The Upper Wharfedale Fell Rescue Association column with David Dennis

No ordinary Joe is what we think of team member Joe Parsons who has just completed the Montane Spine Challenge for team funds.

Friday, 2nd March 2018, 6:00 am
Joe Parsons during the Montane Spine Challenge. Picture by Sara Spillett

The event, which runs for 114 miles along the Pennine Way, attracts fell runners from across the country as well as many other countries – even as far afield as Japan.

It is recognised as one of the world’s toughest endurance races.

Runners are faced with the Pennines in winter and can expect snow and ice as well as high winds and heavy rain and with much of the race taking place in darkness.

Then there are the bogs, the climbing – some 5,637 metres ascent, the loneliness, the sheer physical effort and most of all the mental strength to keep going.

The runners have to take a full rucksack of equipment including sleeping bag, stove, food and drink and first aid kit.

One last sting in the tail is the fact that they are self sufficient whilst out on the route.

The only support is a tracking device strapped to their body with an emergency button. The event has to be completed in 60 hours. Runners can take time out to sleep but the clock keeps ticking.

Our man Joe, from Skipton, completed this most gruelling event in a truly remarkable 40 hours 44 minutes, coming fourth in the special Mountain Rescue members sub event.

He didn’t sleep and just kept going even through a dramatic storm during the night as he climbed over Penyghent. An even more remarkable fact at Joe’s epic achievement is that he only took up running to keep fit just two years ago and in doing so lost four stone in weight.

He soon found that what started out as a sensible hobby became something of an addiction. He took part in a few fell races in the Dales, usually those which the team gave practical support, and then he took the huge step of going from a relatively short lung bursting race up and down a fell to the notorious Spine Race.

We marvelled at his ambition but at the same time knew he would do it.

Many members turned out along the route both during the daylight hours and the nights to give him encouragement.

Joe, 31, works for the Yorkshire Sound Services company near Keighley and travels across the country setting up the public address systems at major outdoor events which of course restricted his fell running training.

His efforts have to date brought in a staggering £2,000 for team funds with more still coming in. He is already thinking about next year’s event!

We also have another member in Andy Jackson, a college lecturer also from Skipton, who ran the Coast to Coast St Bees to Robin Hood’s Bay for team funds four years ago completing the 192 mile route in under three days – another staggering performance.

Thankfully running mammoth endurance races isn’t compulsory to become a member of the team!