Pennine Way Run Searching For Spiners Thursday 24th June 2021

Just when life gets in the way of your planned running activities sometimes an exciting alternative presents itself. I’d booked my second Covid injection for Friday June 25th and instantly knew I would have to take it easy over the weekend. I was delighted to spot a cancellation and get the last minute appointment. The previous two dates which were available Tuesday June 29th (Bolts Law Basher Fell Run) and July 2nd (Bob Graham pacing) didn’t fit into my schedule. I wanted the injection and possible side effects over before Wasdale Fell Race on July 10th. A couple of hours later my friend Stuart Scott was asking if anyone was interested in a Pennine Way run the next day. The alternative had fallen into place. I was on my way to meet some Spiners.

The Spine Race

The Spine Race started as a 268 mile winter endurance challenge first held in 2012. It has recently grown to accommodate Summer running and a variety of distances. The Summer Spine started on Saturday June 19th at Edale near Sheffield. Anyone searching for an easy 250 miler should look away now. After climbing through the Peak District, Yorkshire Dales and North Pennines the Spiners run along Hadrian’s Wall. Turning north the route goes through the Cheviot hills before ending at Kirk Yetholm, just beyond the Scottish border. 268 miles of climbing, descending and whatever weather the Summer throws at them. Stuart decides the wall is the ideal place to run and we arrive at Housesteads Roman Fort mid morning.

Housesteads Roman Fort

Running The Wall

We set off in a Westerly direction from the fort following the wall. It is an easy path to follow and also has additional acorn markers to keep us on course. Any of the Summer Spine competitors should be coming the other way. The leaders have already finished their event and anyone we pass will be close to the cut off times and a DNF next to their name. From the description I’ve been given by Stuart we should easily recognise the competitors from their gaunt, haunted features and sickly looking skin. It reminds me of the Creeper character from the Scooby Doo cartoons. I can’t wait to meet him.

I spend the first ten minutes of the run daydreaming about old cartoons before coming across an exciting crag. It already seems like a good idea to stop and have a photograph taken. I’m told we can’t start again until I smile so I give it a try. An old bladder I’m trialling today is leaky and I’ve now got one warm leg and one cold one. I leave a wet patch on the rock.

Another smile two in a week!
Photograph by Stuart Scott

Our First Spiner

Our first Spiner is a bit of a disappointment. He looks fresher than I feel, smiles and is cheerful. Nothing like the Creeper. Considering he’s been on the move since Saturday and probably had very little sleep he looks fresh and alert.

Our first Spiner

Continuing The Search

After a quick chat we continue our Pennine Way run. Stuart has been running strongly so far but is regretting buying a sandwich for today’s run then leaving it at home. The terrain continues to be undulating and we have climbed over 1,000ft in 3 miles.

Stuart at the trig point

As we get to the top of one of the bumps a lady followed by a large TV type camera are heading in the opposite direction. We offer a bit of encouragement and Stuart hopes he might see his legs on the Spine daily update later that night. Almost immediately we come across two competitors making lunch next to the shelter of the wall. Another Spiner passes them so we’ve now got three in one photograph. The runner in black is having problems with his feet but is determined to finish the race. Other than tiredness the other two are good physically. They are impressed by Stuart’s Spine Challenger cap. He completed the 108 mile event in 2019 and is entered for the full Spine in January 2022. Stuart also completed the Bob Graham Round in 2018.

Stopping for lunch

The route of Hadrian’s Wall never has the same view for long. Whether it is up high on a ridge, down low on farmland or just the rolling hills of Northumberland there is always something different to see. On a lowland section near a farm we come across another runner in a bright yellow top. He is moving well although looks ungainly as he’s leaning slightly to the right. He knows what time the next cut off is in Bellingham and is confident of making it to the end. Two more Spiners soon follow hoping to hit the cut off time.

Two more runners on the wall

Turn Around And Retrace Steps

Stuart is still in high spirits and pushing on up the hills. On a day like today it is impossible to feel sorry for the soldiers guarding the wall 2,000 years ago. Beautiful weather, nothing to do except look at the scenery. Possibly a different story on a cold December night with marauding Celts attacking the wall.

Stuart guarding the Roman Empire

Our turn around point is Walltown Crags turret 45a on Hadrian’s Wall. It is another interesting location with 360 degree views. After 8 miles of ups and downs we have a quick break to take in the scenery and refuel before heading back the way we have come.

Walltown Crags

It seems easier running in the opposite direction but for Stuart familiarisation breeds contempt. He catches his foot on a stone and crashes full length to the ground bouncing straight back up. After the fall he isn’t the same effervescent character and begins to slow down. I’m enjoying my Pennine Way run but I’m not sure Stuart is any more. He competed in a backyard ultra (a 4.16 mile loop every hour until you can’t do any more) at the beginning of June and has a 24 hour event in Leeds next week. The weather has gone from cool to hot very quickly.

Climbing and descending on Hadrian’s Wall

Our Pennine Way run comes to a sticky end

We passed a few of the Spine Race runners on the way back to the car. All seemed to have moved a long way since we last saw them. The temperature and humidity increased further as we headed east towards the car. I got a phone call to say another window was broken at the village hall which momentarily spoilt my day but soon I was busy concentrating on not falling over and temporarily forgot my troubles.

Sycamore Gap looking Eastwards

I’m still feeling good but unfortunately we have returned to the fields above Housesteads. Stuart has cut a couple of corners off so he can finish ahead of me. I return the favour and get back to the car park first. We jog back to the car and I can get dried and start to eat my fruit.

Give this man an ice cream

Stuart goes into the visitors centre for a well deserved ice cream and we both notice a change in the weather. The rain forecast for the next day has come early and splashes down on our journey home. It hasn’t dampened our spirits but the runners we encountered are still likely to have over 24 hours to run and must be soaked before we get home. I feel sorry for them but I’m happy the rain is filling up the baths and barrels at the allotment and I can give the ducks and geese somewhere interesting to play next morning.

We hope you enjoyed reading about our “Pennine Way Run“. Have you walked or run on Hadrian’s Wall? Would you like to try the Spine Race? Let us know in the comments below.

Read some of our other blog posts for more hilly adventures on

Supporting Stuart’s Bob Graham Round

Chevy Chase Recce

45 at 45 Challenge

Supporting Juhana’s Bob Graham Round

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