As most of us look to unwind over the next couple of weeks, 75 hardy runners are preparing for what is billed as Britain's 'most brutal race'. 11 January sees the start of the Spin, the 268 mile, non-stop mountain marathon across the Pennine Way that sees competitors face deep snow, ice, gale force winds and rain over the course of seven days.
Considered the most testing National Trail in Britain, the Pennine Way crosses beautiful, difficult and challenging terrain and includes the Peak District, Yorkshire Dales, Northumberland National Park and the Cheviots, before finishing on the Scottish Borders.
Run for the first time in January 2012, the event saw just three participants complete the course - joint winners Gary Morrison and Steve Thompson, closely followed by Mark Caldwell. The runners who made it to the later stages of the race worked in cooperation tackling many of the gruelling sections of the Spine Race in pairs and groups. Last year's event saw Eugeni Roselló Sole finish first in 5 days, 4 hours and 11 minutes.
One competitor who will be eager to crack the Spine is renowned ultrarunner and author, Andy Mouncey. Forced to withdraw at just over 100 miles at last year's event, Andy is planning a fresh assault on the 2014 race and has been recording his preparations for the race in a video project.
In conjunction with the 268 mile event, up to 40 runners will take part in the Spine Challenger. Not just the baby brother to the Spine Race, the Challenger is a 108 mile, non-stop, 60 hour, winter mountain marathon between Edale and Hawes - an extremely technical section of the Pennine Way.
The Spine Challenger was, like the Spine Race, first attempted in January 2012. Officially only one athlete finished the first Spine Challenger and this was the winner, Mark Brooks. In 2013 returning 'Spine Breaker' Mark Caldwell was narrowly beaten by French athlete Philippe Gatta in an incredible sprint finish. Philippe's record time, some 4 hours quicker than the previous record was 32h 18m.
For more information, visit the event website.