“Why are you doing the Spine Phil?”
I’ve been asked that question so many times.

Here’s why I have signed up to do Britain’s toughest foot race.

On November 25th 2015 I trekked almost to the summit of Mount Charleston in Nevada USA,  almost 3 times higher than Britain’s highest mountain (Ben Nevis) MC is 12,000ft, the waist high snow stopped me 1500 metres from the summit and so I turned around and took my own private victory knowing that I had gotten further than anyone else at that time, my footprints being the only ones this far up the mountain on the trail,  I was somewhat elated, once low enough to leave the snow line I ran most of the way down.

My elation was short lived.

Within 3 weeks of descending Mount Charleston and now back in the United Kingdom I was in/out of hospital having been admitted to the emergency treatment unit at the Leeds General Infirmary, having returned to the UK from the USA with not only a few duty free’s but a life threatening blood clot in my right calf.    A DVT…  deep vein thrombosis.. 1 in 6 die and many sadly suffer from heart attacks or strokes as a result of them too…  but these things don’t happen to superfit guys like me do they..?. ..turns out they do.

 “Did you know that 85% of air travel thrombosis victims are athletic, usually endurance athletes?[www.airhealth.org/athletes.html, July 11, 2004]

So there you go… the fitter you are the more at risk you are from long haul flights and possible DVT’s…

Anyways…  upon returning to the UK my right calf was somewhat pained and it was getting worse, to the point where I wasn’t sleeping and spent weeks in agony, soldier on through it.. well, I wasn’t really – I was struggling, lack of sleep and wondering when the pain would go, eventually I had to cancel some work with a client (who wasn’t entirely happy about it) and visit the doctors.. I was in the Emergency treatment room within 30 mins of that visit, stomach injections and a dose of warfarin…

All the research I was doing was suggesting things weren’t good – but having enjoyed a life of great health I was optimistic and just wanting to get well again quickly…

There isn’t a quick solution.    6 months later my calf is still not great and I am now wearing a compression sock which will be my companion for 2 years!

And I was feeling down.

Yep I had the lousiest Christmas, lost a client (which was significant given that I am self employed) and felt utterly blue and down, despite knowing that those feelings would pass..  I needed a shot in the arm, something that would raise my spirit and give me a goal that would truly inspire and get me back to my best…

It was then that I watched the Montane Spine Race trailer which someone shared on Facebook

It was at that moment that I knew that I had to do it, it transfixed me..

And so, I reflected upon the skills that I had acquired not only in the military but as trekking guide and experienced mountain leader, I knew the distance wasn’t an issue but running might be as I couldn’t even walk properly and was on some new and very worrying blood thinners… the furthest that I had walked by mid Feb 2016 was to my car which was about 3 feet from my front door… Just a small matter of running/walking 268 miles in 11 months time, in winter, with a heavy pack and against the clock.. oh and probably in snow…

99% of people would probably dismiss the idea…  thing is, I’m the kind of person who is in the 1% .. who wouldn’t.

And so I applied…  and then heard that it was full and there were no places left – I was actually quite relieved and yet felt a tad disappointed too…  and then I got a message saying a place had become available and my spirits soared… it just had to be done,  £750 paid and a short while later I got my official place which is now advertised on the Montane Spine Race website.

  • By the end of Feb I had managed to walk 5 miles and use my exercise stepper for 30 minutes,  In discomfort, a lot of discomfort.
  • By the end of March I got my distance up to 10 miles and an hour on the stepper and at last pain free.
  • By the end of April I was walking for 2 days consecutively and whilst there were aches and pains I was very happy with the progress as I was also able to carry a pack that weighed approx. 25lbs
  • By mid May I had walked two of the Yorkshire 3 Peaks a total of 17 miles…  and felt good, fit again…

By the end of May it was time to push the legs.. see if it was possible..

so I pushed the boat out (so to speak) and hiked a total of 78 miles over 3 days over  the Pennine Way carrying a tent and overnight “stuff” my Montane 32L pack so weighed down the shoulder strap broke but I managed to get some serious miles in over some hard terrain and even ran in parts – I was completely shattered at times and found myself walk weary, literally dragging myself a mile at a time  to a rest point and then pushing on again,  being tired wasn’t my biggest issue, the pain in my feet was – the hard terrain took its toll and the pads on the soles of my feet weren’t used to getting such a thrashing.

I managed to get through lots of food and one of the things about endurance events is the craving for food.. always hungry!    speaking of food I managed to get well fed at the Tan Hill Inn and spoke with the landlord who looked after spine racers last year.

And that.. is where I am at the moment..  78 miles over 3 days by the end of May..

I’m happy with that although I genuinely couldn’t have gone much further,  I was also very tired by day 3 but as far as training goes I am happy with that at this stage..

What went well:   Fitness and mileage… very happy,  sleeping bag, new water bottle, jetboil, mobile phone portable charger, navigation, camera

What was a challenge:  The Montane rucksack wasn’t up to it.  More quality (Merino) socks, more fluid intake (I didn’t drink enough)  camera battery spare (take one)  better insoles in my Salomon walking shoes

Next goal  – 40 mile and 60 miler days.