Athlete Q&A: Summer Spine Race 2024

The Montane Summer Spine race is approaching, #TeamMontane athlete Jon Shield is one of the runners taking part in the non-stop race across the Pennine Way this June. 

The Montane Summer Spine race spans across all 268 miles of the Pennine Way, from Edale to Kirk Yethholm. A thrilling summer edition of the Montane Winter Spine race, but don't be fooled the weather can be equally as challenging. Racers will battle extreme exposure, sleep deprivation and challenging terrain as the take on this epic race.

This year, #TeamMontane athlete Jon Shield will be one to keep an eye on. Jon is an experienced ultra runner who has taken part in previous Spine Races, competing in the The Montane Winter Spine Challenger North earlier this year and set a course record at the Montane Winter Spine Sprint Race in 2023.  We caught up with Jon to find out more about why he is taking on the Montane Summer Spine race, how he prepares for race day and what he loves about running. 

What makes the spine race so different to other ultras? 

The Spine Race is truly special. I believe it captures the hearts of so many people because of the distance covered (268 miles) traveling the Spine of England and a little way into Scotland. It’s a National Trail so a lot of people have been on sections of it and can appreciate how tough it can be with the extreme weather the route encounters as well as the terrain runners are on. Weather conditions make this race so changeable year on year whether the summer or winter versions. In recent years the race has captured some media attention and the coverage of the event is also excellent, really bringing the race to life and allowing people to track the runners really makes them feel they are part of the experience and also go through the ups and downs each runner encounters along the way. It is such an unpredictable event. 

How are you preparing for this race?  

I have been quite unlucky with illness and injury at the back end of 2023. However things started brightly in 2024 getting back running placing 2nd in a 40 miler in the Black Mountains and then winning with a course record in another 40 miler in the Brecon Beacons. I have been building steadily to race Ultra Trail Snowdonia 100 miler with a focus on using this as a long hard effort mentally for the Spine race. I then plan to recover well, keeping efforts shorter and sharper in the final few weeks prior to the race. 

What Montane gear will you be bringing along with you on the Pennine Way? 

I will be using the 20L Gecko pack. This has enough capacity to more than manage what I'll require for the race, all being well with the speed I plan to travel. Famous last words! I’ll use the Protium Beanie and Trail Lite gloves, Dart Lite t-shirt, Featherlite Windproof jacket, Slipstream 5” Running Shorts and Fireball Nano Jacket. Finally I’ll take the Unisex Minimus Nano Pull on Waterproof Jacket and Trousers. However this kit could change depending on close monitoring of weather right up to race day. This is geared for some kinder “summer” weather. 

What do you love about running and how has it impacted your life?  

Running allows me to switch off from a pretty chaotic lifestyle so I find myself going into a trance when I run and often find myself running in the wrong direction for sometime because of it. 268 miles is definitely far enough not to start adding extra mileage so I will have to try and get out of this habit! I also love running because it gives my dogs great exercise and it’s a chance to explore new places. 

What do you typically eat on race day?  

I keep a very plain diet year around generally. So I don’t change too much. I usually have gluten and lactose free products before a race. I don’t massively carb load, I tend to eat the same amount but my training volume decreases so I come in well fuelled. I eat a large variety of varying coloured veg and some fruit but I cut this out a couple of days prior to the race.  The night before a race I tend to opt for porridge and then the morning of the race something lighter like cornflakes. I always have a coffee or two and 30 mins prior to the race I use a Voom beetroot bar generally. This is tried and tested and works well for me. During the race I will have a mixture of liquid nutrition, bars and real food.

The Montane Summer Spine Race 2024 kicks off on the 15th of June, keep up with all the action on our official Summer Spine Race HUB