After the kick in the ass of the last two races I have been coming around to the idea of just going balls out crazy and pushing myself to my limits to regain what I have lost. Hell! I may even start training at some point. I signed up for not only Race to the King, but Double King. And also found my first 100 miler, the Berlin Wall race in August 2017, all with the idea of a sub 3:45 marathon at some point in one of my other dozen maras. But this balmy week in August during my Stones rehab I have mostly been watching @_Jen_Mo’s copy of the Montane Spine Race DVD, basically the running equivalent of the Ring movie.
I did not know what to expect, but saw the trailer and realised that this was going to be as brutal as a Frankie Boyle joke at the Paralympics.
The movie itself isn’t very long and follows the 2015 race, a 268 mile race up the Pennines in the middle of Winter (as you do).
As a cinematic effort it is not particularly well edited. I would have preferred to follow it more like a journey, with all the stops and more people interviewed. It seemed to be more of a retrospective, a retrospective with lines like…
Interviewer – “Do you worry that someone will die on the race?”
Race Director – “All the time.”
It made me feel a little…
But I perservered and learned from champion racers Damian Hall and Pavel Paloncy that “5 degree air temperature with water is as dangerous as polar cold, people just don’t think that.” I didn’t for one. Waterproofs and warm clothing essential then, and definitely needed.
It was the race doctor listing heart attacks, knee injuries, and lots of hypothermia as par for the course, with such a small field that killed me. And then the Spanish (??) guy who hurt his knee so badly he had to stop and was told in pigeon Spanish he can’t go on. It was tragic. I would have cried, but my tears would have frozen to my face.
Whilst we saw a little bit of the race, following the two main guys and a couple of others we heard such gems as “it is the wind. You can lean into the wind and it will hold you up”, “if you stop moving it starts to get dangerous. That is when you die. That is different to other races,” (what? Like the 5K Battersea Santa Run?) and my personal favourite and perhaps the reason I am considering it with Team Crazy on UKRUNCHAT, “people who sign up for it, that’s what they want, they want to push themselves.” And I really do want to push myself.
The Spine Race race is brutal with a capital B, savage, that is another word that comes to mind as it will truly test your limits. And the reason why people sign up year after year is that that is exactly what they want to experience.
The guys that do it are crazy and those in the movie make it look easy as “the wind is blowing you along wet flagstone like an out of control shopping trolley, right on edge of this is so exciting, and not sure what I would do if something happened to me.” 15 stone men blown off their feet on Cross Fell, highest place in the country, the place where the lowest recorded temperature was. A lady lost her glasses there. Which begged the question – How did Velma from Scooby Do get let in?
Falling asleep whilst running into a snowstorm, getting whiplash whipping your neck from when you are falling asleep running. I think that was what stopped selling it to me. And it became clear the DVD was never going to come remotely close to the personal experience. As one of the runners says, “unless you were there, you can never do it justice.” Shortly before…
Interviewer – You look happy, why do you look happy?
Runner – Because it’s over!
But then the retrospective on a life challenging and changing race is what we all want, I think. You are not living if you are doing the same thing all the time, says Damian Hall. And as one runner coins it, “the sense of failure I would get from stopping is worse than the effort spent carrying on, even if it kills me.” Is this a race, for me? I am not sure. The DVD was a real eye opener. Could have been much better and will be given back to it can be lent out again, to Sean I think. Someone else needs to see it. I will likely join the group of there is one. Until then I will be happy I am not, and will sleep with an extra pair of gloves under my pillow.
For the record, the winner did it in 81 hours and 44 minutes with a 44 hour 23 minute credit.