Monday, January 05, 2015

Why Am I Doing The Spine…….again?

On January 10th I will stand on the start line of The Spine for the 4th time?

“Why?” seems to be a fairly common question.

In 2012 I took part in the very first Spine not really sure what to expect. I only had a few ultras to my name, the longest of which was 50 miles. What I do remember is being petrified at the race briefing the evening before and just wanting to go home. I’m so glad I didn’t. I reached 135miles (just short of Middleton) before succumbing to hypothermia but those 135 miles were fairly life changing. I truly discovered what makes me tick – the sheer beauty of being outdoors, a real feeling of escape from the noise, and simply being at one with myself. I also had a whale of a time with Gary Morrison & Steve Thomson.

In 2013, I returned, stronger, fitter and with greater resolve, and I finished. It was a great feeling to cross the finishing line with my wife, Jenny, and also with Gary with whom I had shared a large portion of the race. Some of you may have read my blog.

In 2014, I was stronger again after a great year but my head really wasn’t up to facing the Spine again. In fact, my head wasn’t in a good place at all. I had spent a large period of time off work with my depression and had been medically discharged from the RAF. I can remember getting all my kit out the Monday before the race, then putting it away again the next day. I was never going to finish and I didn’t. I had a race plan, and proceeded to totally ignore it. Wet & cold, I withdrew just before Hawes. However, I stayed on to help for the rest of the week, which was great therapy. I swore that I’d never take on the full Spine again.

I decided to take part in this year’s race in November having been pondering it for a while.


Well, it certainly isn’t to keep Jenny happy! I know that she worries tremendously whenever I have been taking part in the Spine – worries about my safety, my state of mind. She only sanctioned my entry as she knew resistance was futile.

And it isn’t for anyone else either. I don’t feel the need to prove myself as a strong ultra-runner to anybody. I believe the events I have finished, especially in 2013 and 2014, would embellish any running CV.

So looks like I’m doing it for myself!

Firstly, ignoring last year’s race, I had a great 2014 finishing 16th in the Lakeland 100, 2nd in the Viking Way Ultra & Cumbria Way Ultra, and top 10 in the 10 Peaks Xtreme, Lakes in a Day and Brecon Beacons Ultra. I have managed to take that fitness through the last couple of months and believe I am in the best shape that I have been. I believe I can truly do the Spine justice as an event.

So I am physically ready.

I finished in 2013 and I want to prove to myself that I have the mental strength to complete it again. With 5 days to go I am raring to start. I am in a good place mentally, with no little thanks to Jenny who has been ‘cotton wooling’ me all over Christmas. I have an initial plan and I will run my own race. I expect to spend far more of the event on my own this year. I know what the Spine takes to complete and I know where the journey will take me, and I am prepared.

So, I am mentally ready.

Finally, the Spine is the Spine. It is virtually part of me. From the time I first heard about the inaugural race it has fascinated me, intrigued me. The Spine is a long journey with many highs and lows. I have had some very special moments during the Spine but it has also taken me to the depths. And I am ready to do it all again. I love being involved with the Spine and I love being part of the Spine family.

The Spine is what I do in January.


Ultimately, because it’s there.

So good luck to all taking part and see you in Kirk Yetholm!