Ultra running legend and inov-8 athlete Damian Hall fulfilled a long-held dream by winning the 268-mile Montane Spine Race, with team-mate Jack Scott finishing by his side in second place.
Damian completed ‘Britain’s Most Brutal Race’ in 84 hours 36 mins to set a new men’s course record for what is one of the world’s toughest ultramarathon events. The overall course record – 83 hours 12 mins set by female endurance runner Jasmin Paris in 2019 – proved just out of reach.
The Spine Race is notorious for its savage nature. Held in winter over remote mountainous terrain, runners carry their kit throughout and sleep only when they choose to. They ascend a total of 37,000ft – more than the equivalent height of Mount Everest from sea level – while moving north along Britain’s oldest National Trail, the Pennine Way. At the time Damian and Jack finished on Wednesday night, almost 60 of the 158 starters had retired.
Damian, a 47-year-old running coach and climate-emergency campaigner, said: “It has been a long-held dream to win the Spine Race. I first did it in 2014 finishing 4th but never thought I was someone who could win it. Then last year I did think that but retired after 180 miles with an injury. That really frustrated me, and that feeling has been bubbling away for the past 12 months. I wanted to come back this year and do better. Jack pushed me incredibly hard for the win and I’m really pleased that between us we ran the second than third fastest times for the course.”
The finish at Kirk Yetholm, in the Scottish Borders, was awash with family and friends as Damian and Jack arrived together. It was the culmination of a three-and-half day battle against each other and the wild elements, which included icy winds of -15C, deep snow and energy-sapping mud.
Jack had earlier incurred a 48-minute time penalty for an accidental navigation error that resulted in him taking a shortcut. That was cut to 41 minutes when he gained a 7-minute time credit for helping a fellow runner in need. This penalty was added to his time at the finish, meaning his total time was 85 hours 16 mins. Both Damian and Jack bettered the previous men’s record of 87 hours 53 mins, set by American ultra running great John Kelly in 2020.
Jack, a 28-year-old running coach who found the sport while overcoming a gambling addiction, said: “It was an amazing experience. I was blessed to have the opportunity to run with Damian, and to race him. I thoroughly enjoyed it, and Damian fully deserves first place. I think we both only slept about 2 hours each throughout the race and at times the weather up on the tops was barbaric. Maybe we could have pushed closer to the overall course record if they had been better, but Jasmin’s time is awesome.”
Both Damian and Jack used running shoes and kit from inov-8, who are based in the English Lake District and this year celebrate their 20th birthday. Damian wore the same pair of ROCLITE ULTRA G 320 shoes throughout, while Jack switched into the X-TALON 255 shoes for even more grip over mud and snow.
Victoria Miller, inov-8 Athlete & Events Manager, said: “We are incredibly proud of what Damian and Jack achieved. They made it one of the most exciting and closely fought races since the event began in 2012. The conditions were brutal, with temperatures so cold that runners had to pour warm water over their shoes at race checkpoints to de-ice them! Our congratulations to all who took (and are still taking) part.”
Header image: Montane Spine Race winner Damian Hall. Credit: inov-8