Saturday 15th June is race day for 200 runners hoping to make it the 100 miles from Winchester to Eastbourne non-stop and on foot under the 30 hour limit. As usual there will be those fighting to make the cut offs, those fighting for the fabled 100 miles - One Day Belt Buckle for a sub 24 hour finish and those shooting for the title and this time, the prize money that goes with it. Petzl are sponsoring the race this year and the manufacturer of the finest headlamps in the game are putting up £500 for both male and female winners as well as prizes for second and third places.
Here's a quick run down of some of the pre-race favourites. As always facts are not checked and top of my head assumptions drawn so please excuse any ommissions, errors and please do leave a comment at the bottom with your own insights if you wish!
The exciting part about this years event is that there is no stand out candidate for the race win. There is a good sized field of very talented runners in the mens race and it's extremely difficult to see where the win might go this time around. The big gap is left by Ryan Brown last years runaway winner who unfortunately has been struggling with injuries in the early part of 2013 and will be sorely missed.
The SDW is a race that encourages faster opening stages with it's rolling and runnable terrain. As the experienced 100 mile guys and girls know, the race doesn't start until mile 60 and I think there'll be some carnage later on if the early pace is as high as it's threatening to be. Look out for some big changes throughout the day. It's going to be great to watch!
Robbie Britton: A late addition to the field and a member of our own Centurion Ultra Running Team, Robbie is one of the most talented young ultrarunners in the country. At 26 he has more 100 mile experience than most and has dedicated himself this past 18 months to going long, with 4 x 24 hour races including a 19th overall 239kms at the recent World Championships. He won the NDW100 in 2011, finished 2nd at the TP100 in 2012 with a 16:02 and has recorded 100 mile splits in the low 15s twice at recent 24hr events. He's strong on the hills, has learned how to fuel himself and is capable of anything he sets his mind to. Working in his favour he always runs his own race. Don't look to him to be leading in the early stages but rather hold his pace all the way to the line.
Warwick Gooch: Warwick impressed last year as he gutted out the win at Caesars Camp 100 in terrible conditions in 21:54. As those who have run Caesars know it is a brutal event and if he can run as strong on the SDW he will be many hours quicker than that time, putting him right in the mix.
Toby Froschauer: Toby chased Warwick all the way at Caesars in 2012 and run in to the finish looking as fresh as he started out. Again if he has maintained his form he will be right in the mix.
Martin Rea: Martin is a class act runner and comes over from Ireland with a host of ultra wins in his background including the Himalayan Stage Race, the London Ultra, Cardiff Ultra, Connemara Ultra and the old Tring to Town event. He is an Irish National 100km Team runner and leads the 3hr pace groups at London, Belfast and Dublin Marathons. He took it easy at the SDW50 and found his way to the track in 3rd overall so he has knowlege of the course for the final stages.
Justin Montague: Justin has been working his way back to fitness after an injury earlier this year that took a lot out of his running. Traditionally he would have been right at the top of the list for the win, with an incredible pedigree of short and long distance ultra success alongside is super talented brother Nathan. Justin's stand out Centurion effort was his 2nd place finish at the North Downs Way 100 last August in 18:48. If he can resurrect anything like the form he showed there, he will be a threat all the way to the line.
Paul Bennett: Paul is a superbly strong runner and has enjoyed wins and podiums at the 3 day South Downs Way VOTwo event, the Steyning Stinger and the South Downs Marathon to name just those on the South Downs itself. He lives and trains on the downs and has built up his 100 mile experience over time adding the West Highland Way and the original South Downs Way 100 to his CV amongst others. He's the first to admit he hasn't yet converted his talent in to a 100 mile performance but when he does get it right he will be hard to beat.
Martin Bacon: Martin's experience is second to none coming in to the race, both in terms of long distance (100 mile+ racing) and course knowledge. In 2012 he took a sub 18 hour third place at the TP100 and this year converted that in to the win. 100 milers aren't won in the first 100km but they are most certainly lost there and Martin's experience may well allow him to shine and pick up the proverbial pieces if, as there always is, we see some blow ups from the early leaders.
Sam Robson: Sam has it all to play for. He finished second last year in 17:23 and has publicly stated he is going for a sub 16 hour finish. If he is able to convert it would surely go down as one of the UK Ultrarunning performances of the year. Confidence is crucial to runners and Sam is going in strong.
Doug Murray: The man who seemingly smiles from ear to ear right from the get go, always a pleasure to have on the course, Doug had a great SDW50 and then ran in a superb 2nd place in the NDW50, just outside of CR pace and just 6 days after he ran 33 miles up at Marlborough. He could shock everyone coming in here.
We are very lucky to have such a deep and talent filled women's field at this years event. It's going to be as, if not more exciting than the men's race to watch unfold.
Emily Canvin: Emily comes in hot off of back to back wins at both the SDW50 and NDW50. She smashed the course record at the NDW50 and has got a huge amount of talent and natural speed. This will be her first 100 but if she can manage her effort and her fueling she might just have the legs to make it three Centurion wins out of three.
Jean Beaumont: Jean blew us away with her win at the Winter 100 in November. She looked untroubled, leading throughout and kept a smile on her face through some horrendous weather. She previously won and set the Course Record at the Northburn 100 in New Zealand, her homeland and must be the experienced favouite coming in.
Wendy Shaw: Wendy keeps getting stronger and stronger. Relatively new to the sport she has trained well all year and is looking to add her second race to her Grand Slam attempt. She took a solid second at the Thames Path 100 in March and will be looking to go one better. Another one to run her own race she knows how to pace and to fuel herself and will pick up any pieces later in the race if others start to struggle.
Nicola Golunska: For a while we weren't sure if Nicola would be in shape to make the startline after a bike crash left her on the injury sidelines for a long time. She ran an incredible race in the 2011 SDW Race taking the win and a third place overall. Anything can happen when she is on form.
Susie Casebourne: Susie lacks 100 mile experience but has competed at the very highest level in sport with 2 silver medals at the ETU European Triathlon Champs. She recorded an ultra win at the EL CTS event in March and is one to watch here.
So I think that's about it for now. Did I miss someone? Please do leave comments below if so....