My Broken Spine

Well it is over, though not how I had envisioned.  My attempt at the Spine Race last week ended in my first DNF of my career.  It broke me, literally.  Just a mere 27 miles from the finish at CP5.5 at Byrness I had to call it quits.  A back injury which had slowed my pace significantly and deteriorating weather sealed my fate.  Not wanting to have race officials pull me or mountain rescue drag me out of the Cheviot Hills, I watch in dismay as my tracker was removed from my pack.  While this was a huge disappointment, I must admit I accomplished/learned many things during this grueling event, I met some wonderful people and I traversed a part of the world I had never seen before.

Everything was working well.  Equipment was good, nutrition was good, hydration was good, sleep was acceptable, weather was fair, feet were in excellent shape despite being wet for five straight days.  My problems began manifest themselves at about Tan Hill a little short of the half way point.  Lisa noticed that I had developed a slight list to the left.  I could not explain it and just put it down to being tired.  As I proceeded over the next day or so the list became worse and eventually back pains ensued.  By CP4 (mile 182) I could not stand up straight without the aid of my poles and even then it was a chore.  Running was no longer an option and walking required frequent rest stops.  The trail along Hadrian’s Wall was not pleasant in the least bit and by the time I made it into CP5 (mile 222) I was not in good shape.  Some rest and Tylenol and I was able to carry on, but not very well.  The next 18 miles took me in excess of eleven hours during which I had plenty of time to contemplate the inevitable.

How this happened, I can only speculate.  No excuses.  I was well trained up on my pack running so I discount that.  I can only guess that it was a combination of many things including a long hard season, perhaps pushing the pace a little too much and the conditions “under foot” so to speak.  The slippery mud and bogs were always challenging your balance, something I am not familiar with in more desert and mountainous environs.

Near Burnstones mile 190ish.  No, the camera is not tilted.

While not making it to Kirk Yetholm under my own power was sad, I was greatly enriched by the people I met during this event. There are so many but I would like to mention a few of them here.  Tim Scott fellow countryman stationed in Germany, you did a great job finishing! The crew at Greg’s Hut; the noodles and CHILE were great.  Helen at the Horneystead Spine Pit Stop; the coke, chocolate and conversation were timely.  The folks at the Post Box Pantry Cafe in Dufton; that was a much needed breakfast and thanks for taking care of Lisa while she waited.  All the behind the scene staff and volunteers at all the aid stations, you are what make an event like this possible.

Also a quick shout out to Malc Christie and Ian Williams, thanks for the company!  It was great traveling with you both.

Malc and Ian.  You guys are tough!

Finally, I would like to acknowledge Tim Miller who stuck with me through most of the race.  A great running partner and quite knowledgeable of the course.  Your expertise saved me countless hours!  Congratulations on a race well ran and I hope to see you sometime, somewhere in the future.


Tim Miller, Spine Racer extraordinaire!

As I mentioned above this was quite the learning experience.  In the coming weeks I hope to work up an After Action Review for this event covering important take-aways for those wishing to attempt this in the future.  Stay tuned.

10 thoughts on “My Broken Spine

  1. Great job Garth! Sorry to read about the DNF. At least you “Did Nothing Fatal”!

    Few people get the opportunity, or truly exercise the option of pushing themselves to their physical/mental limits. Whatever peoples’ limits are, these “limits” are not static and change daily, monthly, or yearly. I theorize this is so because all the variables in the complex system that is us and our surroundings constantly change.

    You live to fight another day. Recover, then keep pressing on. Go back again next year!



  2. Nice to meet you Garth, such a shame about your back but at least it means you now have to come back and do it again! That breakfast in the B&B will taste even better next time round…..


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