The Spine Race Winter 2017

A Medical Students Perspective

The Spine Race is the last word in endurance racing. 268 miles non stop through the North of England, finishing at the Scottish Border. Keval, one of our 4th Year medical students and Exiles runs you through what life is like in the hardest field around.


Day 1: The Bristol Stool Chart

5am: The team awakens for a glorious day ahead. The race commences in a humble style and we disband to our assigned checkpoints.

1pm: I’m at CP1 (Check-point 1) where we wait patiently for runners to arrive. Lots of waiting. We go for a long stroll along the snowy Pennine way. I read a book; Touching the Void. I have a dump; Bristol Stool Chart Type 4.

8pm: The first runner is about to arrive!

8:05: First runner arrives and leaves just as quickly. Hardcore.

10pm: We have our first runner who needs some medical attention. Hip Hip Hooray. 5 of us gather round to bandage his pinky toe. It’s nail biting.

What? Did you really expect hardcore emergency medicine on Day 1?

Day 3: An Expedition Medic

The morning was busy. Brooming, mopping, cleaning and doing whatever needed doing to help the race team. Although being an Exile medic involves medicine, it also includes being part of a team and doing whatever the team requires.

CP1.5 a runner is experiencing severe nerve pain. It’s heart wrenching to watch him being told by our medical team that he shouldn’t continue with the race. After months of gruelling training the reality breaks him down to tears.

A late night drive to CP3 is required. 


Day 5: Get me a nose plug

With runners reaching the CP continuously, we work shifts through the night. I am woken up in the middle of the night to tape someone’s feet. 5 days in, some of them need some serious TLC and taping. It’s currently about 80% TLC, 20% tape. 


Day 7: The end is in sight.

It’s a pretty great feeling, as you’re walking along Hadrian’s Wall, to be given an energetic grin by one of the racers passing you and be told “Thanks for last night, the tape is holding up really well.”

By the evening, we reach the Final CP. It is awesome bumping into all the the runners who have completed the race, and re-joining all the Exile team members. 


Day 9: Good-byes

It is time to wind up and disband. A long drive to London, and I’m back home. 

Day 10: Falling asleep at lectures 

After 9 thrilling days of Exile Medic-ing, I am back to university. It’s funny – I miss a week of uni and not one consultant realises I have been absent, yet I disappear for an hour on expedition and I am missed. It is a change being so close to a friendly team of doctors. Although it is not always as glamourous as it sounds, it’s a fantastic experience and I cannot wait for the next Exiles adventure.    

Day 0: A crushing journey

There are four of us with all of our kit, squished in a 2 door Mini driving from London to Edale in the snow. Let the journey commence. 



Day 2: Wet Snatchers

I’m out at CP0.5 with an Exile Doctor as part of one of the roaming Spine Safety Team. Runners are passing through doing pretty well. We have some tea and cake. I put on a bit of weight.

A sudden call from a team leader regarding a runner with a query broken rib. It suddenly all gets a bit real.

We all put our gear on. Head torch, water proofs, gaiters. Everything at the ready with nothing more than a grid reference as to where this injured runner is.

I navigate as a member of the team drives. It’s tense. We call ourselves the ‘Wet Snatchers.’

We reach the grid reference to find the bright blue lights of a Mountain Rescue Team vehicle. The doctor examined the runner whilst I noted down the patient’s history. 

Back at CP1 we have blisters, chaffing, sprains and even acute gastroenteritis. It’s a busy evening, but plenty of hands on deck too.

You spend most of your time preying on runners. Then some serious action is thrown at you and suddenly you’re praying for runners.  



Day 4: Tom VS Jerry

We move to CP4 early in the day, overtaking all the runners. If it feels like lots of driving - what must it feel like for the runners?

The 2 leading runners reach the CP4 and things are tense between them. Neither need much medical attention: some cleaning and taping of the feet. I begin to learn about a strong rivalry between the two, forged over many of the toughest races in the world. I start to realise how much this race means to some. A rogue Japanese film crew are fervently following the progress of the runners. 


Day 6: Foot fetish

Today flew by in a blur of tape. Blisters, hot spots, toes, ankles, heels, more blisters, chaffing, shoulders, backs. The lot! Hearing the stories of how the racers are coping, and their history, has been eye opening. I met a guy who summited Mount Everest last year. Completing the Spine Race was the next challenge for him. (How crazy is that?!) 

Day 8: Reunited

The whole Exile team is back in one place after a week of manning CPs in various locations in small groups and it’s great to see everyone. We manage to sneak in a 2 hour trek and some strictly professional Tabasco Shots.

Some racers are still crossing the finishing line, and need rest, food, and brief footcare. 


  Author + Photography: Keval Mehta (4th year medical student, UCL)






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