This sixth edition of the 2017 Thames Path 100 is expected to see a starting field of 300 and takes place over the weekend of 29th - 30th April.
In 2016, Craig Holgate lit the course on fire with a performance that saw him reach Abingdon Aid Station on course for a 13:30 finish time. A single navigational error led him off course just after and he eventually crossed the line in 14:09. That run showed what previous editions of the TP had not, that this course is incredibly fast if conditions are good and the race is approached in the right way.
This is a runners course, with around 1500 feet of elevation gain in total and a mixture of underfoot conditions. This year we see a situation similar to the 2015 Autumn 100, where lots of returning runners with extremely solid performances under their belts at this or others of our events, look to take things one step further and take home a trophy.
Mark Denby: Must go in as favourite after storming our last 100, the Autumn 100 in October 2016 in a blazing course record of 14:07. He knows the Thames well having also run and won the T184 also in a course record time. He has finished the TP100 before, back in 2015 in 19:03 so he made a 100 mile improvement of 5 hours in just over a year!! Since the Autumn he has struggled with injury and dropped out of Athens 24hr in February. He will certainly be looking to make amends here.
Mark pre-A100 2016
Steven Lord: Steven took home the Hardmoors Slam title last year with wins at the 55, 60 and 110. He's also placed 5th at Lakeland. If he can move from hills to flat he should do really well here.
Mark Grenyer: Mark was 3rd last year in a time of 17:11, though it doesn't look as though he has raced since. If he can bring that form in here, that will put him in the mix with many of the below.
Fergus Edwards: Fergus ran 23 hours in 2012, 21:10 in 2014. He was 10th in 2015 in 19:08 and then 6th in 2016 in 17:55. Can his upward curve continue here?
Dave Ross: Dave Ross' back catalogue is massive. He is one of the most experienced runners, if not the most experienced in the field with over 100 ultras to his name. Dave's first 100 mile finish was our first event back in 2011. So far he has 11 Centurion 100s to his name including 3 Thames Path 100s. His best time was a 15:58 at the SDW100 in 2014 - a race I think he would have to count as his best 100 to date. He has never quite got the TP100 right, his best is back in 2012 where he came home 6th in 18:48. I am quite sure if he is fit and motivated which he seems to be at the moment, he will have designs on going a long way under that this time.
John Stocker: John became our new Grand Slam 100 record holder last year, taking Dave Ross' crown by just 9 minutes. His TP last year was an excellent run for 7th in 18:04 and he will look to go better this time.
Nick Greene: Nick comes in to the TP100 with a best of 16:52 for 2nd in 2015, making him I think second fastest 100 miler coming in to this event. He ran a very solid SDW50 just over a week ago and will look to build on that to another strong finish here.
Sergiy Ionov: Sergiy has some solid results behind him, most notably a 3rd place at Rat Races' The Wall. However one result stands out above all others and puts him as exceptional - a 27:27 for 15th at Spartathlon last year. If he can bring anything like that form in here he could challenge for the win.
Richard Heath: Richard is a very experienced and very capable runner. His biggest result perhaps, was a win at the Ring O'Fire in 2015, a tough race. He has plenty of Top 10 finishes behind him as well as experience at much tougher events like UTMB, GUCR and the NDW100. If he can get his ultra pace to match his road running pace he could be a podium contendor once again here.
Ammon Piepgrass: Expect Ammon to be the guy who is back in the mid pack at the start, then cruise through the field to show everyone how to really pace a 100. He's a strong guy with plenty of long experience behind him including recent finishes at UTMB and Laveredo. He has 2 Top 10s already in 2017, Country to Capital and the CTS South Devon Ultra. He's my pick for another here.
The ladies race looks particularly wide open this year with only two names standing out at the moment.
Sarah Sawyer: Sarah has improved consistently over recent years. From a 2015 finish here of 23:24, she has since gone on to bring her 100 mile best down to 18:39 for 3rd at the 2016 Berlin Wall 100. She's posted wins at RTP Stage Races and runs strong across all distances regularly placing top 10 - her last ultra was a 3rd at our inaugural Wendover Woods 50. Whilst the winter has brought a few more bumps than she would have hoped, she is a strong competitor and will bring the desire to go all the way here.
Sarah running to third at WW50 in 2016
Mari Mauland: 2nd here in 2016 in 19:11 and with lots of other podiums and top tens to her name in the last several years, Mari is a strong runner who also knows the course. With her and Sarah it has the making of an exciting race, the question is will any other ladies step forward to challenge for the overall placings.
Bryon Powell: Bryon is a true peoples hero. In 2009 he was one of the first people in the sport to put his neck on the line and turn what he did for fun in to a way to live life - creating what is undoubtedly the best Trail, Mountain and Ultrarunning Resource available today - www.irunfar.com
Whilst Bryon has some incredibly strong running results of his own in the past, including but not limited to multiple finishes at Hardrock, Western States, the MDS, a top ten at Leadville 100 - I think his main aim for this event is to see some of the English Countryside and sample the local delicacies along the way. Whatever the case we are honoured to have him running with us.
Bryon at Krogers Canteen on the Hardrock 100 course. Photo c/o Jared Campbell via irunfar.com
1) Firstly, why the Wainwrights? And did you do your first Wainwright with a view to completing them all?
I love the Lake District and I wanted to learn to run better in the mountains. The fact that there are 214 Wainwrights is an arbitrary number. Alfred didn’t have a particularly solid reason for choosing the mountains that he did - but they do encompass pretty much the whole of the Lake District. I wanted to see the whole area. Every fell, every valley and every lake is so different from the next that there is almost an endless amount of exploring to do.
2) You live quite a distance from the Lake District. How did you manage to fit it in around race organising, coaching and family?
In two ways really. I did most of them over winter times in our off season. Things are much quieter for us at Centurion between December and March, so I would try to pick weather windows and make single or two day trips. We’ve also had quite a few family holidays to different areas of the Lakes during which I’d get round to some of the harder to reach areas.
3) Ticking them off in three years is quite quick, especially with the distance you had to travel. Any tips for anyone looking to compete the round?
If doing them in a short space of time is your aim, plan your days out well. I didn’t plan and got to about 100 tops before I realised I wanted to actually start aiming to visit them all. By the time I had about 50 left, there were odd ones scattered all over the Lakes that required time and energy just to get near, let alone get up when I could easily have linked them in to other days out had I planned them better. I ended up visiting some of the tops a dozen or more times.
4) The Lake District is one of the one most beautiful places in the world, tell us about your favourite day.
That’s really hard, there have been so many great days. Maybe one of my favourites was the Coledale Horseshoe plus half a dozen others which I ran in April 2015. It was the first really warm day of the year, blazing sunshine and not a breath of wind. I pushed really hard for about three hours and felt fantastic.
View across to Whitless Pike from Grassmoor on the Coledale Horseshoe
5) It's also known for its awful weather, tell us about your most challenging day.
One November I took myself off up Haystacks above Buttermere and then ran the ridge line across High Crag, High Stile and Red Pike. The weather was atrocious and every path was a torrent of water. I’ve never seen before or since so much water coming off the hills. Coming off of Haystacks the rock was so wet I just couldn’t get any grip and I began to think that it wasn’t going to end well. But I persevered and got to High Stile but then navigated the wrong way off of the summit and started descending down towards Ennerdale. The visibility was about 10 metres and it was so windy I was struggling to stand up. I had to really carefully re trace my steps using the map and compass (the needle on my GPS was spinning round and round because of the conditions) and eventually found my way to the summit of Red Pike before I teetered my way off of the front side down to Buttermere. My hands were frozen solid. I really felt that day that had I not been able to read a map and had a compass and the OS sheets with me I would have had a major problem.
6) You completed the Bob Graham Round in 2014. Is it as tough as they say?
Yes I completed the BGR in 2014, it’s a circuit of some of the most prominent peaks in the Lake District. You have to visit 42 tops (39 are Wainwrights) and it has to be completed within 24 hours. Numbers wise it’s about 60 miles and 27000 feet of climb but the difficulty really is the underfoot conditions together with the likely navigational difficulties both at night and in any kind of hill fog which is pretty common fare. It’s tough, I think it’s wildly underestimated by people who haven’t been on that kind of terrain. I don’t think it’s as tough however as the Paddy Buckley and likely not the Ramsay Round either, the Welsh and Scottish equivalents.
7) There are some fast guys looking to have a go at the BGR this summer. Do you think the record might go?
It depends. If you look at Billy Blands record 13:53, nobody has yet come with half an hour of it. As a fell racer, he still holds course records at events like the Borrowdale, which some of the elite level runners going after his record potentially this year, have tried repeatedly to better and failed. So it makes you wonder if they can do it.
There are two things in favour of those trying today over Billy. One is that there is effectively a trod/ path around the entire BG route nowadays because so many people run sections as days out. That makes some of the navigation easier in poor weather and potentially a little faster going underfoot. Secondly, they have a time to beat. When Billy ran it, he had only the stars to aim for so who knows what he could have done if he’d had to actually go quicker.
I also think Jasmin Paris’ round from last year has really opened some of the elite level fell runners’ eyes to what is possible. She has opened a door herself I think with a run of such a high calibre.
I do think Killian is capable of bringing the record down. I don’t see the underfoot conditions presenting any kind of obstacle to him. I would imagine his descending ability will allow him to take time out of the record splits. His biggest problem will be getting people together that can keep up. I imagine he will have to look at splitting each leg down in to smaller components in terms of pacers, to allow him room to move as fast as he is capable of.
8) You were travelling and climbing in all seasons. Any advice for winter wainwrighting?
The planning becomes much more important. The conditions above just 700 or 800 metres in winter time in a storm can be absolutely brutal. Reading the weather forecast is the number one thing and understanding through experience how those conditions relate to on the ground. For example, wind speed is a big factor in terms of chill factor and how cold it can feel, but also in terms of the practicality of even being able to move. I’m quite light, and if wind speeds exceed 65 mph, I can’t stand up. So if winds are gusting in excess of that or are a steady 50mph or more, I’ll not bother going up high.
Hill fog is a major issue in terms of navigation in all seasons but particularly winter. Over time you get used to navigating in cloud and I am comfortable going out in very poor visibility and or darkness on to fell terrain. But I try to avoid going up when both are combined unless I am on major paths. Its’ very disorientating.
Usually you’ll encounter mixed conditions on the ground in terms of snow, ice and wet/ dry rock and bogs during winter. Knowing when you’re likely to need spikes/ crampons and potentially even an ice axe is important. It’s possible to do all of the Wainwrights without a rope though. Staying tuned to the Fell Top Assessors reports available every day through the winter gives you an accurate picture of what the ground conditions are likely to be out.
In terms of bogs, it’s worth pointing out that there are one or two areas in the Lakes that I’ve come very close to having a major problem in. Usually they are around outflows from tarns, last month I went up Cold Pike after dark and navigated poorly straight across an outflow from a tarn under the summit of Cold Pike. Two steps in and I was stomach deep. Some of the bogs in Snowdonia are far worse but you can still find yourself trapped chest deep or worse if you pick the wrong line in the Lakes. Learn the different colour of the grass and what a bog looks like - bright green and dark brown should be avoided at all costs.
Kit wise the list of what you should carry is greater. Number one is map and compass, even if you have a functioning GPS or the OS App on your phone. My phone has died so many times in winter due to cold. Those things are fine for quick reference but If you don’t know where you are on the map and the mist rolls in, you could be in big trouble. Taking spare gloves, waterproof gloves, Water or windproof jacket and trousers, goggles if it’s due to snow, survival bag, head torch even if you are going out in the morning, full set of base layers. Because I did so much of the running/ climbing on my own, I needed to be sure that if the worst happened and I had an accident that stopped me from getting off the hill in a place with no reception, I would be able to spend a night out maybe not comfortably, but definitely safely. You can go slightly more lightweight if there are two of you.
If you are up to speed with your kit, plan carefully around the forecast the very best days out on the mountain can be had in winter. And don’t be fooled by the relatively low height of the Lakeland Fells. Conditions on the top on a stormy winters day can be as bad as anything anywhere.
Skirting Pillar, looking across to the Scafell Massif on a March day
9) It’s good to get family involved in fell walking/running. Which wainwrights would you recommend for families/kids?
There’s a few that stand out as very simple short walks without any kind of hazards at all, so that you can take kids who are barely walking as yet to the tops. Ling Fell, Sale Fell, Latrigg, Holme Fell, Baystones and Loughrigg are all examples of that. I would imagine once kids reach 5 or 6 there aren’t many tops that would be beyond them. The only one that has a fairly precipitous drop off the top is Helm Crag which involves a short but exposed scramble on the Lion and the Lamb summit prominence. Easier rocky climbs are available widely and they can be really exhilarating for young kids but perfectly safe if you keep your eye on them,
10) You were also competing in ultra-races, so the hills must have been an important part of your training?
I’ve always just looked at it as good strength training for ultras yeah, but big days out on the hills have at times affected training a little in terms of consistency!
11) How did you feel when you finished? Is there a void or are you quite content?
Both. Because it’s a relatively small area I sat on top of High Hartsopp Dodd the final one and looked out across most of it on the Sunday evening and felt both sad and happy I’d visited all those fells.
12) The all-important question, what’s next?
I will keep going back to the Lakes, but next in terms of similar hill/ mountain challenges is Wales and the Paddy Buckley (welsh equivalent of the BG). I’d like to give it a go in time, once I know the route well enough.
The Interviewer, Debbie, in front of Yewbarrow
Last weekend I found my way over the summit of my 214th and final Wainwright. Over the last few days I've lain in bed at night and thought about all those hills before drifting off in to a deep sleep. I guess that's where you start to realise that what you had there was absolutely an obsession and not just a hobby. Sat on top of the last one, High Hartsopp Dodd, looking across the Lake District was a good feeling, but also a sad one. That being said there are of course, many more mountains to be climbed. Perhaps beecause the Lakes is such a small area and you can see most of it from the higher summits, that feeling of completeness is easier to find here.
In no particular order, here are some of my favourite pictures with small anecdotes listed underneath. I hope that it at least conveys even a tiny part of why this area is so special.
Great Gable often looks unclimbable from Kirk Fell but up the jumble of boulders on the western flank, one can look back on the Eastern side of Kirk Fell with pleasure at having found a way
Piles of metal are a unique feature of some tops. Walkers collect left over fence posts and rails and ammass them. This pile adjacent to the cairn on Great Borne is a great example
Whiteside is a wonderful Ridge, as seen here from the summit of Grassmoor, the king of the North Western Fells
Red Gully on Kirk Fell, one of the last major challenges facing Bob Graham hopefuls. The cloud boiling around Jim Turner here as he goes on to a 19:59 finish in 2015. The best moment of the day came as we found the grassy 'Borrowdale line' off of the summit of Great Gable running an exact compass bearing in heavy clag
The Path from Sail Pass taken from Scar Crags, towards Sail Summit in Mid-April. This is a truly exceptional area of the North Western Fells.
There is no 'easy' way from Scafell Pike to Scafell, the two highest peaks in England. On the BG, runners have to choose between a number of routes. This picture is taken from the Gill scramble up to Foxes Tarn - perhaps not the easiest way up in March but the safest option. On a wet day there's no way to emerge from the gully anything but soaked
The Western Fells are a totally different entity to those east of Scafell Pike. Overlooking the Cumbrian coast and as seen here from the summit of Caw, the Isle of Man (top right of picture), views on clear days are breath taking but a walker can get caught out very quickly as sea mist often rolls in to envelope the tops
The ridge out to Steeple is just spectacular and can be quite Alpine when covered with ice
Wrynose Valley. Is there a harder to reach place in the lakes? Probably not. To me, Cockley Beck at the bottom of this picture is as remote as it gets. This view is taken from the way up Wet Side Edge, to Great Carrs
View from Catstycam Summit across to Birkhouse Moor. One of the most popular areas of the Lakes. Taken in March during my final day of tops
Newlands Valley from the summit of Dale Head. High Spy, Maiden Moor and Catbells on the ridge to the right, Hindscarth and Robinson to the left. Skiddaw and surrounding peaks in the far distance
Comparison of scale. Taken from the summit cairn of Grassmoor looking down on Rannerdale Knotts (both Wainwrights) and Crummock Water
Green Crag in the far south west corner of the lakes is one of the more remote tops. And in poor weather quite a vague place to navigate around
Summit of Fairfield in May. Paul Navesey named this image Milky Bar Quad
Skiddaw summit trig point on a November night. Temperature -10C. Absolutley still and with snow thick and ice crusted enabling us to run off of the summit to Bakestall top in spikes as smoothly as if we were on a tarmac road. A magical night.
Descending Pike O Stickle on the BG, with it's summit that looks more like an Inca Temple from afar
Straights of Riggindale from Kidsty Pike. The High Street fells are perhaps a little less spectacular than most other areas, but this particular view is an exception
Louis' first Wainwright, Holme Fell aged 1
Innominate Tarn on Haystacks. Alfred Wainwrights favourite mountain and where his ashes are scattered
Martin and Lisa Bergerud sitting on Wasdale Screes overlooking Wastwater, with right to left: Middle Fell, Seatallan and Buckbarrow above. Martin and Lisa completed all the Wainwrights for a second time this winter, and impressively did so between October and March
Out of the sunlight in to the darkness, up the western ridge of Great Borne on a stellar day out in February.
Halls Fell, the quickest way from the summit of Blencathra to Threlkeld Village. BG hopefuls should try to have this descent down to just under 30 mins. Billy Bland record split 14 mins. Here's Paul Navesey at the end of a sweep of Northern Wainwright tops
Drew cresting the summit of Seathwaite Fell with Glaramara in the background. April 2015.
High Hartsop Dodd. Sunday 27th March 2017. My final summit. Understated and entirely to myself as per much of the journey
The 2017 season is upon us and as per each of the previous four years we kick off with the South Downs Way 50.
Now in its 5th year we expect a record starting field of 400 runners to descend on Worthing College at 0900 on Saturday 8th April, all hoping to successfully complete the journey of 50 miles point to point on foot across the South Downs Way to the finish line at Eastbourne Sports Park Athletics Track.
This event has typically attracted fast fields and has made for exciting racing. As the UK scene continues to grow we see more and more talent emerging, but also some of our longer standing runners improving their own training and racing through experience and putting themselves in the mix for the overall positions by virtue of their hard work.
The overall course record held by Victor Mound of 5:53 is an exceptional one, nobody has come within 18 minutes of that time. For the ladies, Edwina Suttons second attempt at the course in her 2014 victory in 7:09 is still the benchmark.
A list of all finishers of this event and their times can be found in the new Stats area on our website here.
Here is a run down of the likely lead contenders for this years event.
Jon Ellis: Jon's Chiltern Wonderland 50 victory last September was one of the performances of the year as he led from wire to wire. His 6:59 from the 2014 event was good enough for third that day and he is one of the few runners in the field capable of going significantly under the 7 hour barrier. He has podiumed at every ultra he has finished though it is worth adding that he pulled out of the Wendover Woods 50 back in November, with a few issues not least of which he was expected to become a dad for the second time that week! Hopefully his training has not been too badly disrupted....
UPDATE Danny Kendall: Danny is one of our Centurion Ultra Team Runners and has an amazing pedigree in the sport. 7 Marathon Des Sables with a best of 5th overall. 3 UTMBs. And a host of other notable finishes including mutiple wins and course records all over the UK. He will add a huge amount of spice to the front of the field.
Ian Hammett: Ian brings some good road pace to the trails and last year clocked up 2nd place in both our SDW100 and behing Jon in the CW50. He's also walked away with a win at The Wall and Stour Valley 100km in the past couple of years with other strong results around those. Certainly he should be competitive here.
Paul Russhard: Paul is the guy many of you will remember from the NDW50 in 2016 who put everything on the line from the gun and went away at a pace we'd simply never seen before. His lead by mile 14 was well over a minute a mile and he continued to hammer until the proverbial wheels eventually did fall off but not until somewhere after the 50km point. He did also hang on for 3rd despite fading fast at the end. History shows how the gamble of going hard and hanging on has both paid off with incredible victories and results, but probably more often with epic explosions. Whatever the case Paul is a solid runner and if he decides to go with that tactic again it will make for exciting racing.
Ry Webb: Ry came good in 2016 with a very strong NDW50 performance, eventually passing the above Paul for 2nd in a little over 7 hours. With a 5th at the NDW100 later last year he will certainly be looking good for a sub 7 hour on this course.
ADDITION: Mike Ellicock with a 2:31 Marathon PB at Berlin last year has the greatest speed in the field and comes in 'Downs Ready' with a win at the Moyleman trail marathon in early March. Thanks to Paul Navesey for the update.
Other men with a good pedigree behind them and a very strong change at a top 10 place include Nick Greene (4th, 5th and 7th at this event before with a best of 7:03), David Barker (3rd at 2015 TP100, 4th at 2015 A100), Paul Grundy (3rd at Lakeland 50 in 2015), Luke Ashton (2nd 2015 SDW100), David Pryce (2nd TP100 2014).
Amelia Watts: Amelia took home 2nd at the 2016 SDW50 and has four years of excellent results now behind her. 5th at the MDS, 1st at UTSW 60 and 4th at RTTS 100km led in to that 2nd last year. This year she's begun with a fine 15th at TGC. If she's rested and recovered in time she should be well in the top spots again here.
Gemma Carter: Gemma may have the best previous SDW50 finish time of any lady in this years start field thanks to her 7:32 in 2014 for 3rd. Wins and podiums at lots of other short ultras in recent years put he in good stead to be competitive once again here.
Michelle Blower: Michelle comes in to this one with a string of fine results behind her. 2nd at the Ridgeway and 3rd at the Beacons ultra in 2016 her most recent accolades.
Other ladies who will be looking to challenge for the podium include Maree Jesson (Winner Cotswold Way Century, 4th Pilgrims Ultra) and Sarah Samme (6th SDW50 2016 and 3rd CW50 2016).
A big welcome awaits all of our runners this year and particularly to this years field of Grand Slammers hoping to make it through all 4 50s in 2017.