustion. “I was projecting forward and I think I would cause a safety problem,” he said. “I needed an additional sleep and the first place I could get that would be [an emergency hut] in the Cheviots. That was a long way from where I was.

“I used up a lot of time going back for my snowshoes. I’m still not sure if it was the right decision, but if Pavel is up to his waist in snow, maybe it would have worked. It was a sensible call. But I’m still miserable about it.”

After Keith’s retirement, Simon Gfeller (SUI), who placed eighth in last year’s race, moved into second place. The 2017 Spine® Race-winner Tom Hollins (GBR) moved into third, only about 20 minutes behind. Paloncý, currently at Byrness, has a lead of around 24km.

Current champion and course-record holder Carol Morgan (IRL) still leads the woman’s race by around 30km, with Sarah Kirsty Williams (GBR) second and third-place Daphné Derouch (FRA) around 12km behind her.

There was more drama to come though.

Due to a severe weather warning, the Spine® Race was put on temporary hold in the evening. The decision has been taken because the safety of both the runners and the support staff was deemed likely to be seriously compromised. The forecast includes persistent and heavy snow fall, 45mph winds and extreme wind-chill.

Racers are being held at CP3 (Middleton in Teesdale), Dufton, Greg’s Hut, CP4 (Alston), CP5 (Bellingham) and CP5.5 (Byrness). The situation is being monitored closely and the race will restart as soon as it is safe to do so.

There have been 43 retirees from the race so far, with 75 runners remaining.

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