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John Kelly (USA) Survives Storm Brendan And Continues To Lead The Montane Spine Race

Press Release / Photo : Spine Race / 15.01.2020

Race leader John Kelly ready to leave the final checkpoint

John Kelly leads the Montane Spine race at the end of it’s third day having successfully run his way through the worst of Storm Brendan.  His pace has been exceptional, but the heavy weather has caused him to fall 4hrs behind Jasmin Paris’ incredible course record.

Overnight, the UK was battered by 80mph winds and heavy rain, making conditions on the Pennine Way extremely difficult.  The combination of driving rain and severe wind chill convinced many runners to hunker down at CP2 in Hawes.  Not so the front runners who took to the windswept trails around Tan Hill and Cross Fell despite the arctic outlook.

The front of the pack was so tight as night fell yesterday, the Leaderboard today was dictated by the runners’ sleep tactics.  John Kelly chose to bank a couple of hours and take his time at CP3, allowing Spine veteran Eoin Keith to rush through his own pit-stop and leave ahead of him.  It’s perhaps this extra rest that allowed the fresher Kelly to overtake Eoin again in short order.

It’s a war of attrition now as the front pack test each other’s resolve.  Eoin Keith is relaxed about the fast pace and says he feels “very relaxed considering I’m 2 hours ahead of last year.”

By the time the leaders reached CP4 in Alston the tactics reversed with Kelly choosing to forego a bed and open up his lead.  2013 winner, Eugenie Rosello Sole arrived only a few minutes behind looking energetic and strong, but deciding to stay for a while and bank some more sleep.  An hour later, another former winner, Eoin Keith reached CP4 and made the same decision.  Kelly’s lead now will depend on how much rest these two decide to take.   (Ed. Eugennie Rosello Sole later pulled out due to foot problems.)

Lead woman, Sabrina Verjee is opening up a commanding lead.  She felt strong enough at CP3 to stop for just an hour before pushing on.  As of 20:00 she is refuelling in the famous Greg’s Hut on Cross Fell.  She has been running alongside Simon Gfeller of Switzerland and is more than 20 miles/32km ahead of 2nd placed Debbie Martin Consani who is herself widening her lead over 3rd placed Patrica Patterson.

Remember, this was the first sleep any of them had had since the start, over 60 hours ago.

Elsewhere on the course, Sarah Fuller (GBR) arrived in CP3 in Middleton to be greeted by a surprise birthday party organised by the checkpoint staff would caught onto a rumour that she was celebrating her birthday out on the trail today.  Sarah was bowled over and said “there is nowhere I’d rather be today.”

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