Summer Spine Race 2023 Review

The sun has set on the 6th Montane Summer Spine Race. Keep reading to hear how the action shaped up on the iconic Pennine Way trail…

With over 350 competitors competing from around the world, the Montane Summer Spine Race welcomed record entries this June. With a new race, the Spine Challenger North, there was plenty of opportunity for racers to claim Spine Race glory this year!

Joining the start line this year were 3 #TeamMontane racers, Jon Shield, Kevin Hadfield and Stefan Kliemann - each eager to battle through sleep deprivation, extreme mileage and some of Britain’s most brutal terrain. Take a look at their pre-race Q&A to learn more about them, including why they were taking on the Spine.

Who better to give us a debrief of how the event unfolded than racer Jon Shield, who went on to win the Spine Challenger South race. Keep reading to discover the other Spine race winners, as well as Jon’s highlights…

Jon Shield  Montane Spine Race South Winner

2023 Spine Race winners

The Montane Summer Spine Race 2023 winner went to Dave Phillips - finishing a whopping half a day ahead of other competing racers. Followed by Peter Mortimer in 2nd place and Phil Harris in 3rd position. The 1st female winner of the race was Jenny Yeo. Hats off to all the racers competing in this epic 268-mile race - an incredible display of resilience and strength as always.

The shortest of the Spine races, the Montane Summer Spine Sprint, saw a race record smashed, with Rupert Allinson taking a significant chunk out of the previous course record. Finishing in a time of  6 hours 59 minutes and 40 seconds, 30 minutes quicker than the previous record. Hannah Rickman, who placed 2nd in the full Winter Spine this January, also broke the course record to finish 1st placed woman and 2nd place overall. She beat the previous record by 52 minutes!

The Spine Challenger South saw #TeamMontane racer Jon Shield set an early fast pace, earning himself 1st place (more from him below). Female 1st place went to Mel Sykes. Fellow #TeamMontane racer on this route, Stefan Kliemann, also successfully crossed the finish line in joint 5th place.

Finally, the new Summer Spine Challenger North saw Jovica Spajic and Tom Hill cross the finish line as joint winners. The two paired up as they reached Hadrian’s Wall in a classic tale of Spine race camaraderie! This was extra special for returning racer Jovica, who sadly DNF’d from the full Winter Spine race (having been in the lead), earlier this year. Welcome back Jovica!

The Montane Summer Spine Race

#TeamMontane Jon Shield’s Debrief

How do I describe such an experience? It was an unbelievable journey full of ups and downs, over spectacular terrain and stunning views. Add to this initially very hot humid conditions where you could feel the heat bouncing off the rocks and it was just some form of respite when you reached more exposed areas and had a nice cooling breeze.

The highlight for me was getting smashed by a thunderstorm overnight as I was hitting Pen-y-Ghent in Yorkshire, which was pretty savage. Once over the top, warm kit and full waterproofs went on when I could find some refuge from the weather. The low point was having my feet become macerated very early on, having to stop and drain blisters with needles regularly, which affected my performance and ground me to a very slow death march for a long period of time. Besides this, the legs and head had felt great and I was moving well, feeling comfortable up to this point. 

This is an incredible event made possible by a fantastic organization. The volunteers were phenomenal and the medics true wizards, helping patch my feet at one point. The support given by everyone was amazing. This is more than a race; it’s a journey with like-minded people who just have a bit of a screw loose! Simply put, if you haven’t experienced a Montane Spine Race, you need to!

Winner of the Montane Summer Spine Race

#TeamMontane Results

This Summer Spine saw several Montane racers take part, with an international roster encompassing the UK, US and Germany! Alongside winner Jon Shield, German-based Stefan Kliemann put in an impressive show of physical prowess on the Spine South Challenger. Here’s what he thought of the experience:

“Britain's most brutal” race isn't just a phrase or some marketing - it’s real. I think it's kinda unique and rare to find something that’s similar. Its “brutal” in a way that it’s unsupported and there are not many aid stations along the way. On the Challenger South there was only a handful of checkpoints on the 173km route. You need to be prepared to keep yourself going for really long stretches.” Stefan Kliemann, 5th male finisher on Summer Spine South Challenger

Hopping across the pond to take on the mighty 268-mile Spine Race was experienced Colorado-based runner Kevin Hadfield. Despite putting in a great effort, Kevin suffered extremely bad blisters for over 140 miles and, sadly, had to retire from the race at Dufton. Hoping your feet make a speedy recovery, Kevin!

Kevin Hadfield Montane Athlete

Looking for more race action?

Good news! You don’t have long to wait for our next thrilling event. The Lakeland 50 & 100 - the  UK’s premier ultra trail race returns on 28 July to put racers through their paces in the Lake District National Park. Take a look at the story behind to get excited.