Crossing the Finish Line at the Montane Spine Race 2017 winner Tom Hollins tells Avaunt what it feels like to cross the finish line in first place

A non-stop run for seven days along the Pennine Way from Edale to Kirk Yelthom, the Montane Spine Race is one of the toughest races in the world. This year’s winner, Britain’s Tom Hollins, was the sole competitor to finish under 100 hours, having clocked a time of 99:25:36. Here he tells Avaunt what it felt like to cross the line in first place, and why he’ll be returning in 2018.


I was very excited for a long section towards the end of the race – about the last ten miles – but when I was actually at the finish line I didn’t really care that much about the victory. All I wanted to do was to go to sleep. I was hallucinating, I was having déjà vu.

I was getting increasingly nervous for the last four or five miles, remembering guys who collapsed in marathons just yards before the finish line. I still thought I might not finish and I just wanted to get inside and go home.

Eugeni Rosello Sole, Tom Hollins and Pavel Paloncy on the Montane Spine Race 2017 podium
(Left to right) Eugeni Roselló Solé, Tom Hollins and Pavel Paloncy on the Montane Spine Race 2017 podium © Andrea Nogova

Before the race I thought I could probably run it in about 100 hours, and one of the advantages of coming from the back and running your own race is that you don’t get sucked into the racing. Racing against each other really takes a lot of energy out of the frontrunners.

I thought I probably could run about a 100 hours in good conditions, and we had good conditions, so everything was in my favour. My aim at the start was to come somewhere around in the top 10, which I thought was reasonable given the quality of the field that was out there.

Johan Steene, who’s a legend, had a cold before the race started but still finished. Ian [Bowles] got injured, and I think Pavel [Paloncy] and Eugeni [Roselló Solé] just beat each other up racing. They didn’t sleep early on and kept trying pull away from each other so they used up a lot of their energy by the time I got there.

 

I keep doing things that are progressively longer but I’m not sure I’ll do anything longer than this. You just want to explore your limits, see what you can do and see what the limits of human nature are. It’s the most incredible experience – the sunrise, the sunset, people on the route going through the same thing. There’s such a sense of camaraderie and it’s an amazing thing to do.

Next year? If I didn’t already have a free place, I’d say I don’t know. But given that I’ve got that place and I’m a Yorkshireman, it’s going to have to be a yes.


Words: Tom Hollins

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