COMPETITORS taking part in “Britain’s most brutal race” had to be rescued after the ultra-marathon was hit by blizzard conditions in Scotland.
The Spine Race is a gruelling, week-long, 268-mile run from Derbyshire to Kirk Yetholm in the Scottish Borders.
But rescue teams from Kelso had to be called out after competitors were hit by snow and freezing temperatures in the nearby Cheviot Hills.
Damon Rodwell, of the Border Search and Rescue Unit, said a GPS tracking device showed one runner had made it to a refuge hut at Lamb Hill.
Three runners were snowbound there with drifts several feet deep, and were exhausted after covering 250 miles in rough country in the previous days.
They, named locally as Dave Lee, Russelll Swift and Peruvian Annie Garcia, were part of a team.
Mr Rodwell added: “Icy squalls of snow on a strong south-easterly wind combined with deep drifts to hamper to hamper our progress.
“We arrived at the hut to find all three runners safely huddled inside.
“They were pretty well equipped for general hill conditions, but the battering they’d endured the previous night had left them soaked to the skin, cold and exhausted.
“The fact Mr Lee had led them across some extremely bleak country in a night-time blizzard is a truly impressive example of navigations.
“Bear in mind that all three had covered about 250miles over rough country in the middle of winter in the previous seven days.
“I take my hat off to them.”
Mr Lee, who had to be rescued from the refuge hut, said of the conditions: “I’ve been going into the hills in all seasons for five decades, and I’ve seldom had to deal with anything like what we had to battle through on Friday night.
“It was dark, of course, and snowing heavily with a swirling gale blowing about our ears.
“It was incredibly disorientating and almost impossible to keep track of our progress.
“The path was obliterated by snow, and we had drifts several feet deep to get through.”
Mr Rodwell said: “On this occasion what could have been a very tragic end to a very stern test of human endurance was prevented by a combination of appropriate use of technology, excellent hill-craft and a highly-professional and efficient operation mounted by the local search and rescue volunteers.”