26 Sep 22 by James Elson

Tor des Géants 2022

All photos c/o Jack AtkinsonKnow Jack Media

TDG is simultaneously many things all at once, a dichotomy within itself. Italian culture and the mountain community lift this race above any other, but as always one must not focus too greatly on the detail, as it will detract from the overall beauty. There is magic at every turn at this event and may that never change. Apart from some of the descents, they could change some of them. This post is incredibly long, but I would guess you are reading this because you are interested in running the race or discovering a little more of what it is really about. So I am going to release the shackles and type away, good luck making it through. 

This race is beautiful in every way. The community of the Aosta embrace you as I have never been embraced in a race before. Every single person in the towns and villages, at the Rifugios, at the Life Bases and out on the trail - offer Bravo! Vai Vai! Forza! And smiles of encouragement. Nothing was too much trouble, anywhere. It feels like they are truly grateful that you want to come and run their event. The race, these mountains and this valley are the essence of who they are. There is no hint of commercialism about it - everything is geared towards the runners and their mountains. The only other time I have experienced this is at Spartathlon, where the Greek community welcome you the same way. It feels fitting that the most epic road race and the most epic mountain race have the same thing at their core. This could not be more a departure from some of the direction our sport has taken in recent years.

These mountains and hence this event are on a truly massive scale, again compared to almost anything else. It is cliche to look at numbers. But that is often how I rationalise what I am facing as a runner. Over the years people seem to have both underestimated and wildly overestimated how big this race is. But there's no need, we have enough data now to see. The race is 220 miles or 355km, with 26,000m or 86,000ft of climb and descent (full strava of the route here). What does that mean? Please know I state these things only to offer a frame of reference. 

  • When you get to Cogne the second life base, you have run only 105km but ascended 30,000ft. That's the same distance as the Bob Graham Round, with 4000ft more climb. And you're not yet a third of the way in.
  • To get to the third life base you have to descend 8,000ft in one go and then you re-ascend 7,500ft straight out of the other side. Ben Nevis is 4,400ft. The entire climb of our SDW50 is 5,500ft. It is really hard to train for that in Wendover Woods.
  • The fourth section of seven, from Donnas to Gressoney is 35 miles and has 18,000ft of climb, roughly the same amount as the entire of Lakeland 100 or Western States.
  • It means it is 3.5 times longer than the other big race that starts in Courmayeur two weeks prior - UTMB CCC. TDG also has an additional 30% climb and descent per mile.

The terrain underfoot is varied. To a Lakeland runner, it is rough in places but ultimately all on trail and therefore reasonable going. To someone coming from the groomed trails of TMB or the west coast US, it is rough and technical as hell. The weather is changeable. It is the mountains. It will be sunny, it will rain, it will be windy and it will probably snow. 150 hours, the final cut off, is a long time.

Ultimately it still feels a bit like a well kept secret. Despite the fact it is now 13 years old with a deep history. Most people still think the big one happens the other side of Mont Blanc two weeks prior. But this is where it's really at. Shh, don't tell anyone. I jest. This isn't Barkley. They want and need you to come to this race. 

PRE-RACE

Training had gone very averagely indeed. A 23:23 Ramsay Round in late June had gone well and gave me confidence that after recovering, I had time to build again towards the Tor. But I never really got going. A couple of longer days out, with Drew Sheffield in Snowdonia and with Matt Neale in the Lakes did help. But I was mostly restricted to reps of a 300ft climb in Wendover Woods. It's for sure better than nothing, but it is not ideal. I peaked at a 50 mile week with 15,000ft of climb. This is not really enough to be competitive. No acclimitisation was possible. No visit to the high mountains. But, I felt confident enough. 

Several of us decided to get together to drive out, reduce our carbon footprint and share the laughs. My travelling companions were - 'Hopes of a Nation' Damian Hall, 'GUCR King' Pat Robbins and LL Cool J - Jack Atkinson who was going to shoot the race for La Sportiva but crew for us, too.

The 12 hour journey down to Courmayeur in the Love Wagon went well and we arrived in good spirits 2.5 days pre-race.

Courmayeur is a marvel. Incredible mountains face you at every turn. The restaurants are out of this world and the atmosphere amazing. But for authentic Italy, you go to the other side of the river where the sports centre sits and head back along the trail to quaint old sleepy Dolonne. Happy family holiday memories from when the kids were babies are rooted here for me, so it is always special coming back.

The beautiful pizza shop in Dolonne. I have a pic of the kids doing the same thing.

All 'enjoyed' my ranting in advance, about registration. At the Tor, you arrive to pre-register before registration opens. They don't tell you this, you find out when you arrive with your kit and you are turned away with a raffle ticket. Now you have to go home and then wait for the website to show they are nearing your number, before coming back hours later. Then you show up with all of the mandatory kit. Then they give you a bib number, the famous yellow drop bag, take your photo and send you home again without checking your kit. One is left bewildered and asking only.... why? Because this is the way it works here. Relax, enjoy the company of the people around you and soak in the atmosphere. 

This is the essence of the race. TDG is incredibly well organised, with some truly wildcard, classically Italian elements thrown in. 

I have two other part-time jobs in addition to Centurion Running. One is as La Sportiva Run Team manager here in the UK and one is as Petzl Run Community Manager. The heart of this race and the heart of these two family owned, classically robust yet aesthetically beautiful mountain brands are one and the same thing. It was with great pride that we got our community of Brits together pre-race, most of whom we look after with either La Sportiva, Petzl, or both. An amazing time was had by all and to the credit of our British contingent, almost all had phenomenal races. Sabrina Verjee, Damian Hall, Pat Robbins, Sophie Grant, Natalie White, Kim Collison and many others. More on that.

Two nights before the start of TDG, we met for dinner and saw off the Tor Des Glaciers runners. As if you thought the numbers above didn't cut it in terms of difficulty, those taking on the Glaciers route are facing an additional 120km and 15,000ft of climb, on top of the regular TDG route. With no course markings, visits to more remote Mountains and Refuges, and with the first life base 100 miles into the event. And it starts at night. My best swearing companion Paul Tierney, after three successful Tors, lined up and to be honest looked a little anxious in the starting pen. I felt anxious for him. We followed him out through the town and he was roared through his first mile by the best of British. Tor Des Glaciers. No way. Or actually maybe....

RACE DAY

The race kicked off in two waves on Sunday morning. 1000 for the faster guys and girls (higher ITRA rankings) and midday for the slow coaches (don't bother having ITRA rankings) - which happily for me included Paddy. Paddy is a better runner than me, always has been and always will be. Not by a lot, but maybe just a few percentage points. We have shared many long days and nights on the trail and road over the years. As room mates on the 24hr team. Helping each other over the latter stages of GUCR, Autumn 100 etc. I knew he would catch me up and I knew that could work out into some shared miles at some stage. But little did I know just how great a thing this would turn out to be.

Damo and I walked up to the start, he went into the fast persons area, I shuffled in the back. And BANG we were off through town. Cow bell galore. 

Show me your deep blue hero pose

If I say I am a numbers guys, John Kelly would laugh at me. He is a numbers guy. His excel sheets to generate splits for the race run 5 tabs deep, providing me a PolyGAP approximate time for each check point, refuge and life base. For this event I had put 100 hours into Johns simulator and printed off little crib sheet cards of each section so I had a rough idea of how long each was going to take. 

There are six Life Bases, so it makes sense to break the race up that way. Those locations are where you get to see your yellow bag which contains your spare kit and supplies. They have showers, beds, full meal service, wine and beer. Your crew person can meet you there. So people lean into those locations very heavily.

But there is a far better way to break it all down. Because some of the sections Life Base to Life Base are enormous. 

DAY 1

The first climb up to Col D'Arp is a beauty and immediately shows off the different ecosystems you pass through on every climb and descent. Down in the valley, temperatures are warm, a river is flowing and the villages are alive with cow bells and cheers. Up to 2200m you are moving through pine forests, on either sweeping or very steep trail. Littered with rocks and roots but shaded in the day and protected from the worst of the rain, they are a comfort blanket. From 2200m to 2700m you are in the Alpine meadows. Complete removal of tree cover means expansive views, sweeping vistas and the sound of cowbells, with most of the high alpine cattle farming at this altitude. From 2600m and above you are in to the terrain of the mountain proper. Nothing but rock, scree, cliff and boulder. Lifeless and epic. 

An epic rush off of the Col all the way down to La Thuile at 20km - this is the very smoothest and fastest descent of the entire course. One would be grossly misled by running only this section in preparation. I am by far, last Brit from the aforementioned group at this point. I imagine I am a long way back in the queue up the first climb. But I am here to finish and patience will conquer all.

The two climbs that follow are steep and busy with hikers. With visits to two small Rifugio's, a runner is still bustled along by the crowds. From the exposed ridge at the top of Col Crosatie at 32km, there is the first sense of exposure. But this race is clever. It gives that sense of drama and scale without requiring anything even approaching a legit scramble. There are many places however that to fall would be disastrous and the very poignant memorial to the Chinese runner Yuan Yang, that passed here in 2013 during the race, sits just after the Col. The Italian lady in front of me made the sign of the cross and stopped to offer a prayer there and so I did the same.

Down to the valley and the first Life Base at Valgrisenche strikes the tone for the descents in this race. They go on forever. I could be heard at times to moan about the course, having reached the Life Base. The reason is that the descents are so long. Any missing distance the organisers neglect to include in their underestimation of the course, falls into these descents. I am well known for telling runners in race briefings not to show me their Garmins at the finish line. That a trail race is never exactly 100 miles. But, BUT, when you are averaging 30 minute miles because it's that steep and that rough, if the organiser is out by 5km a section, which they are, then that adds 90 minutes to every descent. or 5-7 hours over the course of the race. That 90 minutes takes you from bouyant, excited to tick another section off, to beaten down mentally and physically. You get used to it, but it was my biggest single takeaway on how to prepare better for next time. Allow for it.

I'm only 9.5 hours into the race at Valgrisenche, haven't needed the my Petzl yet. So in I pop for my first catch up with Jack. I briefly stop in the restaurant for a big plate of pasta and my first beer of the race. Then hike up to the small outdoor crew area to pick up all of my nutrition from him for the next section. Section one is no gimme but section two is a monster. It's a close call between this next part and the middle section for most gruelling. We have three col's to pass before the next Life Base at Cogne and we will visit 3000 metres+, twice.

I leave Valgrisenche after 15 minutes or so, feeling good and looking forward to the next climb. Hiking up through the woods, past the Chalet De L'Epee Rifugio where I officially withdrew last year and on to Col De Fenetre, the highest point I reached in the 2021 event.

Last year I opted to bin the race, hike back to Valgrisenche and fly straight home to be with family after some terrible news the week before. I shouldn't have even flown out to the race in the first place, but we live and learn. So getting through this point meant something extra. Col De Fentre is beautiful. A stunning view from both sides. The descent the other side is steep and loose before shallowing out down to Rhemes Notre Dames. I stopped there for another bowl of pasta soup before getting all the clothes I had on for the next section up to Col Entrelor. Paul T had warned me about this section. The first climb was ok, the second climb was a **** and the third and final climb was an absolute ****. Entrelor was steep both up and down - the air at 2500m was thin enough that to my unacclimatised lungs it was a big struggle just to catch breath and move well. That persisted through the whole race. 

Down to Eaux Rousses, the final valley of section two, I had the luxury of meeting Jack. And I was in a low place. Cold, tired and daunted by the idea of Loson and the 3299m to follow. So I did the first of many of my planned table naps. I nap almost every day at home. And usually I'll do it for between 1 and 10 minutes. Just laying still, switching my brain off and clearing the head, buys me productivity in the afternoons. It is most definitely a skill that has and will prove extremely useful in these type of events. I planned to use it extensively. Head on the table, 1 - 2 minutes asleep - that would, I learned, buy me 4-6 hours of feeling fresh again. A most worthy trade off.

I left Eaux Rousses enlightened and moved well up the climb over Loson, before the staggeringly long descent to Cogne, 24 hours into the race. 

DAY 2

Life Base number two, beautiful day outside. Jack there with the supplies, it was another quick turn around and straight out of the door - no need to stop here. Plus the next section is a total doozy with only one (5,000ft) climb and one (30km - 8,000ft) descent. What I had failed to pick up on was that the Refuge up the top of the climb was shut. No water. At this stage I was with Will Weidman a US runner and neither of us had registered this issue. We ran dry well short of the col and then got increasibly dehydrobonky (that is a word) as we crested the top. Down the other side we hit a Refuge that was only open to Tor Des Glaciers runners, before an extended additional descent to Refuge Dondenna. What a stop that was. We were absolutely ruined coming in there. Dry as a bone, salt encrusted faces, we lurched in and destroyed several cokes. Before the guys moved us to the back room and sat us down to await a lovely bowl of salty soup. I did regret how long this took, I felt better quite quickly, but Will definitely did not, so I moved off and made my way down to Chardonney.

A brief check in with Jack there and just the rest of the descent to Donnas Life Base to go. Excuse my language but this next section was total bullshit. You will now hear this often. It took four hours to do 11 miles. The trail was littered with rocks, roots and leaves, several of the swinging bridges were missing planks and seemed like they were about to fall into the chasms below. A couple of extremely punchy climbs were dropped in and then we spilled out into a town which felt like Donnas, looked like Donnas but was quite a long way from Donnas. With 34 hours on the clock and just the one, two minute nap in the bank, this extensive descent was not that welcome. 

Anyway, Donnas came and I sat down outside with Jack, Robbie Britton and Rob Sinclair. Robbie - our Head of Endurance at Centurion was there to crew Natalie White (who does all of our social media) and is a TDG veteran. She seemed always slightly ahead, I had seen her leaving Cogne but otherwise she was this ghost ahead on the trail. And then, the big moment, Paddy rolled in. And our races aligned.

The plan was a shower, short sleep and then off on the monster climb. Ally Beaven, famous author and raconteur had left my numerous messages throughout the race as I asked him about upcoming sections and his advertising of the Donnas to Gressoney part, coming up next, needed work. 

'It's the longest section of the race and in some respects the hardest. The first climb took me 5 hours 20. However many climbs you think there are on that leg, there are more'. Music to the ears after 155km and 36 hours in the bank.

We tried to sleep at Donnas and did manage to lay down for 75 minutes. But our estimations had us about 40 mins of broken sleep time. We were up before the alarm. In fact we never once needed the alarm throughout the race, we always woke up way ahead of it going off. We got up, left around 2300 and Paddy and I forged our first miles together. 

That night went really well. To have company was a big bonus. Paddy and I have always seemed to be able to pass the time on the trail with chat ranging across any and all subject matter. It made that 5 hour climb to Rifugio Coda fly. On the way up to there, we dropped into Perloz. A lady there had this jug of orange juice. We drank almost all of it. It was just incredible.

Coda is half way through the race. Allegedly. In the black of the night, the lights of the lowlands stretched away for miles and it was pretty spectacular. About an hour after that, we hit that twilight zone around 0400-0500 where the brain is overpowering your body to try to get it to sleep and we were both wandering all over the trail. So I suggested a dirt nap. We both lay on a rock in the middle of the trail for a 2 minuter. I snapped back awake after 60 seconds, and Paddy slumbered on. I thought I'd let him have 5 minutes, during which Will Weidman came running past and whispered 'hey man all good' to me. I thought it was just fantastic how normal it seemed to be lying down on a rock up a mountain at 0400 and we're whispering to ensure we didn't wake the other runner up. We arose and we got back to it. As dawn broke, the sunlight poured energy back into the tank and off we rocketed at 30 minute mile pace over the coming miles. 

This section as Ally rightly pointed out, just went on and on. Climbs were relatively short, but significant. Descents rough, unrunnable in many places. But progress was made and it felt like we were breaking the race. Some huge highs and some bottomless lows soon followed. First the high of the check point at Lago Chiaro. Pat sat down for the usual soup and pasta. But I could smell more. A baguette with huge, hot thick slices of bacon and cheese was handed to me. As we both partook in yet another half a can of beer each in what was now become a ritual at every check point. Beer and a bacon sandwich. There are no words to do justice to how good that was. I thanked the guy several times from the bottom of my heart. 

Then came another section of total bullshit. Having seemingly started the descent to the town of Niel, the trail inexplicably first went up an extremely steep ridge. Then crested a col and continued to go on and on and on countouring, lulling one into believing the descent was starting but never actually doing so. Patience ran thin. Shrugs and chuckles at the farce were exchanged. And to make matters worse once we did start descending, some rain and the wet rock caused me to do a full pirouette, before crashing and smacking my face straight into a rock. Luckily it was just my front lip and left hand left reeling. The teeth did not get knocked out, I didn't seem to have any other effects except a mouth full of blood. And so we pushed on and hit the 200km mark. Another meaningless, meaningful landmark. 

200km, only 100 miles to go

Niel was wonderful. We caught up with Jack, Robbie and Rob. And then Jack with his press pass was able to shoot us out on course up the next climb - Col Da Lasoney. A moderate 1000m climb to end the section felt actually really manageable and the thoughts of getting to Gressoney now front of mind. This section was truly enjoyable and some of the more straight forward running.

Climbing out of Niel

You can just pick out Pat and I on the plateau, just after leaving Col Lassoney at around the 205km mark 

We rolled into the Life Base there, with that section having taken us 19 hours. It's strange to say that it didn't feel that long but it didn't feel that long. Perhaps we were getting used to the race and this way of life. Having had around 50 minutes of sleep to this point in the 55 hours we had been travelling, we opted for a sleep. It was a tough call where to do it. We could sleep in the bouldering hall there, or we could push on to the Rifugio up the first climb out of the town. But the deciding factor was once again, Ally Beaven. We were almost exactly on Ally's splits from 2021 and he had been faced with this very same decision. The wild card factor was Tot Dret - the 130km race from Gressoney to the Finish sharing the majority of the TDG route, due to start at 2100 from the town. If we hit the Rifugio for sleep at 2000 as we planned, 900 runners would then come ploughing through us there. Or we could sleep at Gressoney and make our way out, just behind them. 

We lay down for about 60 mins in the bouldering hall and once again had probably 40 mins of broken sleep. We rose, sorted our stuff out and headed off into the night. Strange to feel like we were on the homeward stretch with two full days, 85 miles and 30,000ft of climbing still to go.

Meal Time at Gressoney. I remember being very happy about how things were going at this point, it just doesn't look that way. Perhaps because we'd finished a 19 hour non-stop effort to get there. 

Getting ready to exit the Life Base at Gressoney. 220km down, 130km to go. 

Out of Gressoney a couple of flat miles were pleasingly jogged at a decent clip. We ran through the Tot Dret start area, literally 20 minutes after it began and it was a strange sensation passing through this ghost town at night that so recently had been the centre of so much energy. You could almost still feel it in the air. Spectators were flowing back past us in the opposite direction. As we began the 5,000ft ascent of Col Pinter, we could see the train of headlights from the Tot Dret runners high above. But it wasn't long before we caught one. A Turkish chap on the open hillside was already lost and anxious. We pointed out the markers to him and he fell into a train of four behind us. But before we knew it he had sat down on a rock again. We persisted to the col where we found the Tot Dret sweepers promptly clearing the back of the pack. Pat informed them they had left a man a long way behind and they were adamant they had not. We were pretty robust with our point - they needed to go back, eventually they did yield. Hopefully he isn't still up there. 

After this, is where my brain blanks out. It was turning to the small hours of the morning again and we had now been on the go for 65 hours. With maybe 90 mins sleep. We were both starting to see things in everything we passed. Faces in the rocks, people and animals in the trees. We essentially slept walked through most of the second half of that section. We tried another 2 minute dirt nap, it helped but more briefly. We then ascended Col Tourmalin and the Rifugio at the top was about 100 degrees inside. We had to just get out straight away, it was inducing sleep just stood there. What perhaps helped now was that it had started to rain. We had been warned the next section was slippery, exposed and had large drops which the rain would add some spice to. And Pat admitted to me just after this that he had felt that the terrain there, the dark, the rain and our state of mind had taken him to the edge of what he thought was safe and ok to pass. I just wanted to lay down and sleep. I couldn't always tell who Pat was. I knew that I knew him but I couldn't remember his name. I'd try to get close to the back of his pack so I could read the name printed on the bib but I kept reading it as Peter Rabbit instead of Pat Robbins. This is where being together, made a difference. We were both experiencing the same things, so it was amusing rather than worrying. We kept each other moving when it would have been easier to succumb to a sleep at a Refuge. Pat would start talking to me, get no acknowledgement, so would wave his pole grips in front of my face and I would snap out of it. He seemed to be coping slightly better with the sleep deprivation than me. 

Our partnership was now forging deeper and deeper. Paddy's strength climbing, his superior fitness I could just about hang on to without over cooking it. I would move better on the descents, which have always been my forte. And our old 24hr days meant that any flat section got treated to the ultra shuffle that is second nature for us both. 

DAY 3

We eventually rolled into Valtournenche and the second to last life base, with the sun just rising. For several days after the race I couldn't picture that Life Base. I still can't remember any of the descent to there. What we did there is a blur. I know we both lay down for our usual 90 minutes, but never got near that, with a snatched 45 for me and even less for Paddy, all we could do. It just feels so inherently wrong to be asleep in a race when the clock is still ticking, I guess. Next time I would go for 15 min Rifugio naps for sure.

So we pushed on out, and took on the section over to Ollomont. It was now that my watch just died on me. We then missed some markings and ran off down a side trail for quite some distance before we recognised we weren't seeing any signage. I thought we'd gone wrong by a few hundred metres but again Pat the voice of reason suggested it was way more. He was right. But the rest of the morning went well. We were bouyant, feeling ok and had a whole day of light ahead of us. Over to Rifugio Magia was rough, time consuming and heavy going but good progress was made. At Magia I had a two minute table nap, Paddy bought four ice lollies and ate three. I woke up had one and off we went. But the next section was I'm afraid to say it, some more total bullshit (just to caveat once again, these trails are out of this world beautiful, in fact this next section gave us the best mountain vista we saw the whole time, but the distance and elevation change were wildly different to the race profile, taking two hours longer than we thought - hence the bullshit). We climbed up to Rifugio Cuney and then spent an age rolling up and down at altitude, in rolling clag, before an almighty view of the peaks appeared before us at the top of the final descent to Oyace. Everyone says the descent to Oyace goes on forever. It is longer than that. The flags disappeared, we had to go off of intuition at times. We passed Tot Dret Runners who were already over cut off. A Danish runner was lost 'for six hours' in the woods (it could have been six minutes for all he knew). Before we got down to Oyace, only to have to climb again before the descent to Oyace. When we got there, Jack was parked up with a full pizza, chips, sandwiches, Fanta's, headlamp batteries. Basically making our lives about 400% better than 15 minutes before. 

The next section was some total bullshit. Due to landslides there was a course change. Tierney said that the removal of Col Brison made the event basically redundant and it didn't count if we finished. But I am pretty sure I would rather we had just gone over that last climb to Ollomont. Every rock now looked like a dog or a cat.

I would wear one pair of shoes the entire event, my La Sportiva Akasha II's. They were cushioned, had decent grip and supremely comfortable with the breathable toe box. I had had zero blisters up until Gressoney. However now the terrain was loose, muddy, unavoidably making shoes wet and for the first time, causing blisters to start raising their heads. There was a lot of climb. Then a descent to a check point. Then a lot more climb, then an horrific descent on white slick rock, covered in water, with pine cones littered over the top. Pat's watch broke. Then he slipped and fell, ripping a hole in his waterproof with his pole. He told me to go on whilst he had a bit of alone time, so I did. Meanwhile Ollomont remained out of our grasp. A worst case two hour section, became four hours. And then we hit the black ribbon of tarmac up into Ollomont, Paddy jogged up to join me. The world was ok again. And we had just one section to go.

DAY 3

Our feet were in a state now and the rain was forecast to be heavy until around 0500. So we made the call to spend 3 hours here, get sorted and then leave at 0500. Pat got his feet taped and fell asleep having his blisters lanced, while I lay in a cot with my now elephant sized legs elevated on my drop bag. Then we swapped, and I also passed out as the woman sorted my blisters and taped my feet. Then we ate and pushed on into the last day. The last day! I would say we managed 60 minutes of broken sleep here taking us to 3 hours or so for the race. Plus the two minuters. But far more resting time. We did waste too much time no sleeping or moving, though I understand against most we were told we were pretty efficient.

A lovely 5,000ft climb straight out of the gate and most of the way up, we reached the most idyllic Rifugio so far. You drew back the curtain to a small stone room with wood burner and a few comfy seats. We could have stayed, but in went the soup and off we went to Col Champillon

Down the other side of the col to a farmstead, with the check point in the farmers kitchen. We tried the cheese he stated proudly was made on site. I slept for 2 minutes on the table. Refused some Ouzo and off we went. On a flat section to Bosses and the last town check point before the Finish. By now, Pat had a knee issue on the left side and I on the right. Running was still possible but with the inherent feeling that the knee could collapse at any time. It was frustrating, we ran plenty but it was just a bit slower than it could have been. So it was now we began to look at the clock and our 100 hour target, that had been there hovering throughout. With Pat having started two hours behind me, there was seemingly a possibility he could still aim for that mark. I felt he could move quicker without me but as he pointed out, on the descents he was giving the margin back again. With some maths, it seemed unlikely he could do it. We'd be on 100 hour pace for each section but the extra climb and distance plus the rest time, just seemed to edge it fractionally away from us. I think the extended break in Ollomont did for us and on reflection I wish we'd moved out of there quicker. 

So we pushed on together. A bright sunny day, warm in the valley, we met Jack one last time where we catered for us in the usual way, an absolute star from first to last. Then we pushed on up the last big climb to Col Malatra. I had a wobble in Rifugio Frassatti just before it, where I felt the worst I had all race. Two minutes on the table now seemed to do very little and I was cold. So I borrowed a hat from Pat. And that seemed to do the trick.

Starting the Final Climb. Photo c/o Gary Wang

Over the col we went, down, up again and then the extended gradual downhill to the last Rifugio at Bertone. This section went on and on and on. We were moving slower, knees being sore, blisters starting to shout again and just fatigued. Climbing, we were great. Flats, we could trot. But our descending was total bullshit. We were both in pain and co-ordination was failing. On the final drop from Bertone we took an age. But then when we hit the road, back came the 24hr runners and we ran well right across the finish line. 104 hours and 50 minutes later (102:50 in Paddys case). 

Job done. Best trail race I've ever run. And I have done a few.

AFTERMATH

Tierney finished fourth in the Tor Des Glaciers, sublime running, a journey even we can't appreciate. Damo had gone wildly off course and valiantly made his way on despite it. Having led in the earlier stages, he was able to salvage 14th in 88 hours. Sabrina ran the race of the week and dominated the ladies race in a time of 80 hours. A new course record. Lawrence Eccles finished a place behind her for a stellar run. Sophie Grant finished third in 95 hours. Kim had to drop with a range of issues but I have to say if this course suits a man, it's Kim. I think we can expect fireworks from him here in the future. Natalie White finished in 101 hours. Paddy ended up 50th and I was 70th. A pretty good haul from our merry band.

Mentally I was over the moon. Physically, the swelling in my legs had also pervaded to other more private areas and my face. We drove back to the UK the following day, and all took turns in driving. We had to stop every hour or so for me to release huge quantities of pee as my body flushed through the excess liquid. We arrived back home around 2330 that Friday night and everyone crashed out. 

At 0530 the next morning, the alarm went off and we travelled across to our Chiltern Wonderland 50. Where I promptly found out that the rest of the Tor had been cancelled due to snow fall on the final part of the course. I was simultaneously gutted for the people still out there who'd had their race called time on them and extremely grateful that we had been allowed by the weather gods, to pass without anything more than some moderate downpours. 

A week on and the legs have returned to their normal size (and all other areas). The fatigue lingers, but it is countered by the sense of satisfaction at a job well done.

And thoughts begin to scan forward to the Spine Race....

KIT/ NUTRITION

All of the links take you to our Ultrarunning Store. Slightly shameless but in case you are actually interested this might be useful!

Footwear: La Sportiva Akasha II. One pair used throughout.
Socks: Drymax Golf, Active Duty, Trail and Max Pro Trail. Four pairs total.
Bottom Half: La Sportiva Ultra Short. La Sportiva Rapid Short (old). La Sportiva Drizzle Pants temperorarily on final climb. 
Top Half: Regular Running Tees in the Day. La Sportiva Jubilee Base Layer for Warmth at night. La Sportiva Odyssey GTX Jacket in the rain. La Sportiva Blizzard Windproof on and off throughout the entire race. 
Head: Various caps, plus Pat's warm hat for final climb
Headlamps: Two Petzl Swift RL's with spare batteries, on rotation. Everything you ever need in a easy to pack headlamp. Low beam for climbs, medium setting for descents.
Pack: An old Salomon S/Lab 8 Set, switched to a Sense Pro 10 for one section. 
Waist Band: Naked band for additional supplies
Poles: Leki Ultratrail FX.One. Superb kit. Had to wear an additional glove under the hand grip on just my right hand due to blisters on my palm.
Nutrition: Approximately 200 S! Caps. Maurten 160 and 320 mix for all climbs. Gu Gels for the first 36 hours. Then moved to chocolate. Piles of aid station food. Zero stomach issues.
Watch: Garmin Fenix 6X Pro, failed at 60 hours.

 

30 Aug 22 by James Elson

Chiltern Wonderland 50 2022 Preview

 

Our third 50 miler of the year is happening on Saturday 17th September 2022 and it is set up, as always, to be a cracker. This is such a popular event with our community, in fact this years race sold out all the way back in February!

We welcome 250 runners to Goring once again, to embark on a 50 mile loop of the Chiltern Hills. It is a magnificent place to spend all day running and many come away simply staggered by how beautiful and remote this course is. It is far from easy, with the climb totalling towards 5500ft, however there are plenty of faster miles to be found along the way, especially over the last nine miles. There is always a reward for those who have saved something for the final kick.

Below is a preview of the likely main contenders in the womens and mens events. Live Tracking every step of the way will be available via www.centurionrunning.com/live in the days leading up to the race and from 0830 on race day.

WOMEN

Sarah Hill: Sarah was South Downs Way 50 champion in 2021 and had previously finished first or second in all of the ultras she'd run, including Race to the Stones, several Pilgrims Challenge events and the Fox Ultra. In 2022 she has so far picked up a seventh at the SDW50 and an eighth at the NDW50. It will be great to see what she can do on this course.

Rachel Lindley: A whole string of top ten performances over the past few years for Rachel, with most in the 50 mile range. 2022 has so far featured a fifth at the Arc 50, a sixth at SDW50 and a fifth at the NDW50, placing her one above Sarah Hill in both of those events. In four previous NDW50's that she's run she's come home in the top ten.

Miki Neant: Miki was fourth at the Thames Path 100 this year in a blazing fast 17:54. A second at last years Country to Capital in a time of 5:53 for the 43 miles, also a stand out run. 

Sophie Biggs: Third at this years NDW50, setting a new FV50 record in the process. In the last two years she's picked up a second and a fourth at CTS ultras in the 33-35 mile range and a fourth at the Keswick Trail 50km.

Tamsin Neale: Seventh at Country to Capital in 2021. Second at Amersham Ultra 50km with XNRG earlier this year and finished eleventh at the SDW50 back in April.

Natasha Mansell: No ultras to her name it seems, but has a sub 3 hour marathon behind her and has run an impressive 84 minute half already this year.

Gemma Buley: Eighth here in 2018 and ninth at this years South Downs Way 50. 

Ann Bath: Ann will not be troubling the front of the field in the overall race but she will, if she should finish, become our first ever FV70 finisher. Let's cross everything she makes history on this day!!!

MEN

Jack Blackburn: Arguably the favourite for the mens race, Jack has been a consistent performer particularly over this distance, for a long time now. Stand out more recent results include a 6:20 second place at the South Downs Way 50 last year. Two wins at Race to the King. A third place at Wendover Woods 50 and a number of other podium places at events ranging from 50km to 12 hours.

Mark Lynch: Last month Mark won the North Downs Way 100. He has shown already that he can bounce back fast, as he is in for the Double Slam where so far somewhat amazingly, he leads the 100 mile table and sits second in the 50 mile table (see Slam tables here). His best at this race in the past was a fourth place in 2021 in a sub 8 hour time.

Paul Russhard: Paul is one of the all time favourites at our events, for his quiet but strong demeanour, always thanking everyone involved for their help along the way and putting in some truly epic do or die races over the years. He has come so close to winning on numerous occassions but each time the top step of the podium has just eluded him - his closest was a second at the NDW50 in 7:01. His best at this event was a fifth in a competitive race in 2017, where he ran 7:37. He is in good shape this year with a 2:49 marathon in May. Can he go all the way this time.

Gwilym Satchel: Third at the 2020 Autumn 100 in 16:09, a smashing time on a course which travels around the same area.

Jacek Cieluszecki: Jacek won the CTS Exmoor Ultra in 2020, as well as the 55km Exmoor Coast Ultra. He has a 4th place at the North Coast 110km from 2021 in his recent past too.

Adam Lucas-Lucas: A strong sub 24 hour finish at the Arc of Attrition this year. 

Jacob James: No ultras to his name so far, but has run a 2:41 and a 2:42 marathon in 2022 so far. 

Nick Dawson: Looks like his first ultra but this year has a 67 minute half marathon at Paddock Wood which is quite frankly, about as fast a time as we've seen for a half for runners at our events. Could be interesting viewing.  

30 Jul 22 by James Elson

NDW100 2022 Preview

 

Our fourth 100 mile race of the 2022 season takes place this coming weekend - the twelfth edition of the North Downs Way 100. Our first event back in 2011 this race is always a special one for us. The point to point course from Farnham in the west down to Ashford in the east is a tough one. At 103 miles, with 10,000 feet of climb, the numbers are big but underfoot is often where this race is most challenging due to the steps and stairs, most prevalent in the second and fourth quarter of the race. The course records say it all - both held by Centurion Ultra Team members. 18:34 for the women run by Debs Martin-Consani all the way back in 2016. 15:18 for the men, run by Mark Darbyshire in 2019. Can anyone get close this time? Here are the likely contenders at the sharp end.

WOMEN

Amelie Karlsson: Whilst this looks to be her her second 100 miler, her results at previous ultras suggest she has all the speed to go well and that this course will suit her. Top tens at international events such as 100 miles of Istria, Mozart 100 and Ultravasan 90km are coupled with wins at Coastal Trail Series events over the last couple of years.

Jennifer Sangster: Has raced twice with us so far in 2022, finishing fourth at the NDW50 and more recently placing third at Wendover Woods Night 50km. She was third at the TP100 in 2021, so she has proved she can run well over a good range and over this terrain.

Linn Erixon Sahlstrom: No stranger to our events, she has been running ultras for over ten years and has some great results behind her. Last year she was third at the Autumn 100 in 19:05. She has won the Jurassic Coast 100 twice, as well as UTS50 in 2019.

Anna Brown: Second at Robin Hood 100 in 2020 and went on to win Gloucester 24hr that year. In 2021 she was third at Race to the Stones amongst other top ten placings in a few shorter ultras. This year she ran home eleventh at the SDW100 in a time just over 20 hours.

Sarah Challans: Lots of podium and top ten finishes at a range of shorter ultras in the past four years for Sarah. This year she won the River Aire Ultra (50 miles) in April.

Tina Bergman: Second at Al Andalus in 2017, a year when she also won the Tring Ultra 50km with XNRG. In 2020 she finished third at Country to Capital.

MEN

Pete Windross: Pete needs know introduction amongst our community. Twice Grand Slam 100 mile finisher. Past winner of both the Thames Path 100 and the South Downs Way 100, a race he was second at this year. His best at this event, where he goes for a sixth finish, was third in 2021.

Simen Holvik: Simen has excelled at the 24 hour distance in recent years, twice running 253km+ for event wins, with a 100 mile split of 14:06 at Gloucester in 2019. He has shown his range by running a 3:16 50km and is happy on trail too, so putting everything together here will make for very interesting viewing.

Lloyd Biddell: Perhaps the Wild Card here, Lloyd is by far the quickest runner in the field over shorter distances with a 2:20 marathon PB. His only ultra looks to be a very solid 11th place at the Marathon Des Sables.

Mark Lynch: Mark has been gradually making his mark at our 100s over the last several years. Last year he ran his best finish of fourth at this event in 18:45. This year he has already finished 4th at the TP100 and 5th at the SDW100, both almost bang on 16:30 finish times. He will surely be looking to keep his streak of top performances going here.

Mark Lynch at the NDW100 in 2021

Matt Gallagher: Third at the Thames Path 100 in 2021 in 16:21 and has this year so far finished third twice, at the Fox Ultra and St Peters Way 45 mile.

Guy Hudson: Like Mark, Guy has been steadily improving over the years, to the stage where he ran on to his first Centurion podium in April at the South Downs Way 50. In 2019 he had top ten finishes at SDW50, NDW50 and CW50. This looks to be his first 100 miler.

James Bennett: James probably takes the crown as most prolific 100 mile+ ultra distance runner on the circuit, at this moment in time. This year he has already finished at least ten 100's. He has also managed to be competitive in some of those, his best being a win at the Dublin to Belfast ultra in April. 

FOLLOW LIVE

The race starts at 0600 on Saturday 6th August. The Leaderboard and Live Tracking will be available via this link over race weekend.

For 2023, our Wendover events will be back but across one weekend, as part of a Festival of Running.

The date will be 7th - 9th July 2023 and the line up will be as follows:

Wendover Woods 100 mile is back for a third edition. With a start time of 1000 on Friday 7th July and a cut off of 32 hours, it will kick start the weekend of festivities.

Wendover Woods 50 will start at 0930 on Saturday 8th July. Moving from November into the summer will change up the challenge of this event, which will still act as one of our four, 50 Mile Grand Slam races. The cut off remains at 15 hours.

Wendover Woods Night 50km will start at 2100 on Saturday 8th July, with a cut off of 9 and a half hours. It will bring the weekend to a close at 0630 on Sunday morning.

Wendover Woods 10 mile will be a new event for 2023 and an opportunity to involve a much broader group of runners. 

Wendover Woods kids race will be our second kids event and will obviously be the highlight of the weekend!

Around the races, runners, friends and family will be welcome to camp and hang out with the wider community as we have use of our regular field but also the adjacent field, expanding out the races into a full weekend of action. 

The site will be open from 0800 Friday until midday on Sunday.

There will be opportunities to catch speakers/ talks. Try out demo kit from some of leading in store brands and sponsors. As well as access food/ drink on site across the weekend. 

Stay tuned to the website in the second half of August for full details and opportunites to register.

7 Jun 22 by James Elson

Film: The Extra Mile

 

A film by Steve Ashworth, The Extra Mile tells the story behind the Centurion Track 100 and some of the record breaking performances seen at the 2022 Event.

 

7 Jun 22 by James Elson

SDW100 2022 Preview

 

It's race five of our season this weekend and it's the big one. The 2022 South Downs Way 100. This race has always held a special place for us and for many of our runners and with conditions set to be warm but dry for this years' edition, we can't wait to get started. 

A field of approximately 425 runners are expected and within that number are some exciting contenders to the womens' and mens' events as well as a couple of others who deserve special mention, perhaps most notably Elaine Battson, who is looking to become the first person to finish 10 editions of the event (a full breakdown of all of our historic race stats can be found here). 

Also within the starting field is one Mark Perkins. Mark was one of the original members of our Ultra Team back in 2013-2015 and was a shining light in our sport. Amongst many other sensational performances he ran and set what is still the course record of 14:03 here in 2014. He was dealt an injury blow not long after which essentially ruled him out of the sport but he returns for this edition, an event which obviously still holds a special place for him. He won't be pushing the sharp end, just looking to make it to Eastbourne and enjoy the day along the way but it is wonderful to see him back able to even consider starting.

Both the mens but also the womens course records, are our longest standing. Jean Beaumont's 16:56 from 2013 hasn't been touched since. But there are athletes this year capable of running close to both. Will either finally tumble?

A quick recap of the 2021 event to whet the appetite!

 

WOMEN

Alice Robinson: Alice won the last edition of this event in 18:48. It is fantastic to see the reigning champion back on the start line again.

Bethan Male: Bethan warmed up to this nicely with a win at the SDW50 in April with the fourth fastest time ever of 7:12. She led the Autumn 100 with blistering splits last October before an injury stopped her just 25 miles from the finish. With a host of ultra wins behind her this is her second bid for a first 100 mile finish and it will be great to see her get it done. 

Bethan Male: Photo Stuart March Photography

Hannah Rickman: Our 2021 North Downs Way 100 Champion, Hannah started 2022 with an impressive second at the Spine Challenger North.

Hannah Rickman (Stuart March Photography)

Nicola Soraghan: Nicola came home second at the NDW50 last month. She won our Wendover Woods Night 50km last July. She is also looking for her first 100 mile finish.

Nicola Soraghan

Claire Howard: A star of the Hardmoors events Claire has won the 30, the 55, the 60 and 110 with them! Already in 2022 she has run a 7:12 50 miler at the Manchester to Liverpool Ultra for second place. 

Samantha Lloyd: Sam was third here in 2019 in 21:24. A year when she also placed fifth at the Chiltern Wonderland 50. 

Anna Brown: Anna was second at the Robin Hood 100 in 2020 in 19:10 before going on to win Gloucester 24hr in late October. In 2021 she was third at Race to the Stones.

Ellie Baverstock: Has started 2022 well with a win at the Fox Ultra and the Devil's Challenge which takes place on the South Downs Way over three days.

Julie Pickering: Fifth at the South Downs Way 50 this year in a time of 8:08. Previous winner of the Northants Ultra.

Dani Battersby: Dani finished third at the SDW50 this year in 8 hours flat.

Jackie Stretton: Jackie is a very experienced runner and amongst her credentials, she's finished Lakeland 100 six times. In 2021 she placed second at the Spine Challenger Summer and back in April finished the 190 mile Northern Traverse in fourth place.

 

MEN

Rich Mcdowell: 2021 SDW50 winner, Rich then went on to set the Thames Path 100 course record, becoming the first man to break the magic 14 hour barrier at one of our trail 100s. The 2:21 marathoner has to be the man to beat here and with his detailed preparation will no doubt have an eye on the course record. His 2022 started well with a 4:57 for the win at the 43 mile Country to Capital in atrocious conditions.

Rich Mcdowell: Photo Stuart March Photography

Peter Windross: The 2021 champion in a time of 15:30, Peter has become one of the most consistent performers at our events. Later last year he also broke the 14 hour mark, this time at the Autumn 100 where unbeliveably he missed out on the win by just 10 seconds. 2022 started for him with a tilt at the Vet 50 100 mile record at our Track 100, but ended early. That being said he set a new British 6 hour Mens Vet 50 record of 82km before calling it a day hours later.

Pete Windross: Photo by David Miller

Matt Blackburn: Matt has dozens of solid ultra finishes under his belt at everything from Spartathlon to 24hr events down through to 50km. But he is perhaps best known for providing the assist to John Stockers then World Record at the Suffolk Backyard Ultra, where Matt ran 536km.

Matt Duckett: Matt won the Devon Coast to Coast ultra last year over 190km, before coming 7th at the Autumn 100 in a strong 16:32. He was fourth at the Spine Challenger this January.

Ash Varley: Won the unofficial award for best paced race at the TP100 earlier this year on route to fifth place in 16:39. Seventh at the SDW50 earlier this year. He finished second at the 2020 North Downs Way 100.

Chris Kelly: Two time winner of the SVP100km and course record holder by a country mile with an 8:09 in 2020.

Alex Tate: Fourth at the 2019 NDW100 and winner of the Thames Trot in the same year.

Jose Rodriguez: Fifth at Chiltern Wonderland 50 in 2020. Won Ultra X's Scotland 125km last year but against a relatively small field of 35.

Barry Bryant: It appears Barry has seven ultra finishes and seven wins to his name - five of those coming at various Green Man ultra events and two at the Ox 50.

Marius Posa: Second at Country To Capital this year in 5:28. Does not look to have gone over 50 miles before.

Paul Broadway: Second at the 2018 Robin Hood 100 in 17:49 and third at our Wendover Woods Night 50km last year.

Matthew John: Second at our Wendover Woods 50 last year and a third at Lakeland 50 back in 2016.

 

As always you can follow the race Live via our Tracking Page and the Leaderboard via the link that will appear on the homepage. Race starts in two waves at 0500 and 0600 on Saturday 11th June.

11 May 22 by James Elson

NDW50 2022 Preview

 

The eleventh edition of the North Downs Way 50 is right around the corner. Kicking off from 0700 on Saturday 21st May, below is a list of the possible front runners in the womens and mens events. A field of 300 is expected to start this one, with the ambition as ever, of making it to the finish under 13 hours. 

WOMEN

Sarah Hill: Our 2021 SDW50 champion, Sarah has a raft of wins behind her on the ultra scene including Race to the Stones, The Druids Challenge and the Fox Ultra. Earlier this year she was 7th at the SDW50 but only because of a time penalty she received along with a group of runners who accidentally took the wrong turn resulting in an unintential course cut. It will be great to see her back racing here to make amends for that and get a result she deserves.

Amy-Jo Clarke: Three ultras and three wins in 2021 including Race to the Stones, The Fox Ultra and Endurancelife's CTS Exmoor.

Nicola Soraghan: Won our 2021 Wendover Woods Night 50km. Went on to finish sixth at UTS 50km and third at the Ecotrail Wicklow 80km later that year. 

Nicola Soraghan

Kat Short: Third at the SDW50 this year after beating fourth by literally a few metres. Has also taken a fourth at Chiltern Wonderland 50 in the past, though a while ago.

Rachel Lindley: Some very solid runs of late with a fith at the Arc 50 and a sixth at the SDW50 already in 2022. Finished ninth at this race in 2021.

Dawn Godwin: Has twice run 3 hours dead for a marathon but this looks to be her first ultra.

 

MEN

Ed Knudsen: Possibly the favourite coming in to this. He has been second here before in 6:50, just 4 minutes behind Stuart Leaney. Previous winner of the Chiltern Wonderland 50 in a superb 6:34, he has also taken second at that race another time as well as second at the SDW50 in 6:18. He's had a strong start to the year with a second at Country to Capital in a steady 5:17. 

Ed Knudsen

Luke Davies: This years SDW50 champion in 6:49:10.

Daniel Weller: Daniel is off to quite the start in 2022 with a win at the Lakes Traverse and a second at the North Downs Ridge 50km just a fortnight ago. Has previously won the Grand Tour of Skiddaw and the Beacons 50 amongst others. 

Ben Gibbon: Winner of the Fox Ultra in 2020 an 2022. Regular sub 2:30 marathoner.

Ed Fisher: Third at the 2016 Autumn 100. Several other podium positions at shorter ultras to his name in the UK. Has also raced some longer stuff including UTMB and Western States.

Oliver Knowles: Winner 2021 Eden Valley Ultra Trail. 1:15 Half Marathon.

Samuel Anderson: A good number of consistent top ten finishes to his name. Stand outs a 4th at the WW50 in 2021 and 4th at the CW50 in 2020.

Andrew Classey: 5th at the 2021 Wendover Woods 50. Won the Hangman Ultra earlier that year.

John Borton: 2:33 Marathon at London in 2021. No ultras to his name.

Follow the race live via our tracking page which will be available here from 0700 on Saturday 21st May 2022.

3 May 22 by James Elson

TP100 2022 Preview

The eleventh edition of the Thames Path 100 is upon us. A stunning, incredibly flat journey from London to Oxford along the banks of the Thames awaits 300 eager (some of them!) starters and we can't wait to kick off our trail 100 season in great style. 

The mens course record fell a long way last year with Richard Mcdowell posting a 13:43. The womens still stands at 16 hours flat, run by none other than Sam Amend who set a new British 100 mile womens record at our Track 100 less than a fortnight ago. 

The womens field this time looks particurlarly interesting with a lot of potentially competitive athletes. The mens looks much more open.

One thing is for sure, the course is in fast condition, with very little rain to speak of lately and a largely dry forecast between now and race day. Here are some of the likely contenders for the overall positions.

WOMEN

Ingrid Lid: Ingrid was second here in 2019 in a time of 17:34. One of our past NDW100 champions, the Norwegian athlete has taken things to the next level over the past six months, lowering her 100 mile PB to 15:10 at the Bislett 24hr and running home the winner of the Bergen Ultra 100km just a month ago. 

Ali Young: Stalwart of the GB 24hr team, Ali racked up a 100 mile PB at our Track 100 last year running 15:41 for a new National Age Group record. She can run the trails too however and crucially, bearing in mind the profile of this race, won the GUCR in a solid 28:35 in 2019.

Ali Young at the 2021 Track 100

Zoe Murphy: Winner of our 2020 Autumn 100 in 18:23. A memorable run that day and one she will no doubt be keen to repeat!

Zoe Murphy - 2020 A100 Champion

Sarah Morwood: Has won no less than eight of our races including this event back in 2014. Has represented GB on the Trails and in the 24hr format and has a 100 mile PB of 16:13 putting her in rarified company on the all-time list. It is great to have her back racing after recovering from her car accident and operation in recent years. 

Ally Whitlock: Ally ran home fourth at the 2021 SDW100 having previously also finished fourth in the 50 two months prior.

Anna Brown: Third at Race to the Stones in 2021. 19:10 for second at the Robin Hood 100 in 2020 and went on to win Gloucester 24hr later that year with a 100 mile split of 19:30 along the way.

 

MEN

Tristan Stephenson: Shot to fame earlier this year when he nailed the Arc of Attrition in a stellar 20:01. If it hadn't been for one Mark Darbyshire the course record would have been his. Has several other wins behind him on the ultra circuit including the Serpent Trail 100km and the South West Traverse.

Ed Catmur: Ed has featured on probably more pre race previews than anyone else. He has finished no less than 24 of our 100s, so many of them podium places and wins. He was champion here in 2014. He showed in 2020 that he still has it, with a second at the A100 in a 100 mile PB of 15:38. This year he has already taken a solid third at the Lakes Traverse.

Ed Catmur

Julian Cazorla: Sixth here last year in 16:18, before going on to a prolific year of racing with second place at the Beacons 50, SVP 100km and our CW50. He then placed third in the Autumn 100 in a storming 15:02. 

Kallum Pritchard: Won the Robin Hood 100 in 2021 in 15:39, suggesting this race could be right up his street.

Matt Gallagher: Ran 16:21 here in 2021 for seventh. Several other top ten performances in shorter ultras preceeded that.

Ash Varley: Second at the NDW100 in 2020, Ash has more recently posted a top ten at the Autumn 100 and started the year well with a seventh at the SDW50 in a little over 7 hours.

Tom Kingham: 2021 Race to the Tower winner and then went on to a solid seventh at the NDW100 later that summer.

Craig Purle: Led our Chiltern Wonderland 50 for 50km last year before a big detour lost him all of his lead and more. Had finished second at Wendover Woods Night 50km in an excellent run, the previous July.

Daniel Moloney: 19:07 here in 2019. Third at Wendover Woods 50 in 2021 and fourth at the Arc 50 in January of this year.

 

As always you can follow the race live via our live tracking page which will be available here from 0930 this Saturday. A huge thank you to all of the volunteers who will make this weekend possible.

For 2023, there will be one new event in our calendar and one significant date change to be aware of. 

The 2023 season will start with the Hundred Hills 50km on March 18th and all regular race weekends will remain as they are, with the exception of Wendover Woods 50. 

After traditionally closing our season in November, we are bringing the Wendover Woods 50 into July, to run on the same weekend as the Wendover Woods 50km and, back for 2023, the Wendover Woods 100 mile.

The major impact here is on the 50 Mile Grand Slammers who will go to racing in April, May, July and September instead of April, May, September and November. Whilst that brings the calendar into a tighter period, there is still a good space between the NDW50, WW50 and the CW50. With changes to Foresty England policies we needed to combine the events into the one weekend. We are hopeful this will make for an incredible atmosphere over the July weekend. 

The below calendar is provisional except where listed as confirmed:

  • 18th March 2023: Hundred Hills 50km Confirmed
  • 8th April 2023: South Downs Way 50 Confirmed
  • 22nd April 2023: Track 100 Confirmed
  • 6th-7th May 2023: Thames Path 100 Confirmed
  • 20th May 2023: North Downs Way 50 Confirmed
  • 10th-11th June 2023: South Downs Way 100 Confirmed
  • 7th-9th July 2023: Wendover Woods 100/ 50 Mile and Night 50km Confirmed
  • 5th-6th August 2023: North Downs Way 100
  • 16th September 2023: Chiltern Wonderland 50
  • 14th-15th October 2023: Autumn 100

For 2023 our entry fees have risen to £105 for the 50 milers and £215 for the 100 milers.

The cost of organising events has shot up an incredible amount since the end of last season. Quite simply, we need to raise prices to maintain our team and the level of event we put on. Every aspect of the events have been subject to price rises. From the fuel, to the medical cover, to landlord charges, awards, food - everything has gone up, in most cases way in excess of the 10% rise.

We know this might come as a blow because these races are not cheap to enter. There is of course always the option of volunteering at any given race, to earn a free entry for that event the following year. It has always been the best way to get the most out of the sport - help others, learn about the events and come back and run them with that extra knowledge and experience.

Within entry fees for 2022 and beyond, we will also be offering all runners free on course photograpy, adding some extra value in. 

Thank you to all of you for your continued support. We will never take it for granted.

14 Apr 22 by James Elson

Track 100 2022 Preview

 

We are delighted to announce a starting field of 18 elite athletes for the third edition of our Track 100 Mile. With splits being taken at 50km, 50 mile, 100km, 6hr, 12hr and 100 mile, we expect to see a raft of national and international records go. With the right conditions several World Records are under threat with the calibre of the field. After the success of 2021 where new Mens World 100 mile and 12hr records were set along with 12 other National Open and Age Group Bests.

WOMEN

Camille Herron: 

Camille has list of accolades that is simply too long to do justice to her here. She is the current 100 mile, 12hr and 24hr World Record Holder. Former 50km and 100km World Champion. Camille's vein of form is richer now than ever before. Having turned 40 in December she has already established new age group marks on her way to a new 100 mile world record at the Jackpot 100 in February. Camille will be focused on setting new best World 12hr and 100 mile marks here along with a raft of new Age Group and Overall US marks.

Camille Herron

Dominika Stelmach:

Dominika is the European 100km record holder, with the fourth fastest womens 100km of all-time. Second on the all-time list for 6 hours. Tenth on the all-time list for 50km. Her 2022 has already seen a second at the highly competitive Black Canyons 100km on the trail. Dominika is focused on 6hr and 12hr World Records here.

Dominika Stelmach

Samantha Amend:

Sam ran a new British 100 mile record at this event last year of 14:34:03. She has earned international vests at the 50km, 100km and 24hr formats. Previous 100km British Champion she ran her way back on to the British Team for 2022 with a 7:48 for second at the ACP in Perth at the start of April.

Sam Amend running a new GB Record at last years event (photo: Steve Ashworth)

Jo Zakrzewski:

Previous British 100km Champion, with a best of 7:31 for that distance (fourth all-time GB). A 24hr best of 236.561km (sixth all-time GB) which saw her clock a 14:47 100 mile split on route. Jo has achieved incredible success over every distance and terrain type. 

Cat Simpson:

Team GB 24hr runner and one of our Centurion Ultra Team, Cat has a PB of 221.435km over that format, where she recorded a 15:34 100 mile split on the way. 

Cat Simpson (Photo: Norbert Mihalik)

Eloise Eccles:

Eloise ran 214.4km at Gloucester last year, which included a 16:48 100 mile split.

Johanna Oregan:

Jo is a 2:41 Marathoner with that best mark set in 2020.

 

WHEELCHAIR

Claudia Burrough:

Claudia will be aiming for a new World 100 mile Wheelchair record here. As far as records go there are no recorded British marks over this distance at all and from the US the best global mark appears to be in excess of two days. Claudia races all distance and terrain types and in 2020, covered 100 miles in 15:20 on her way to winning our virtual 100 mile One Community event.

 

MEN

Aleksandr Sorokin:

Aleksandr 'Sania' Sorokin set new 100 mile and 12 hour World Records at this event last year. He has since gone on to better his 11:14, with a 10:51:39 100 mile split in Israel and lifted his 12 Hour Record to 177.41km at the same time. In 2021 he also ran possibly his greatest ever race, clocking 309.400km for 24 hours in Poland, breaking the 'unbreakable' record of Yiannis Yourous. This time he will focus on the 100km distance. 

Aleksandr Sorokin at last years Track 100 (photo: Steve Ashworth)

Mark Innocenti:

Ran 12:34 to finish second to Aleksandr at this race in 2021. Represented England at the ACP just two weeks ago and ran 7:00 for eighth so may aim for a shorter distance mark, this time.

Mark Innocenti, Front (Photo Steve Ashworth)

James Stewart

Team GB 24hr team regular James has had a run of very consistent results at that format over the last 6 years, with a PB of 258km. Has represented Scotland over 100km with a PB of 7:25. He has also won Rocky Raccoon 100 in 13:39 as well as the WHW Race.

Alex Whearity

24hr PB of 257km set at Crawley in 2021, which he followed up with a superb 23:25 win at the GUCR 145 just 7 weeks later.

Mike Stocks

24hr PB of 249.15km and a 100 mile best of 14:17, split in that event in Tooting. Past winner of the TP100 and third at British 100km champs in 2018.

Mike Stocks (Photo Steve Ashworth)

Peter Windross

A 100 mile PB of 13:59 set on the trails (unratified as a result) at the Autumn 100 in 2021. 24hr PB of 231km on the track and 15:15 for 100 miles. Will be looking for V50 British records.

Peter Windross (Photo Stuart March Photography)

Alastair Higgins

Fourth at Spartathlon in 2019. Twice winner of Belfast to Dublin Ultra. 

Ian Hammett

TP100 winner in 2019 in 14:36. 100 mile track PB 14:54 at Gloucester in 2021.

Peter Abraham

24hr PB of 231km and a 100 mile best of 14:37, split in that event in Tooting 2021 where he won the race.

Thomas Lepers

100km PB of 7:24. Ran 7:36 at the French 100km Championships in 2021.

6 Apr 22 by James Elson

SDW50 2022 Preview

Our 2022 season opener is here, the tenth edition of what has always been one of our most popular events - the South Downs Way 50.

Both of our mens and womens fastest 50 mile times have been set on this course. Tom Evans' 5:44 from 2018 and Julia Davis' 6:54 from 2019 stand as the times to beat. There is good reason to believe one or both could be under threat from the high calibre field who toe the line this coming Saturday.

Live Tracking is available here and the Leaderboard will update live through every checkpoint here

Here's a quick snap shot of the likely key conetenders for the overall wins.

WOMEN

Anna-Marie Watson: The La Sportiva athlete has been one of the most successful British runners on the world stage over the last several years. She has finished Top Ten regularly at headline international events such as UTMB, Laveredo, TGC, Grand Trail Courmayeur, MDS (twice). On home soil she has won events on the SDW before and knows the trail.

Bethan Male: Bethan led the way at the Autumn 100 last October for the first 100km on a blistering pace before injury stopped her in her tracks. There is so much more to come over the longer stuff from her, this one being a stepping stone towards the SDW100 in June. Her biggest wins in the past have been against very large fields at both Lakeland 50 and the Beacons Ultra.

Bethan Male

Laura Swanton-Rouvelin: Laura has been one of the most consistent performers at events of all distances in recent years. Her list of accolades is long. Starting out in 2017 she went long quickly and won our Grand Slam in 2018 with 4 stellar races, three podium finishes culminated in a win at the Autumn 100. Since then she has gone on to set the course record at our Chiltern Wonderland 50, won the Arc of Attrition and the Ridgeway amongst others. She raced Bethan over a 100km on the SDW last June and Bethan came out on top so it will be interesting to see how the race unfolds this time - especially as Laura finished the Spine this past January!

Sarah Hill: Last years winner here she has quite the run of ultra victories including Race to the Stones and the Fox Ultra twice. Her time of 8:45 from last year will need to move up significantly one would think if she is to retain her crown.

Sarah Hill on her way to winning the SDW50 in 2021

Claire Kanja: Claire finished second at both the Wendover Woods Night 50km and 50 mile in 2021. That followed a second at the Autumn 100 in 2020 - her third consecutive top ten there. Another younger runner like Bethan with a bright future ahead. 

Rose Penfold: With a 2:48 marathon PB and an 82 minute Half at Cambridge earlier this year, on paper she is as fast as any other lady in the field and that could make for very interesting racing on a course as fast and runnable as this.

Liz Steward: Previous winner at Portsmouth Coastal 50km, CTS Dorset and the Druids Challenge. 

Gemma Buley: Has a 2:59 marathon PB and a couple of top tens in 50 mile ultras including the CW50 and NDW50.

MEN

Harry Jones: The stand out athlete in the field by quite a stretch. The GB international has finished on the podium at many of the worlds leading ultras. With top ten finishes at TGC, Tarawera, CCC, Eiger Ultra Trail, Ultra Trail Australia and many more besides. 

Lyndon Cooper: Lyndon took second at the 2021 NDW50 in 7:10 Previously also fourth at the Ridgeway Challenge and SVP 100km and fifth at Wendover Woods 50. Has a range of other UK ultra wins and podiums over recent years.

Seb Betouret: Our 2021 Wendover Woods 100 champion. A prolific racer this is likely a bit short and a bit flat for him to be competitive at the very top.

Jack Oates: 3:01 at Stort 30 and wins at a couple of other 50km events. 

Luke Davis: 11th here in 2021 in 7:18. 2:33 marathon suggests he could go a lot quicker.

Andrea Fraquelli: Ran a 2:29 at London last year. He also finished second at the Lea Valley 50km in 3:16 and sixth at the Serpentr Trail 50km.

John Stoddart: Second at the Steyning Stinger last month and a strong marathon pedigree.

Tom Ridsdale: Winner of the 2020 Thames Trot in 6:11. 2:39 marathon from the same year.

Nick Williams: Has done well at CTS events in the past with a win at the Gower Ultra. In 2022 he has already scored a third at the South Devon event.

Stuart Farmer: 2:33 marathoner run at London last autumn but has only a few ultras to his name.

Stephen Peck: 2:40 marathon, looks like his first ultra.

We are shocked and saddened beyond words, at what we are currently witnessing with regards to the unprovoked and unprecedented attack by Russia on Ukraine. It is so hard to know what action to take. We all feel helpless. But also because action punishes individuals who want nothing to do with Putin’s regime.

Nevertheless take a stand we must, silence will not solve this problem.

As a result we have taken the decision to prevent any Russian or Belarussian athletes from running in our events under their national flags, they may compete as neutrals only. Entry fees from Russian and Belarussian athletes will be donated in full to Unicef’s fund for the children of Ukraine. In addition, all of the money taken from food and drinks sales at all of our events will go directly to the same fund.

Sport should unite not divide. But we have to unanimously send the message to Russia and Belarus that this war will not stand.

Our hearts go out to the people of Ukraine.

3 Nov 21 by James Elson

WW50 2021 Preview

The season finale is here! Wendover Woods 50 is back for the fifth time, after the cancellation of this race in 2020 due to the pandemic, some runners have been waiting a long time for this opportunity.

Conditions look excellent, with forecasted temperatures in the 8-11 degree range throughout Saturday, low winds and what will be an amazing day in the woods.

This race is not only the end of the 2021 Grand Slam of 50s but also the 2020 Grand Slam. 30 have waited since November 2020 to finish their Grand Slam, having started it in April 2020. 53 additional Slammers will finish the 2021 Grand Slam if they al make it to the finish within the 15 hour cut off.

Our final preview of the year focuses on the likely contenders for overall positions in the men's and women's races.

WOMEN

Rachel Fawcett: Rachel has had a really consistent string of results since entering the sport. In 2017 she won the Chiltern Wonderland 50 and took third at the SDW100. In 2018 she finished fourth in all four of our 100s, going on to the Grand Slam. She improved on that in 2019 when she cleared up in the 50 mile slam, including a second at this event and another win at Chiltern Wonderland. Earlier this year she won the Jurassic Coast 100. She is definitely the one to beat here.

Rachel Fawcett (Photo: Stuart March Photography)

Claire Kanja: Claire was second at the Night 50km here back in July. In 2020 she finished second at the Autumn 100, which followed an 8th and a 6th there over the preceding years. Her improvement has been great to watch.

Dominique James: Had an incredible 2020 with third place at all three of our 100 milers. 

Samantha Lloyd: Sam was fourth here in 2018 and in 2019, chalked up a third at the SDW100 and fifth at the Chiltern Wonderland 50.

Rachel Lindley: 15th here in 2019, but has four top tens across the NDW50 and SDW50 to her name which suggests she can go a lot better here this time.

Karen Doak: Karen won the Chester Ultra 100 mile earlier this year and has previous experience both of this course and going super long. 

Teresa Reason: Winner of the Pilgrims Challenge in 2019, the Chiltern Ridge Ultra in 2020 and eighth at this years NDW100.

Paula Williams: Paula is on her way to the Grand Slam and has a fifth at the SDW50 and a sixth at the CW50 in September. Her NDW50 was a little slower. 

Kerry Cooper: Right behind Paula at each of the 50s so far, it's a very close battle at the top of the Grand Slam 50 table. 

MEN

Charlie Harpur: Charlie hasn't raced since 2019 as the pandemic and cancellation of international championship events wiped out the calendar. But, he is back. In 2019 he became British 100km Champion with a 6:44 over the distance in Perth. He also placed third at the highly competitive Ultra Vasan and won both the Beacons Ultra and Gloucester 50km (2:59:59!). Centurion fans will remember him from his 2018 win at the SDW100 in 15:01. Running for our Ultra Team in 'The Real Yellow Jersey' we are so delighted to see him back.

Charlie Harpur (Photo:@runningisdead)

David I'anson: Past winner of the Oner, won the Druids Ridgeway Challenge in a solid time in 2019. Coming off the back of an 8th at UTS 100km, a super tough course, back in September.

Matthew John: Third at Lakeland 50 back in 2016 but the owner of a 2:28 marathon PB back in the day. As a North Leeds Fell Runner he will surely have some hill legs too.

Tom Ridsdale: Won the Thames Trot in 2020 in 6:11, alongside a 2:39 marathon in the same year, on the road.

Mark Shannon: Eleventh and eighth here in the past but has finished as high as third in the Night 50km over this same course in July.

Rhys Roberts: Third at this years Chiltern Wonderland 50 in 7:46.

 

Follow all of the action live here from 0930 on Saturday 6th November.

14 Oct 21 by James Elson

A100 2021 Preview

 

This weekend is the finale of our 100 mile season. It'll be our sixth 100 of 2021 and the last one in the Grand Slam of four trail 100s. Our staff and volunteers love this race, because they get to see runners coming and going throughout the entire event. The cross shaped format of four, twenty five mile out and backs makes it a unique set up amongst our races.

This year, we welcome what are relatively deep fields for both the mens and womens events, given that we only allow a maximum of 250 starters here. It is probably our fastest 100 mile course (with the exception of the Track 100 of course) and this year conditions are about as good as they are ever going to get. The trails are in good shape, the weather forecast is for a dry weekend, with low winds and with temperatures at an ideal 10 - 15 degrees throughout, will we see records tumble? 

This is a runners course. There are no hills to speak of and one of the major challenges for the front runners is running well over the long distance, without the hike breaks you would typically factor in on 100 mile trail routes. We have some really fast runners down for this one!

MEN

Rob Turner: Rob comes in with the right formula of tremendous 100km road speed plus trail pedigree and makes him potentially the outstanding contender for this one. He was British 100km Champion in 2018 running 7 hours flat at Redwick, going on to represent GB at the format later that year. Then in 2019 he ran faster again, going 6:51 for the distance, finishing second behind our own Ultra Team member Charlie Harpur. His has had wins and podium finishes on the trails around Scotland where he is based, including at the Glen Ogle 33, Devil o' the Highlands and the River Ayr Challenge. This looks to be his first 100, so there is still a reach here.

Jacob Snochowski: La Sportiva Team runner Jacob began running ultras in 2015. Based in the Lakes, prior to 2020, his best results included wins at the Cumbria Way Ultra, Hardmoors 55 and Grand Tour of Skiddaw. Last year he had a superb run at the classic Hardmoors 110 where he set a new course record of 19:45. Then back in May of this year, he took the win at The Lap - Windermere over a really solid field. This will be his first outing at a flat trail 100 but he has prior experience of flat trails too, having done well at the Canalathon over 100km.

Jacob Snochowski (Photo c/o Steve Ashworth Media)

Peter Abraham: A super run at Battersea 24hr just four weeks ago, clocking 14:37 for 100 miles before going on to 231km total. Is four weeks enough recovery for him? Other stand out results include third here in 2017 in 15:57 and fifth at the SDW100 earlier this year.

Pete Windross: Mr. Consistent in 2021 looks to extend his run of 4th (TP100), 1st (SDW100), 3rd (NDW100) and round out a Grand Slam victory for the year. He won't challenge John Melbourne's 61:38 total time as he'll need a 13:01 to do so, but, he will certainly be looking at the second fastest cumulative time in history.

Ed Catmur: Running our events since day one, he won this race back in 2013. He will be going for finish number eight here and is still improving, with his best a 15:38 here last year for second. He is into well over 30 x 100 mile finishes now, making him one of the most experienced runners not only in the field, but in the UK.

Paul Russhard: On the scene since 2012 and has run many of our events. Best finishes include a second at both the NDW50 and the NDW100. 7th here in 2019 in 17:39 but he can go much quicker.

Julien Cazorla: Julien is having quite the year, with at least eight ultra finishes in 2021, finishing no lower than 7th in any of them (SDW50 back in April). His stand out runs were a sixth at the TP100 in May as well as a second here in Goring, at the Chiltern Wonderland 50 just four weeks ago. 

Paul O'Sullivan: A varied collection of race finishes in his past including some races significantly tougher than this. UTMB, Moab 240 and Swiss Peaks 360 to name a few. He can also run on the flat however with a win at the Pilgrims Challenge this year back in June as well as plenty of top ten finishes at other shorter UK ultras.

Matt Duckett: Winner of the Devon Coast to Coast ultra (188km) in May this year. 

Harry Geddes: 4th at the TP100 earlier this year in 15:31. Winner of the Thames Trot in 2020. 6th at Race to the Stones. Should know the course!

Matt Gallagher: 7th at the TP100 earlier this year in 16:21. Second at the Trot last year behind Harry.

 

WOMEN

Debbie Martin-Consani: Debbie is in the unique position of having won each of our 100s (including the TP100 twice), with the exception of just this one and Wendover Woods.  She has run this race before, however, back in 2014 where she finished second. Debs is one of the most experienced and decorated ladies on the scene. She has represented GB in the 24hr format several times, won some of the more prestigious heritage UK events including Lakeland 100 and the GUCR. But has also raced some of the world's marquee ultras including UTMB, TDG and Spartathlon. 

Debbie Martin-Consani

Holly Rush: Holly is without doubt the quickest runner in the womens race, having made the transition to ultras, from racing the marathon for GB at both the Commonwealth and European Championships - she ran 2:37 several times on her road running journey. But she hasn't lost much of that speed in recent years, she just clocked a 2:48 at London. Ultra wise, she remains our NDW50 course record holder. She has wins at events including Ultravasan, Dartmoor Discovery and the Cotswold Way Century where she set a course record also. She has also competed on the world stage, with a 7th and an 8th at CCC respectively. There is no doubt, that if things go well she will be shooting at the British 100 mile trail record, set on this course by Susie Chesher and possibly by a long way. 

Holly Rush

Wendy Whearity: Wendy has finished 18 of our 100 milers including this race seven times. Yet to win, but on the podium at most of them, Wendy stepped away for a few years as she made her way onto the GB 24hr team and represented her country twice with really solid performances each time. She is back racing having had a baby and it's fantastic to see her back here.

Bethan Male: Five ultra finishes, made up of four wins and a second place. Bethan won Lakeland 50 in 2019 firmly stamping her mark on the UK scene. This is her first race with us and looks to be her first 100 miler, it will be fascinating to see how she goes. 

Linn Erixon-Sahlstrom: Linn is another experienced runner with a long list of ultra finishes, many of them wins. She has previously claimed victory at the Jurassic Coast 100 (twice), UTS 50 and CTS Sussex (twice). 

 

You can follow the race live via the leaderboard here and the tracking page here. Race start is 0830-0900 Saturday.