A North Yorkshire veterinarian will be taking on the challenge of a lifetime when she takes on a 108-mile footrace along the backbone of England.

Abby Robertson from Skipton will be tackling the Spine MRT Challenge - a notorious non-stop race along the Pennine Way which will see her running from north from Edale in the Peak District to Hawes in the Yorkshire Dales, from the heart of one national park to the heart of another.

Contenders must be ready for extreme weather conditions as the 60-hour event begins on Saturday 14 January and covers remote and rugged terrain with limited hours of daylight.

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The Spine MRT Challenge is a spin-off from the Spine Race which spans the entire 268-mile Pennine Way. It is only open to members of mountain rescue teams in England and Wales who receive discounted entry so they can raise funds.

Abby is a volunteer with the Upper Wharfedale Fell Rescue Association, which helps to rescue people and animals from caves, mineshafts, fells and crags throughout the year. They're financed entirely by fundraising events and donations, although their services are free to anyone who needs them, day or night.

While working a four-day rota at Aireworth Vets in Keighley, Abby is able to fit 20 hours of training a week around her job, family life, volunteer and hobby of potholing.

Abby has been varying her training by running, cycling and swimming, and will be joined by fellow UWFRA rescuers Ruth Smith and Clare Canty. All three will have to carry their own pack of essentials while they run, including everything from sleeping bag to stove and food.

The Northern Echo: Clare Canty and Abby Robertson are running the arduous race to raise money for the Upper Wharfedale Fell Rescue Association, for whom they both also volunteer.Clare Canty and Abby Robertson are running the arduous race to raise money for the Upper Wharfedale Fell Rescue Association, for whom they both also volunteer. (Image: Abby Robertson)

After seeing a low number of female competitors in 2022 Abby said she was spurred on to sign up. She hopes their involvement will help to encourage more women to take part in challenging outdoor activities and to join their local mountain rescue teams, too.

“I am very much up for a challenge. I love being in the outdoors and this is on our doorstep – the route passes through the Moors just by Aireworth Vets and where I live," she said.

“There’s a lot of training involved. I have a very supportive partner and am very lucky at Aireworth Vets where we have a very good work rota. I work a four-day week and one in eight weekends. We would struggle in this area to find a better work-life balance. I couldn’t have done the training otherwise.  

“I get up early and train, and I run home from work occasionally as well. I have also boosted what I am eating and am trying to eat healthily.

“We entered last February, so we have been preparing for the whole of 2022. I am excited to just get it done. I am really hoping at least one of us will cross the finish line. That would be a win.

“I am expecting my pack to weigh between eight and ten kilograms. I am approaching this as an expedition, although it is a race. I twisted my ankle a month ago, so my estimated finish time is slower now; I would be very happy to do it in 45 hours.

“It is very exciting, but I am a bit apprehensive. The weather is a massive factor. You can get 50 to 60mph wind, constant wind, rain, sleet, or snow at this time of the year.”


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As well as raising money for the Upper Wharfedale Fell Rescue Association, the trio is raising money for mental health charity Mind. So far they've raised nearly £2,000, and you can sponsor their run here: https://www.justgiving.com/team/UWFRAMRTChallenge