Shelli on The Spine

This weekend Beta Running Team athlete Shelli Gordon will be taking on what is regarded as one of the worlds toughest endurance challenges, The Spine.

The route takes the runners the full length of the Pennine Way from Edale in the Peak District to Kirk Yetholm on the Scottish borders. The route is 268 miles and has 11,277m of climbing (37,000ft) all tackled in the harsh British Winter.

In last years race 118 runners started but only 53 finished! Shelli is one of only 12 women taking to the start line.

So that’s the task ahead facing Shelli who is doing the event to raise money for Campaign Against Living Miserably (CALM) after her partner Tony Holland took his own life last year.

We caught up with the 41 year old mother of two ahead of the race.

 Can you tell us a bit about the race and challenge ahead?

The spine race is 268 mile mid winter challenge along the Pennine way, starting in Edale and finishing in Kirk Yetholm. You have 7 days to finish and it has 5 main checkpoints along the route to re stock and sleep. It takes you over some of the most spectacular terrain the UK has to offer plus of course the coldest and windiest place ever recorded in Britain – Cross Fell.

So why the Spine?

The Spine has been on my radar for a few years now. I like to run these really long distance ultras and to do things that scare and challenge me and this was one I haven’t done before.

However the main reason I am taking part in The Spine is in memory of Tony. I want to do something to help remove the stigma around male suicide, for people to speak to each other and support one another and to raise valuable money for CALM.

*Read Shelli’s Just giving page here:

 How have you prepared yourself for such a tough event?

Long tough races are not new to me having finished a number of 100, 160 and 200 mile races so I have a little idea of the highs and lows you can experience. That said though I have been training regularly with my pack with everything I will be carrying for the race and having Lee my coach (www.trailandoutdoors) formulate a training plan to follow has really helped to add some structure to my training especially when I am juggling home and the kids with running my business.

How about sleep deprivation? Have you planned when you will sleep or do you have a strategy you employ?

Well recently I have had lots of practice with sleep deprivation having been up to the early hours of the morning decorating the house (it is literally the only time I could do it), an hours sleep, then back up to take Isla to school and open up the shop.

In terms of planning out when I will sleep I think I will probably just try and listen to my body and sleep at some of the 5 main checkpoints.

They say these long distance races are as much run with your legs as they are your head? Do you agree?

Most definitely! The mental challenge can sometimes be even harder than the physical. You will inevitably have some rough patches where you are feeling a little rough and the inevitable self doubt kicks in, but I also know that these pass and things will improve as long as I keep taking on some calories, layering up to keep warm and drinking.

There have been a number of times when I am thinking about the race or have been out training and have not had a great session where I am thinking I can’t do this ‘what am I doing?’ but all the support I have received from family, friends and the fantastic community of people who have got in touch since Tony passed away have helped me to stay focused.

I always really miss my kids, Isla and Joel, too so the sooner I finish the sooner I can see them

What do you think will be your biggest challenge?

I am absolutely rubbish with anything ‘techy’ so having to learn how to use the GPS has been challenging, so if you see me going around in circles in the middle of the night or heading south on the tracker please call me and let me know.

If there are people reading this thinking they would like to take on the Spine next year what would be your one piece of advise?

DON’T! No only kidding. I would say really be on top of your planning. Life inevitably gets in the way of the best made plans with family, work etc.

So knowing what kit you will need ahead of time and getting this together and practicing with it on all your training runs is invaluable. Knowing where various bits will be in your pack so they will be quick and easy to get to are just a few things I keep trying to go over and over.

Finally, what do you think you will be really looking forward to once you’ve finished?

A shower! Plus a lovely weak cup of Yorkshire tea and giving Joel and Isla a massive hug!!

 Shelli’s kit for the Spine:

Shelli will be using the brand new Ultimate Direction FastPackHer 30 (due for release in the Uk in March) to hold all of the kit she will need for the race.

She will be running in the Scott Supertracs and be wearing Injinji Nu wool socks.

In terms of protective winter clothing she will include the Paramo Alta Jacket III (, Mountain Hardwear Ghost whisperer ( , Ronhill Momentum Winter tight ( and Montane Extreme Mitt (

Follow Shelli live on the tracker:

The race starts at 8am on Sunday 13thJanuary (Uk Time). Shelli is number 146