I may live to regret saying this, but right now the forecast for the WInter 100 looks good. Cold but good. That being said runners who are used to long distances in British winter and mountains at anytime will have prepared for conditions where strength wins out over speed - Richie Cunningham and Jean Beaumont epitomised that last year as they gutted out incredible times in rough weather whilst much 'faster' runners fell by the way side. It's often those without any time goals, racing the field and not the clock that persevere in poor condtions. Faster running this year will make for a fascinating race. Conditions often dictate the times in trail racing, often as much or more than an atheletes ability on the day.
Here's a preview of the front runners in both the mens and womens fields. As always, this is off the top of my head with very little research behind it so please feel free to add others using the comments field at the bottom.
Overall we have an anticipated start field of 95 with 9 x 2013 Grand Slammers going for number 4 and many Centurion Veterans returning. No doubt there will be some stories of huge strength in adversity all the way to the final cuts as is always the case with 100 mile trail events, particularly at this time of year.
For me there is one stand out runner this year, Ed Catmur. Ed, for me, would be UK UROY (others like Ricky Lightfoot and Craig Holgate have also had stellar years) but it's likely that most are unaware of his achievements in 2013, because he doesn't have a blog or twitter account. So excuse the lamenting on his achievements here but in light of the term UK UROY being used around runners achieving purely quantity over quality Ed has struck the balance of both. Ed will be looking for his third 100 mile win of 2013 at this event. He won (actually the only finisher) of a Saxon Shore 100 earlier in the year, before going on to destroy the NDW100 course record in one of the most outstanding performances of 2013, anywhere in the UK. He did it without any crew or support just off of his own back. Finally after a few years of knocking on the door of something incredible, he put the pieces together and nailed it. Amongst those things he won the Milton Keynes & Welsh Marathons and just set a PB at Bournemouth finishing 8th with a 2:34. This level of road speed in a marathon matches closely with the likes of Ian Sharman and Craig Holgate who are pushing the front line in UK ultra distance running. Believe me when I say that Ed is right up there with the best and would be competitive in most bigger/ global field 100s right now. His skill set is not limited to the road and marked trail. He's also an orienteer which is a skill that assisted him in his wins at the Saunders MM and the Ultra Tour of the Peak district. The Saunders is not a small time event, a certain Lizzy Hawker traditionally used it as a build up to many of her UTMB wins. If conditions are dry and cold as they look likely to be, Ed can go under Craigs Centurion 100 mile best of 15:11 here, I have no doubt.
Luke Ashton is an enigma. I hope he doesn't mind me saying that earlier in the year his promise as he took 2nd at a muddy, wet and cold Thames Path 100 which was a break through effort in his first 100 miler, waned away a little as he raced a lot and turned to running many events barefoot which brought down some of his overall times. If Luke comes to the Winter 100 with his game face on, he could run Ed hard, particularly if he can reduce the time he spends in CPs down, it's just a case of which Luke we'll see on the day.
Warwick Gooch stands tall amongst other men as winner of the 2012 Caesars Camp 100. In awful conditions he made it around well under the 24hr mark and jogged a comfy 50 miler there this year looking relaxed and in control. He will feature from the off.
Dave Ross, marathon man. Dave has had a great year running sub 7:30 at Comrades for the second year in a row. More importantly perhaps he managed to get his Western States monkey off of his back and finished in a great time, before building on that to a superb NDW100 run under the 18 hour mark. Alongside of those things he consistenly races marathons under the 3hr mark and recently set a PB of 2:51, something that means a lot to a man with 300 marathons under his belt. Dave's undoing will only be in his own pacing. If he can resist running the first 25 too hard he may wipe hourse off of his NDW100 time. At the TP100 he went off of the front and came unstuck in the last 20 fading to 6th in the cold. Can he pace himself from the start and hold on for another PB here? I reckon so.
Matt Winn Smith had a sterling 100 mile effort at the TP100 in 2012. As a triathlete and ultra runner he holds all the right attributes to succeed, planning, strength, speed and will have a strong race here no doubt.
Eduard Egelie ran his first 100 in 2012 at this event. He has improved week on week over the past 12 months running a very strong NDW100 for 6th overall and is prepared better than ever this time. Top 5 runner with podium potential.
Ronnie Staton produced the UPOY of this year under some careful coaching from someone who knows what they are doing ;) He ran the 200 mile Wainwright Coast to Coast route non-stop in 56 hours. I can't begin to describe what an incredible effort that is. With that behind him and having run this event and numerous other 100s before, in a mind game there is no winner against this man.
Sharon Law must sit top of the pile as the Scottish 24hr record holder, taking 8th overall at the World 24s this year with 226km clocked. She's no stranger to success on the trails either. Her sub 9hr Highland Fling time being one of many.
My Scottish contact tells me also that Charlotte Black, on route down from the Shetland Islands for this race, is one to watch. With some strong 100km performances behind her she will hopefully light up the competition here.
Wendy Shaw is 2nd overall in the Grand Slam stakes and podiumed at all 3 of our Centurion 100s so far this year. That's no mean feat. Always solid, always working and getting faster Wendy will want this for numerous reasons. Look for her to push through strong in the latter stages.
Mary Heald surprised everyone including herself it seems by winning the NDW100 this year. Mary DNFd the winter 100 at mile 83 last year, and has since gone on to put herself within 100 miles of the grand slam. Quite the comeback. Can she do it again here?