Keighley Local News

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Airedale hospital anaesthetist Tom Hollins has won what has been called Britain’s most brutal race and sealed his place as one of the race legends.

Tom finished The Spine race in an incredible 99 hours and 25 minutes, putting himself in the racing elite history as one of only two athletes to complete the race in under 100 hours since the race started in 2012.

The race – a 268 mile non-stop uncompromising winter challenge over the entire Pennine Way – is an epic challenge where those racing have to face the extremes of the weather in a non-stop seven day race from Edale to Kirk Yetholm.

Athletes are told that tiredness, fatigue, sleep deprivation and exposure to the extremes of winter weather are all to be expected. To finish, they tell you, you must be prepared and willing to push yourself harder than ever before. This year’s Spine race had 50 retirements and 63 finishes.

Tom ran through rain, storm force winds and bogs to complete the race. Though this is not the 43 year old’s first win, as in 2016 he won the 108 mile spine challenger which is run over the southern part of the course.

Tom who lives in Ilkley and runs with the Wharfedale Harriers says:

“I’ve been asked so many times why did I do a challenge like this and all I can say is – ‘because it’s there.’ I’d done shorter events leading up to this and just decided to keep going for the next level. I haven’t found something that stops me yet.

The race is run non-stop and as Tom explains:

“Navigation at night time was interesting. Most of the nights were incredibly foggy and you couldn’t see further than the end of your feet so I had electronic navigation with a GPS and a map and compass in case that failed – but luckily I didn’t need it.

The hardest point was definitely the finish – the last bit over the Cheviots was very hilly, very foggy and very bleak. I’d just passed the front runners just before that so I was absolutely exhausted and didn’t stop to sleep. I ran for a total of about 90 hours, so only had 9 hours sleep during the race. Pain wakes you up but you know you have to keep on going.”

“At the finish I was already bent over double so it was easy for him to put the medal on. Then literally all I wanted to do was get to sleep.”

Tom was supported in his herculean efforts by partner Sara who followed him in the race in a campervan to give support, which is allowed under race rules.

Sara says; “I knew he was going to finish it without a doubt. At the second to last checkpoint I could tell that he was in it to win it. I’m very proud of him“

And as for future race plans Tom says: I’ve got a free place for next year and it’s quite expensive to enter because of all the safety support and organisation involved, so I can’t pass up the opportunity!”

Carol Morgan, a former colleague of Tom’s who also worked as an acute care sister at Airedale Hospital, won the women’s race.

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