Last year, fell rescue volunteer, Joe Parsons, who lives in South Craven, was joint second in the gruelling 108 mile, non-stop Montane Spine Race Mountain Rescue Challenge. This year, he went one better and won it. Here, Joe tells us all about it and how he needs to try better next time.

IT’S advertised as 108 miles from Edale in Derbyshire to Hawes in the Yorkshire Dales. It’s in fact closer to 115, but hey, what’s another seven miles.

The race started in the usual way, at 9am on Saturday, January 11. Matt and I, representing Upper Wharfedale Fell Rescue Association set a solid pace at the head of the all Mountain Rescue field.

The weather over the first few hours was difficult; winds of up to 80mph. As the skies turned a darker shade of grey, the temperature fell and so did the rain.

Hebden Hey on the Pennine Way is the first proper stopping point of the race. A checkpoint. A chance to eat, wash, sleep, re-supply. Sadly, this is where Matt was forced to leave me. It wasn’t his day.

I ate a hot meal, had a brew, changed clothes, replenished the food and drink in my bag and headed back out. It was about 9.30pm.

Throughout the night I ran most of the course. The runners in the main “Challenger” race kept appearing on the horizon, and one by one were dispatched into the darkness behind me.

At around 2.30am a small cluster of head torches appeared in front of me, descending into Cowling. Lothersdale was next , and the Craven Energy Tri Club, where I got a nice brew and a crisp sarnie. Onwards now toward Pinhaw, the most savage place in the whole race, as I am only one mile from my warm comfy bed.

The next few hours were a blur. I caught a few little snoozes between Gargrave and Hanlith as I trudged along. No running in this section. It’s a strange thing, sleep walking.

I wiped the sleep out of my eyes and got trotting along nicely towards Malham, and the next stop: Malham Tarn Field Centre. The section above the cove, with its slippery limestone is a real pain. The checkpoint was a welcome sight.

Ten, it was up the two big climbs of Fountains Fell and Penyghent. I was slow. I tried to make up for it on the descents, but 95 miles in, the feet and legs are complaining.

Into the new Cave Rescue Organisation mandatory checkpoint at the old Horton-in -Ribblesdale school. Up the track towards Sell Gill and Birkwith is another really rubbish section for me, but I did my best. Jogging where possible, walking as little as I could get away with. A local fell runner decided to run a short way with me, which was grand. I pushed along.

The Cam High road is notorious. Not just in this race, but in general. Nobody likes it. It’s an undulating, generally uphill stretch of desolation.

I made the junction at Cam High, left turn, to head around Dodd Fell, and the descent into Hawes. A friend was up there to cheer me on

I’m not familiar with this section, so out came the GPS and the head torch. I rammed in two gels, two shot blocks, a hand full of Gummy Bears and a big load of water.

Moving your legs becomes totally ordinary during a race like this. You don’t have to think about controlling them.

The pain reminds you that they exist, but that’s about it. It’s more a battle of energy, fuel on the fire, and balancing water intake with sweat output.

I knew I had the ability to turn the volume up, but I didn’t know where the noise was going to come from, I was all out of everything. The human body is a magical instrument, and somehow, mine responded to my requests of “faster. - now. I clocked in two 7.30 minute miles in the closing stages of the race.

Karen, my mum and aunty were waiting for me just out of Gayle, and shouted that the finish was no longer in Hardraw, but had moved to Hawes.

I found the first two arrows, but then lost them. Two young lads came cycling towards me, ushering time to rejoin the Pennine Way. I was so unsure of where I was heading for, I had no option. A last minute decision was made. Pennine way it was.

“ I shortly met the camera man who would live stream my arrival at the finish. Winner. As soon as I hit the seats in the hall I went cold and shivery, faint and shaky. That was some serious debt that my body had clocked up. Quick interview, change of clothes and an emergency need to lie on the floor of the gents toilet, I was shovelled into the car for the journey home. Bath. Pizza. Half a beer and bed. What a good do.

The biggest shame of the race was being a tiny seven minutes off the current course record. Hey-ho, maybe I need to try harder next time?