2023 Winter Spine Race Results: Racers Endure Low Visibility, High Winds, and Waist-Deep Snow

Runners defied brutal winter conditions and set course records in multiple events as several races came down to dramatic finishes.

By on January 20, 2023 | Leave a reply

The 2023 Spine Race winter edition saw a record number of participants and a stacked field of competitors on the course, including Eoin Keith (Ireland), Elaine Bisson (U.K.), Damian Hall (U.K.), Kim Collison (U.K.), Eugeni Rosello (Spain), Doug Zinis (U.K.), James Leavensley (U.K.), Ellie Eccles (U.K.), and Sharon Gayter (U.K.). In all, 500 racers from 22 countries showed up across the event’s five races.

The  Spine Race is designed to be grueling, and this year’s British winter didn’t disappoint. Blizzards, 70-mile-per-hour winds, waist-deep snow, and low overnight temperatures all took their toll on race participants. Nevertheless, stiff competition fueled the runners, and several of the event’s races saw course records smashed by minutes and even hours.

“Britain’s Most Brutal” event takes place along the 268-mile Pennine Way National Trail, which stretches from the Peak District in England to the Scottish borders. Participants run unsupported: they carry all their supplies (food, sleep system, clothing, and medical supplies), and no pacers are allowed.

Additionally, the route isn’t marked, and racers navigate the trail on their own. As we’ll see, this fact played heavily into this year’s final results.

The weeklong event and its five races extend for 2023 from January 15 to January 22.

In this article, we share highlights from four of the event’s five races:

  • Spine Race — 268 miles over the full length of the Pennine Way, 156-hour time limit
  • Spine Challenger North  — 160 miles on the northern part of the Pennine Way, 108-hour time limit
  • Spine Challenger South — 108 miles on the southern part of the Pennine Way, 60-hour time limit
  • Spine Sprint —  46 miles, 18-hour time limit
2023 Spine Race finisher with kids

A finisher of one of the races in the Spine Race winter edition crosses the line with the help of two young supporters. Photo: @willbaldlygo

2023 Spine Race Men’s Race

The titular event, which travels all 268 miles of the Pennine Way, was full of drama as Jack Scott and Damian Hall battled for first place in the men’s race. It came down to the wire on the last day, with the two racers neck and neck as they crossed the finish line. Unfortunately for Scott, a navigational error in the dead of the night led to a 48-minute time penalty when he strayed off course.

Damian Hall - 2023 Spine Race men's winner

Damian Hall takes victory in the 2023 Spine Race winter edition men’s race. Photo: @wild_aperture

Race directors awarded Scott a seven-minute time credit when he stopped to assist a runner in distress, but the total 41-minute time addition was too much for the 28-year-old to overcome. Hall took the top honors in 84 hours,  36 minutes, and 24 seconds, and Scott’s second-place finish clocked 85:16:24 once his penalty time was added.

Jack Scott - 2023 Spine Race second place man

Jack Scott, the 2023 Spine Race winter edition second-place man. Photo: @wild_aperture

This year’s race represents the fourth attempt for Hall. The accomplished runner, who also puts in behind-the-scenes work at the Spine Race, suffered an injury during last year’s race. “I wanted to come back and do better. It’s been an incredible race,” Hall shared.

“I thought we were going to have a nice time running together,” Hall said in reference to the younger Jack Scott. “But every time I saw Jack, he seemed to keep pushing harder.”

At 28, Scott’s just getting started.

“Running has become something within me that I now can’t remove. I want to see how far and how fast I can run,” he told Spine Race representatives.

The competition was certainly effective in pushing both runners to excellence. Their finish smashes the previous male course record, set by American John Kelly, by almost three hours. Jasmin Paris still holds the women’s and overall course record of 83:12:23.

Joe O’Leary and Douglas Zinis were over 10 hours behind with a third-place tie in 96:50:53.

2023 Spine Race Men’s Results

  • 1. Damian Hall (U.K.) – 84:36:24
  • 2. Jack Scott (U.K.) – 85:16:24
  • 3. Joe O’Leary (Ireland) – 96:50:53
  • 3. Douglas Zinis (U.K.) – 96:50:53
  • 5. Mark Potts (U.K.) – 101:04:19

Full results.

2023 Spine Race Women’s Race

Claire Bannwarth (France) took top honors for the women, finishing under 100 hours with 97:39:58. She established an untouchable lead from the early stages of the race and finished almost 24 hours before second-place Hannah Rickman (U.K.), who finished in 121:23.

Bannwarth was the winner of last year’s Kullamannen Ultra 100 Mile and also placed 21st at the 2022 UTMB.

Claire Bannwarth - 2023 Spine Race

Claire Bannwarth won the 2023 Spine Race winter edition women’s race. Photo: Spine Race

There had been a tussle for the remaining podium spots until Rickman broke away from the rest of the chasing pack. Edwina Sutton (U.K.) closed for third place in 125:56.

2023 Spine Race Women’s Results

  1. Claire Bannwarth (France) – 97:39:58
  2. Hannah Rickman (U.K.) – 121:23:52
  3. Edwina Sutton (U.K.) – 121:56:43

[Editor’s Note: At the time of this article’s publishing, only three women have finished. We will update this results article accordingly as more women finish.]

Full results.

Hannah Rickman - 2023 Spine Race second place woman

Hannah Rickman took second place in the 2023 Spine Race winter edition. Photo: Spine Race

2023 Spine Challenger North Results

The Spine Challenger North race saw several participants joining up in solidarity against the onerous conditions.

Men

On the men’s side, Tim Bradley (U.K.), and G. Brian Hutchinson (Ireland), took a joint first-place finish (61:13:59) in the 160-mile race, which runs from Hardraw to Kirk Yetholm on the northern part of the Pennine Way.

Bradley came out strong in the race’s opening hours, but a fall before Bellingham crushed his spirits in a big way. Teaming up with Hutchinson in the final stages was the key to eventual success. Ireland’s John Murray completed the men’s podium in 72:16:52.

G Brian Hutchinson & Tim Bradley - 2023 Spine Challenger North male winners

G. Brian Hutchinson and Tim Bradley worked together to take the top two spots in the 2023 Spine Challenger North winter edition men’s race. Photo: Spine Race

Women

Coming in first on the women’s side was Irene Kinnegim (The Netherlands), clocking 72:16:52 on the rugged northern course. Fiona Lynch (Ireland) was roughly four hours behind her at 75:59:52, with Jo Wallace notching a solid third place at 78:05:59.

Full results.

Irene Kinnegim - 2023 Spine Challenger North winner

Irene Kinnegim touches the wall as the 2023 Spine Challenger North winter edition winner. Photo: @willbaldlygo

2023 Spine Challenger South Results

At the Spine Challenger South‘s 24-hour mark, almost 40 percent of racers had DNFed, proving that — at least where the 108-mile southern portion of the Pennine Way is concerned — shorter doesn’t mean easier.

Women

Sarah Hodgson (U.K.) crossed first in the women’s field with a time of 33:26:44. Last year’s Spine Sprint winter edition defending champion Alice Kershaw (U.K.) was hot on her heels, finishing at 37:40:50. Coming in third at 48:07:45 was Catherine Hill (U.K.).

Sarah Hodgson -2023 Spine Challenger female winner

Sarah Hodgson took victory at the 2023 Spine Challenger South winter edition. Photo: Spine Race

Men

Rory Harris (U.K.) pushed through wind, low visibility, and pain to notch a scorching first-place finish at 26:25:30.

“It was a tough day and night on the trail. I’m just relieved to get through it. The real damage was done coming off Pen-y-Ghent. I battled through headwinds, blizzards, and experienced a complete whiteout. At one point, I couldn’t see my feet,” the racer shared in a press release. According to other racers on the course, Harris was unstoppable despite the heinous conditions.

Rory Harris - 2023 Montane Winter Spine Challenger winner

Rory Harris, the 2023 Spine Challenger South winter edition winner. Photo: Spine Race

“Huge congratulations to Rory. There was no way we could keep his pace. He ran a great race,” joint second-place finishers Rupert Lee and Joshua Lee (U.K.) said. The brothers finished nearly four hours behind Harris at 30:28:26.

Full results.

2023 Spine Sprint Results

Racers came out fast and strong in the 46-mile Spine Sprint event, setting course records all around.

Women

Louise Venebles (U.K.) set a new course record on the women’s side with a blistering 11:39:21. That smashes Alice Kerwshaw’s record by over 30 minutes.

“I’d not planned for the podium. My aim was just to finish the race in one piece, so it’s absolutely amazing that I’ve won and beaten the course record,” the U.K. racer said. “The wind was horrendous. Every time the wind blew, I was getting pushed across the moors.”

The Sprint was a good event for U.K. racers all around. Kim Kennedy and Julie Taylor took second and third for the home nation (12:47:34 and 13:47:52, respectively).

Men

On the men’s side, John Shield (U.K.) shaved an incredible two hours off the course record. Shield fleetly crossed the finish line at 8:10:22. Hamish Waring (U.K.) was an hour behind at 9:06:14, with Andrew Morely (U.K.) following in third at 9:39:53.

Jon Shield - 2023 Montane Spine Sprint Winner

Jon Shield on his way to winning the 2023 Spine Sprint winter edition men’s race. Photo: Spine Race

If you’re playing along at home, that means all three racers finished under the previous course record. Talk about home-field advantage.

Full results.

Call for Comments

  • Were you following the Spine Race’s various races?
  • Is it on your bucket list, or do you prefer to stick to sunny trails?!
Pennine Way - 2023 Spine Race

A runner travels through the wild and beautiful landscape of the Pennine Way during the 2023 Spine Race. Photo: Spine Race

Andrew Marshall
Andrew Marshall is a writer, painter, and photographer with work in publications across the web. Andrew lives, runs, bikes, paddles, and skis in the Tahoe basin on the California/Nevada state line. He's one of the few unapologetic cat people in the outdoor industry. You can find him on Instagram or Twitter.