This 5th Edition of the Thames Path 100 was an exceptional one. From the front to the back it was a record breaker with our highest ever number of starters and finishers at a 100 mile event, a new overall course record and the fastest female 100 mile time we’ve ever had at a Centurion 100 miler.
295 runners registered themselves in Richmond Upon Thames on Saturday morning. Bright sunshine, cool temperatures and firm ground underfoot in most places along the 100 mile course greeted the runners and the 15 Staff and 93 Volunteers readied themselves for a fast and action packed day. The only fly in the ointment was the forecast for temperatures to hit freezing overnight into Sunday morning. How would the mid-back pack runners cope with that after 50-100 miles on their feet…. certainly organiser stress levels were pretty high in anticipation of a long night.
Two runners seemed in a class all of their own coming into the race. Craig Holgate of our Centurion Ultra Team was back to try to better his own Course Record of 15:11, still standing from 2012. With respect to runners that have come before and since, that time was not indicative of where the course record should perhaps have stood and Craig was clear in his objectives taking a pace plan for 13:40 into race day. In the ladies field, Sam Amend has all the class and speed from a stellar road racing career and some very promising signs in her first few shorter ultras. This was to be her first 100 and a big step up, so somewhat of an unknown but with all the potential there to record something spectacular. It turned out that from start to finish, the front of the race was totally dominated by these two superb athletes.
Craig’s day went to plan for 92 miles. Having a team runner in the race is useful because we know to the minute what time he is looking to get to various points alongside the course, and nobody is as metronomic as Craig. One thing is for sure, he isn’t the kind of runner to run any single mile of the race faster or slower than he intends to run any other. It’s a masterclass in race management. Through the early part of the day things were right on track, he was feeling good and made up around 5 minutes on his planned time to Henley, coming through there in 6:28 elapsed, bang on 8:00 miling and looking good for something in the low 13s. He had a lead through the ‘half way’ mark of 58 minutes. Pushing on through the back half aid stations he slipped in to his La Sportiva Helios SR for some extra grip on the slippier terrain and crewed to perfection by his wife Abbie and two daughters he pushed on at the same relentless pace. Through Abgindon mile 91 in 12:14, we readied ourselves for not only our first sub 14hr 100 miler, but our first sub 13:30. And within 10 minutes of that, Craigh went off course. He had become disorientated in the gravel pits by the railway line just after the Abingdon aid station, and could not get past the train line. The mistake was such a simple one, the wrong one of two paths, but so easily made at mile 92 in the dark and with 12 and a half hours of hard running in your legs and mind. Eventually, Craig found his way back to the TP and under the railway line, but the cost had been huge. He had been lost for over half an hour. Eventually making it through Lower Radley the final aid station, he put his foot down and crossed the line in 14:09. In doing so he took over an hour off of his old course record and set the second fastest ever 100 mile time we’ve seen at our events. Craig was disappointed with the error but pragmatic in the end. He knows he had a 13:30 day and that has to be the biggest takeway from such a fine run.
All day, Samantha Amend had trailed Craig in 2nd place overall, until roughly Reading / 58 miles alongside eventual 4th place finisher Mark Grenyer. A potential fade did not materialise however as she went on to hold a really solid running effort over the last 40 miles, where so many others stumble and screamed home over the line in 16:00:09. That mark bettered Sarah Morwood’s previous Centurion All Time Record of 16:13 set at the 2015 Autumn 100 and was a truly exceptional debut. At the finish Sam looked fresh and clearly has the ability and endurance to go very much quicker. What a debut and an exciting future ahead.
In third place, Sam Pullan came home just over the 17 hour mark, with 4th going to Sam’s early running partner Mark Grenyer.
Behind Sam in the ladies race, Mari Mauland came home in a superb 19:11, making her way through the field at every stage of the race. That 2nd place betters her 3rd at the 2015 NDW100. Third place went to Hilde Ackenhausen in 19:34. It’s always superb to see three ladies beat the 20 hour mark.
A largely dry and sunny day on the Saturday turned in to a bitterly cold night as temperatures by the water dropped to freezing point. With some freezing fog hanging over the path it made it both magical and tough for the runners, and we saw a large number decide that it was not to be their day. In the end we welcomed home 207 of 295 starters for a 70% finisher rate. 128 of those made it in under the 24 hour ‘100 miles ONE DAY’ buckle, a massive 51 minutes separating the final finisher under 24hrs, with the first one over. That’s fairly common and goes to show just how much of a drive people have when close to 24hr to go for it in the final stages.
A huge thank you to the 93 volunteers out on course. To the runners who looked after fallen comrades during the night time stages whilst awaiting support. To the crews and supporters for looking after the runners and to our sponsors Julbo, Petzl, La Sportiva and Gu Energy for helping make the logistics of this event possible.