IT is described as one of Britain's most brutal races. And this year's Spine Race - which is run over the entire 268-mile Penine Way from Derbyshire to the Scottish Borders - had the added danger of freezing temperatures and blizzards.

Throughout the weekend competitors had to be helped off the hills above the finishing line at Kirk Yetholm. Borders Search and Rescue were called out several times to find missing runners.

Damon Rodwell from BSARU had to help the lead runner on Thursday as temperatures dipped. He told us: "I'd been up on the route on Thursday to meet the lead runner, a 32-year-old Spaniard, whom I had to help off the hill in a bit of a state with badly ice-damaged legs and exhaustion.

"He was carrying a GPS tracker which was updating his position on the event website every few minutes, and a sharp-eyed team-mate from BSARU noticed very quickly that he'd descended from the Pennine Way a few miles too early.

"I watched his trace for the next half hour, and when I saw how slow his progress was, and that he'd unnecessarily lost several hundred metres of height, which he then had to regain, I decided to run out and meet him.

"After a 40-minute run up to Corbie Crag, I found him in a state of near-collapse, being supported by one of the race organisers. Between us we walked him off the hill to the finish, where Team-leader Seymour Haugh helped patch up his injuries."

Blizzard conditions battered the route throughout much of Friday. For veteran competitor Dave Lee it was amongst the worst conditions he'd experienced. The 66-year-old said: "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 a track or our progress. The path was obliterated by snow, and we had drifts several feet deep to get through."

Dave was accompanied by Peruvian Annie Garcia and Russell Swift, a youngster running only his second ultra-marathon. Problems with GPS and communications led to Borders Search and Rescue being called out again.

Mr Rodwell described Friday's operation. He said: "We assembled 13 members and set up a control base at Pennymuir in the Kale Valley, from where the operation and communications would be handled.

"Our two Landrovers were taken as far onto the hill as the ice and snow would allow, from where they would act as a communications relay to ensure that the hill-party was in constant contact with control. Even clad in full winter gear, with ice-axes, winter boots and full waterproof body cover it was a struggle.

"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.

"Bear in mind that all three had covered about 250 miles over rough country in the middle of winter in the previous seven days. I take my hat off to them."

Tweed Valley Mountain Rescue also helped out with locating a further five competitors holed up at Auchope.

A total of six of the 29 starters crossed the finishing line at Kirk Yetholm.

And despite the workload, local rescue teams were fully supportive of the race.

Mr Rodwell added: "We're very supportive of people who decide to test themselves in the hills, as long as they equip themselves with the appropriate clothing for the conditions and the requisite knowledge and fitness for the challenge they are tackling.

"On this occasion, what could have been a 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."

Borders Search and Rescue is currently recruiting volunteers. More details of the application process can be found at