One ultra event that captured the imagination of the British running public in 2012 was the Spine Race. Run in the depths of winter across extremely inhospitable terrain, the race is a 268 mile, non-stop, 7-day, mountain marathon following the entire Pennine Way.
Considered the most testing National Trail in Britain, the Pennine Way crosses beautiful, difficult and challenging terrain and includes the Peak District, Cheviots, Yorkshire Dales and Northumberland National Park - finishing on the Scottish Borders.
Run for the first time in January 2012, the event saw just three participants complete the course - joint winners Gary Morrison and Steve Thompson, closely followed by Mark Caldwell. The runners who made it to the later stages of the race worked in cooperation tackling many of the gruelling sections of the Spine Race in pairs and groups.
This year's race, set to take place on 12 - 19 January, has so far attracted 53 competitors. Feedback from the field suggests participants will face a huge mental test through fatigue and sleep deprivation, whilst also having to counter extreme weather conditions. Race winner Steve Thompson commented: "The Spine race is the definitive British ultra. It's a test of self-reliance, stamina, strength of will and sheer grit. It's you against mother-nature, and the gloves are off!"
On the opening day of the event, around 100 competitors are expected to tackle the Dare 2b Spine Challenger. Much like its bigger brother, the Dare 2b is a physically and psychologically demanding 108-mile race. Only one runner- Mark Brooks - managed to complete last year's event, covering the course in 36 hours and 30 minutes.
For more information, visit the race website.