It’s a winter ultra-marathon that tests mind and body. Described as one of Britain’s toughest outdoor challenges, it proved an epic experience for David Riley.

David, 47, of Honley, completed the Spine Race, a 248-mile walk along the Pennine Way from Edale in Derbyshire to Kirk Yetholm in the Scottish Borders.

Climbing over mountains, sleeping rough and needing endless amounts of endurance and energy, David completed the challenge across one week in January, and completed the walk in just over 161 hours.

David was just one of the 144 men and 26 women who took part. The main, full-distance Spine Race started at 8am on Sunday January 15 with David crossing the finish line the following Saturday at 2am.

On his experience of the race and why he wanted to take part, David said: “In 2016 I did the shorter version of 110 miles and found it OK so I wanted to test myself doing the full event.

“I’ve now become a mountain guide so every weekend I am going to the Peak District or Wales and climbing up the beautiful mountains we have. I knew physically I could handle the walk, it’s just whether I could do it mentally.

“I wasn’t bothered about where I finished, I just wanted to complete the challenge in the allotted time. The average time is around 120 hours, and the first to complete did it in over 80 hours so while I was near the back it didn’t bother me.”

On the journey David had to keep his food stocked up with military-style dehydrated foods that came in packets. These gave him over 3,000 calories so he felt full and energised. 

David added: “I had to pack a bag with all my stuff in, sleeping bag, food and everything. You then have another bag which you can re-stock at checkpoints.

“The food tasted quite nice when you boiled your water on this little stove I had. The hardest thing was not sleeping, I had about seven hours kip across the whole week.

“You do end up hallucinating while trying to read maps. It’s not an easy challenge at all.

“Before you sign up you have to prove that you are capable of looking after yourself in harsh conditions. They check if you’ve done races like this before.”

When asked if David would take on the challenge again, he said: “Absolutely, I’m already thinking about signing up for it next year. I have more experience now about what it’s like and what to do better.

“Again it’s not about me beating my time it’s about enjoying being in the hills and challenging myself. It took me four days to recover which was faster than I originally thought.”