The seventh edition of the South Downs Way dawned warm and dry with a record field of 305 itching to get going. This race took us over the 10,000 starter mark across all events, this being our 27th 100 mile and 49th race of all time. The previous evening saw the seventh edition of the much more important SDW1 Mile Kids Race in which 27 starters aged 1 to 11 reminded us all of the unabashed joy of running. Everybody won.
The SDW100 race got underway at 0600 the next morning and quite quickly there were some familiar faces out front in both the men’s and women’s races.
In the men’s race, the early pace was set by Stephen Hobbs and Mike Ellicock, with Charlie Harpur and Jon Ellis close behind. Jon our reigning Grand Slam 50 Mile record holder looked by far the most comfortable. Behind those four it was great to see Stellan Fries back and looking focused. Stellan led the race in 2014 before going off course with just four miles to go. He was back for his fourth try at capturing the crown. Peter windross made up the remainder of the lead pack, following on from his TP100 victory last month.
The usual pattern of this race is a fast pace to Queen Elizabeth Country Park at mile 22, a gradual slowing to Cocking at 35 and by Botolphs at around the 100km mark a true picture of how the race will likely unfold. As early protagonists fell away it was Charlie Harpur who emerged at Washington all of a sudden with a commanding lead and ran up the hill out of the aid station with authority. With this being his first 100 miler it remained to be seen if he could manage his race and his pace to sustain to the end and guesses were going either way.
But Charlie in fact went from strength to strength over all of the remaining sections. A fast marathoner with a 2:33 at London this year in the heat, he held back early on and ran the best paced race we’ve seen in a while from a leading 100 mile performance, eventually crossing the line in 15:01, the second fastest time we’ve seen at this event behind Mark Perkins’ 14:03.
Behind Charlie, rewards went to runners who remained smart early on and ran well paced races, basically the same story of any 100 mile race. Stellan came all the way through the field to finish a very strong second in 15:50, a new MV50 record. John Melbourne found himself right in the thick of the battle for the podium spots after chasing down those ahead and eventually just lost out to Stellan, picking up third in a tremendous 15:56. Fourth was Jon Ellis in his first 100, having wrestled with stomach issues for the last two thirds of the race and suffering a slight detour with 18 to go.
The women’s race was equally as exciting right from the gun and the time gaps between runners close all day. Sarah Cameron, second at the 2017 NDW100 ran strong and ahead from the gun. With victories at prominent ultras in France where she lives, Sarah’s debut on the SDW went seemingly very close to plan. She would need that with quality and consistent runners behind her. Laura Swanton fresh off of second at last months TP100 impressed yet again and tracked Sarah all day. Rachel Fawcett previous CW50 champion running in third for the majority of the race, again not too far back from Laura. The shape of that remained consistent with the time gaps growing marginally check point to check point almost like clock work through the day.
Through QECP mile 22 Sarah’s lead was just 2 minutes over Laura and 4 over Rachel. By cocking mile 35 Sarah had stretched to a 14 minute lead over Laura and Rachel running close together. In to Washington mile 54, Sarah’s lead was out to 25 minutes over Laura and Rachel 39 minutes back looked likely out of contention and now running for a podium place.
At Housedean Farm mile 76 Sarah came in running strong and focused with a smile on her face and it seemed with a 30 minute gap that she would hold it. That she did running home in 18:14 for her debut Centurion win.
Laura held her position behind coming home in a superb 18:45, her second, second place in two 100s just 5 weeks apart. Third place went to Rebecca Lane who ran herself on to the podium ahead of Rachel by Housedean Farm and stayed in that position through to her finish in 20:06.
Records were broken as the weather remained excellent right through to the cut off. We handed out 223 buckles our highest ever at a 100 mile, with a 73% finish rate showing just how good things were on the whole out on the trail. 108 of those buckles were for 100 Miles in One Day.
In the age group awards, Tracy Owen won the FV50 category with a 23:21.
The MV60 won went to Ken Fancett for the sixth time. There was a huge new MV70 record too for John Fanshawe in 25:11 taking over three hours off of the previous best.
113 volunteers made the event happen. The amount of hours poured in to each 100 is just staggering and to them from all of us, thank you.
Grand Slam standings have been updated and are available here. in the mens, Peter Windross now has a commanding lead after coming home in a strong performance this weekend following his TP100 win. In the womens, it's Laura Swanton who leads in 38:22 total time.
The 2018 NDW50 was our eighth edition of the first event (alongside the 100 and a marathon!) back in 2011. Blue skies and superb underfoot conditions greeted the runners. We welcomed a large number of familiar faces to what has become a favourite race for many to return to, year after year. We also had plenty of first timers and there was some very nervous looking folk indeed in the run up to the start at 0800 this past Saturday. Notable mention in the starting field goes to Chris Fox, back to finish what he started - having missed the cut off by 9 seconds in 2015. More on him later.
Crucially we also welcomed our highest ever proportion of female starters, 25% of the field something which has been gradually moving up over recent events. Hopefully it won't be too long before we are talking about equal numbers in our sport. Long may this upward trend continue.
We expected a fast mens field to be led out by returning champ Neil Kirby and WW50 2017 Champ Stuart Leaney. They seemed to have the greatest pedigree coming in and with conditions as they were, the course record set last year by Jon Ellis looked under threat.
However, we were suprised to see from the gun that Ed Knudsen and James Osborn went out with Stuart and pushed as a threesome for many of the early miles, Neil sitting just behind in fourth. The three out front looked comfortable and rattled through Guildford together at mile 10. By Newlands Corner the second check point, things had begun to split up and it was Ed who took the lead, coming through there in 1:40, with Stuart and James both sitting back within 3 minutes.
The section over to Box Hill is screaming fast, largely flat before a long very kind road descent through Denbies Vineyard and Ed stayed ahead through those miles making the Stepping Stones at mile 24 in 2:50 elapsed, now 6 minutes ahead of Stuart and a full 12 ahead of James. It seemed likely to those looking on that the race was moving too fast and the heat and hills that were to follow would indeed take their toll on all of the runners - however for the front two it proved to be less of an issue than for most and they blazed ahead in a really closely fought battle. By Reigate, Ed Knudsens lead was down to 3 minutes and on route to Caterham Stuart took charge and put a couple of minutes lead in to Ed. Instead of capitulating however, Ed fought every step of the way and made Stuart work hard for his eventual win in 6:46, our third fastest ever time at this event. Ed came home just 4 minutes later.
Stuart Leaney receives his winners trophy from Mimi Anderson
James Osborn unfortunately dropped shortly after Box Hill after crashing in to a tree - he was not the only one as two other runners impaled themselves on a obscured broken branch before our favourite Russian runner Vladimir Zalesskiy stopped to clear the lethal weapon, going on to then run home with the MV50 category win. It was Ollie Stoten who ran a tremendous closing section with the fastest split of the day to finish third and break the magic 7 hour mark with a 6:58, his first Centurion podium after many attempts.
Ollie Stoten stormed through the final two stages to break the 7 hour barrier and make the mens podium
The ladies race was equally contested and exciting to watch. Sarah Sawyer, Lisa Martin and Fiona Park ran within sight of each other for most of the early miles and came through Guildford all within 30 seconds of one another. At Newlands Corner Check Point 2, all three were with 60 seconds with Sarah and Fiona arriving almost together. On and down to Box Hill, Sarah took the lead with Lisa moving in to second behind as Fiona began to drop back. The gap between Sarah and Lisa stayed at 2 minutes or less through the next three check points and it seemed it could go either way over the final 7 miles in from Botley. Sarah held the lead, whilst unfortunately Lisa took a detour shortly before the finish so we were denied a possible closer result, but Sarah who had held the front since around mile 20 came home first lady in 8:44 elapsed for her first Centurion win.
Sarah Sawyer picked up her first Centurion Trophy in winning the womens race
Lisa Martin picked up second in 9:01 having lost around 15 minutes in her detour. Third went to Tamatha Ryan who ran a very solid race to eventually come past Fiona Park, crossing the line in 9:04.
Of the 252 starters, just 17 runners dropped from the event for our equal highest ever finish rate of 93%. This time, Chris Fox made it home with just over 30 minutes to spare and was welcomed home to great relief from volunteers and staff alike. His 9 second miss in 2015, finally put to bed.
Chris Fox receives his medal 'back' as well as his new one for this finish
Final runner out on course Brian Duggan left it close but ran the last mile and powered up the hill to cross the finish line with exactly 100 seconds to spare. Our 234th finish of the day and a new record at this event.
Brian enjoying his finish with plenty of time to spare!
Age Category Awards went to James Warren (MV40) who continues to go from strength to strength, Vladimir Zalesskiy as mentioned above (MV50) and in his 33rd Centurion event finish Ken Fancett (MV60). In the ladies race Fiona Park took 4th and the FV40 category with Sarah Sawyer and Tamatha Ryan also running as FV40s taking overall prizes. First FV50 went to Joanna Edwards in 9:26.
A link to the initial Grand Slam table is here, with standings after two of the four events.
A special thank you to Allan Rumbles, Spencer Rolls and Mark Thornberry for manning the seventh and final ever Bacon Boat on the canal in Guildford.
Centurion Naval Division: Allan Rumbles, Spencer Rolls and Mark Thornberry (Photo c/o James Elson)
Massive thanks too to the 67 volunteers who supported all of the runners so admirably on the day. Of those 67, only 6 had not either run or volunteered with us before showing what a fantastic community we have.
In three weeks we welcome 300 starters to the South Downs Way 100 and hope you will join us again then.
A record starting field of 314 runners ably supported by a team of 97 volunteers 'enjoyed' one of the hottest events we've ever staged. Blazing sunshine during both Saturday and Sunday resulted in tougher than usual conditions for runners but potentially the best volunteering conditions to date!
Setting off from Richmond Upon Thames at 1000 on the Saturday morning, we were looking forward to a really exciting womens race, a seemingly wide open mens race and the usual raft of incredible stories from the full breadth of the field looking to complete the journey to Oxford within 28 hours.
Immediately, times were slower than we've seen in the past. Check Point 1 at our new, old location back at Cowey Sale in Walton now mile 12, saw Alex Whearity and Stephen Hobbs side by side out in front in 1:33 elapsed. Though slower than usual, the pace for most of the field seemed too fast for the conditions, temperatures already in the low 20s and expected to reach 26 by the late afternoon. The decimation of food and particularly Tailwind supplies this early on reflected the fact that many were already working hard to stay on top of fueling and hydration.
Ultra Team runner Cat Simpson running strong and controlled early in the race before an existing foot injury derailed her day
Bridge crossing. One of the few 'hills' on the course
At this event we usually see a few early front runners setting a blistering pace, with the shape of the race settling down to a more accurate long term picture by around Hurley mile 44. That was certainly the case this time as the eventual winner, Peter Windross emerged at Hurley first and held that position right through to the finish. He seemed shocked to be out front, but Peter has recorded some fine and very consistent performances in the past couple of years and this day was testament to a well judged race, drawn from experience. He arrived in to Henley mile 51 in 7:21, by which point his 19 minute lead seemed fairly secure and he continued to put time in to the rest of the field all the way to the finish. In fact by mile 70 his lead was as much as 50 minutes and his winning time of 15:49 was streets ahead of the competition. A fantastic well executed win for Peter.
Peter Windross (left) running early on with past champion Ed Catmur
Behind him, the pairing of Stephen Hobbs and Peter Jackson pushed together from shortly after the half way point, through to around 20 miles to go, at which point the link was broken and Peter Jackson ran strong through the final miles to come home second in 16:42. Stephen picked up third in 17:55.
In the womens race the seemingly deep competition was out of the picture by Reading, mile 58, leaving just two clear contenders for the victory from that point on. Sam Amend, Course Record holder suffered in the heat and was forced to withdraw. Our own Centurion Ultra Team Runner Cat Simpson pulled over early with a damaged foot, gutted at not having had time to recover from a bike crash the previous week. And Mari Mauland, last years champion was also forced out with stomach issues. Therese Falk - winner of Tooting Bec 24hr last year - looked strong throughout and untroubled on her path to eventual victory in 18:44. It appeared very much as if she had a lot more to give, but held back a little because she is representing Norway at the European 24 hour Championships in just 3 weeks time. We wish her the best of luck there.
Therese Falk winning on her Centurion debut
Second place went to Laura Swanton, who ran brilliantly to Streatley and closed the gap on Therese for a brief period before slowing in the final third and coming home a fantastic second in 19:36.
Third place went to regular Kit-Yi Greene who ran a smart race as ever and took her home first Centurion podium finish in just over 21 hours.
From the sharp end, through the mid pack and in to the back of the field, the number of drop outs during the first afternoon and overnight was high. We saw the second lowest finish rate we've had at this event, with 42% of the starters eventually succumbing before reaching the finish. That figure is beaten only by the flood course year of 2013 when 55% crossed the line (our record low finish rate at any 100 was 43% back at the 2012 Winter 100).
It was the heat that primarily took it's toll with many suffering stomach problems or earlier than normal fatigue. Those that pushed on through that first day found a cool but calm night awaited them and for those that had held something back, conditions later on made for very good going.
In to the second morning and the heat began climbing again for those back on course and there were some very tough final miles indeed. For the warriors out looking to come in during those final few hours, the temperature again reached 26 degrees.
Our final finisher Brent Mullane brough the event to a close collapsing between the timing mats and requiring one final roll to record his finish time of 27:51, 9 minutes to spare. He has just under two weeks to recover before theNDW50, being as it is that he is attempting the double slam.
Brent Mullane rolls across the line with 9 minutes to spare.
Notable mentions go to Markus Flick who recorded his 7th straight finish - he has finished all editions of the TP100 and W/A100 and travels over from Germany each time to take part. This year he was found asleep at Radley by the RD but was awoken and finished with plenty of time to spare!
And of course to Ken Fancett, the only other person who can claim the same. Ken finished his 24th 100 miler with us this weekend and yet again won his age category. Out of the 26 total we have organised. He has never dropped at one of our events.
In other age category awards, John Fanshawe won the MV70's coming home under 24 hours. John was also our first ever MV70 finisher and now holds the course records for his category at the NDW100, A100 and TP100.
For the women, Mandy Foyster came home first FV50 in 24:46.
Huge thanks to the incredible support of the volunteers out on course, without whom none of this would be possible.
A final word of thanks to our sponsors: Julbo, La Sportiva, Petzl, Injinji, Ultimate Direction, Hyrdrapak. With a special mention to our two others:
Firstly Tailwind Nutrition - we got through thousands of servings this weekend and the man in charge of it all at Tailwind UK, Mike Julien, ran a superbly executed race to climb from 292nd at CP1 to finish 114th.
Secondly, Runderwear, who managed our Reading Check Point for us so brilliantly as always.
Our season once again opened with the South Downs Way 50 and what a spectacular opener it was. In the lead up to this sixth edition of the event, conditions on the Downs had been poor, as they had across the UK for much of the winter. Sitting water and mud were features up and down the course. But two dry, bright and windy days on the Thursday and Friday before race start Saturday morning, were enough to dry the chalk downland out almost completely. Suddenly the course was as good and fast as ever, presenting this years runners with close to ideal underfoot conditions. To add to that, the rain that was forecast for across the 13 hours of the race didn't materialise until later on and many were able to enjoy a predominantly or entirely bright, clear day with stunning views in all directions.
This year we welcomed 389 runners to the start in Worthing. Two stand out athletes amongst them, both en route to representing Team GB at the upcoming 2018 World Trail Championships. Tom Evans in the mens race has become arguably the UK's leading ultra distance trail athlete over the last 18 months with Top 5 finishes at the MDS, Eiger 101 and CCC behind him. In the womens race, Sarah Morwood was looking to add to her six previous Centurion crowns. From the gun it was those two runners who showed their true class and ran home with tremendous course records.
Tom led off the field and much like Victor Mound in 2015 when he ran a seemingly untouchable 5:53, time trialled the entire way to the finish. Appearing at Botolphs check point 11.2 miles in to the race and with 1:13 elapsed he was under record pace from the start. His long flowing stride and easy breathing belied the fact that he was averaging 6:30 minute mile pace. He didn't stop at Saddlescombe Farm, nor at Housedean which marks the 26.6 mile point and which he reached in 3:01 elapsed.
Tom powering his way through the early miles, this just before Botolphs/ Check Point 1
In to Southease at mile 33.8 in 3:52 he made his one and only pause for any official aid, taking on one additional flask of water and he admitted later he was feeling lower at that point and was very pleased to get some hydration on there. Across Firle Beacon his stride was as strong as ever and on and down through Alfriston and Jevington in unbroken focus the only question was how far under 6 hours was he going to run. In the end he cruised around the track and finished with his trademark salute (Tom has served in the British Army for many years) in a time of 5:44, making a huge 9 minute dent in the existing course record. It was close to a flawless performance and truly sensational to watch. He moves on to the Worlds with authority.
In the womens race, Sarah Morwood dominated in the same fashion albeit with a narrower cushion over some of the other leading ladies in the field earlier on, before stretching away and showing true class in the closing stages. Through Botolphs in 1:32 Sarah had a two minute lead over second, but that lead had become 13 minutes by Housedean the 'half way' check point, only for Sarah to finish up with a staggering 47 minute margin of victory by the finish.
Sarah with her trademark all-day smile, early in the race
It takes great patience to go out at a conservatively enough effort to run the same pace for the last miles as the first, but that is exactly what Sarah did. From being 20th at the first check point, she passed everyone in the field apart from our top two men, to finish third overall. Her course record of 7:03 was thoroughly deserved. In 2013 Sarah went off course at this event and ended up on Eastbourne sea front in what was her first major ultra. She has subsequently gone on to win this event twice, the SDW100 twice, the A100/ W100 twice and the TP100 - in her eight Centurion starts. Quite an incredible record.
Behind Tom in the mens race, Alistair Palmer ran strong and determined all day, coming home in 6:53 for the only other sub 7 hour time of the day. Third place went to Tomasso Migliuolo in 7:09, converting his impressive mountain running resume to a flatter faster course.
Second place in the womens race went to Annabelle Stearns another incredibly consitent performer in our events. She passed eventual third placed finisher Christine Howard soon after the Southease check point and the two battled hard all the way to the finish, both coming in under the 8 hour mark in 7:50 and 7:59 respectively. It was fantastic to see such competitive racing.
Annabelle Stearns after her second place finish
Down the field there were rafts of PBs and relatively few drops, amongst some extremely impressive age group performances.
Of particular note in the V50 category, Rick Curtis bettered his own record and ran 7:22. In the V60 mens category, Timothy Boone ran a superb 8:41 and we had a new V70 record from Richie Morrissey. Richie was our second to final finisher at the inaugural SDW100. Last year he ran this event in 12:00 and this year came back and set a new best of 11:49. Annabelle Stearns was just outside her own V40 womens record and the V50 age female age cat went to Samantha Ridley.
All in all 353 runners crossed the line down eleven year on year (there were four less starters this year than last), a tremendous day on these beautiful trails that we are privleged to be able to race on.
A huge thanks to the 80 marshal's out on course enabling the race to be the safe and successful one that it was. We welcome 300 starters to the Thames Path 100 next month on May 5th so join us again then via the live link on the homepage to follow online.