We are extremely excited to kick off the inaugural edition of the Winter Downs 200 - our first ever 200 miler - next Wednesday 13th December. After 13 years, 55 x 100 milers, 38 x 50 milers and a dozen or so additional events, this is new ground for us and it feels like an exciting new step forward.
The journey the participants will undertake is a 200 mile circuit of the North and South Downs, linked together by the Vanguard Way in the east, and the Wayfarers Walk and St. Swithuns Way in the west. The ciruit on the map looks either intimidatingly huge, or an incredible opportunity to traverse the best of Southern England - depending on your vantage point!
A sell out field of 100 runners will toe the line at this first edition. All applications were individually vetted for experience with minimum standards including 100 mile race finishes and/ or winter & mountain experience so the line up is full of some of the most experienced runners from our events but from further afield too. But as we turn to look at what could happen at the sharp end of the fields out on course, those who have gone beyond 100 before (especially in winter) and know how to manage the multi-day impacts of sleep deprivation, fueling, long sections without support, navigation and 16+ hours of darkness each day - are the ones to keep an eye on as the race moves into the latter stages.
21 women are amongst the 100 starters which is a higher proportion of female entrants than at events such as the NDW100, which whilst low is still notable and excellent to see.
But above all of this it is important to note that runners are allowed to run crewed, partially crewed or unsupported. That is entirely their choice. There are no separate categories but of course, those who choose to have a crew will have a very significant advantage in terms of options on changing clothes, nutrition & hydration needs and getting rest too. Only 20% of the field are choosing to run uncrewed and from what we know all of the potential front runners have support.
Before we have a look at the likely overall contenders in both the womens and mens fields, there are one or two special cases we need to mention....
Live tracking for the race is available from 0800 Wednesday 13th December via the tracking page here.
Not a term to be thrown around lightly in this sport but there are two athletes we need to draw attention to.
Ian Maddieson: At the age of 81, Ian becomes the oldest person ever to toe the line at one of our in person events. This year, he finished the Jackpot 100 in 37:15 and then went on to cover 241km in 72 hours at the Six Days in the Dome event in the US. British by birth, Ian lives out in New Mexico and during his extended stay in the US clocked up no less than 15 finishes at Western States amongst well over 150 other ultras including scores of 100 milers.
John Fanshawe: At 77 John is the second oldest runner in the field. He is however, much like Ken Fancett a few years his junior, a world class runner. He is the current V75 12hr, 24hr (180km) and 100 mile World Record holder with a time of 20:33. He is running internationally in his age group at the marathon distance clocking a 3:55 in 2022.
John Fanshawe (Photo c/o Stuart March)
Edwina Sutton: ******Edit 10/12/23 Eddie has withdrawn from the start list for 2023***** Eddie Sutton first came on to the Centurion scene back in 2013 when she had her first tilt at the South Downs Way 50. A career in Iron distance triathlon had preceded that, and she quickly became part of both our Ultra Team and our Coaching Team - roles which she still holds today! Although that first race didn't end well, she came back the following year and ran 7:09 on the course for a win and a course record that would stand for a long time. After some time out around the birth of her third child Evie, Eddie came back to win the Chiltern Wonderland 50 and finish second in the British 100km Champs in 2016. Since then she has raced a variety of distances and formats, running her first 100 at the Autumn 100 in 2019 where she finished second. Earlier this year, she ran the Spine Race and finished third in a time 125 hours, adding substantially to her resume in the process.
Edwina Sutton on Cross Fell (Photo: James Elson)
Laura Swanton-Rouvelin: Laura is one of the more experienced winter and long distance racers in the field, but coupled with her speed and success over a variety of distances will mean she will be one to watch here. She began with us in 2017, finishing third at the NDW100, before running the Grand Slam of 100s in 2018 - where she finished on the podium at all four, including a win at the fourth and final race - the Autumn 100. In 2019 she won the Arc of Attrition. In 2020 she placed second there in another fine run. Meanwhile she picked up a course record at Chiltern Wonderland and won the Ridgeway Challenge. More recently she has gone longer. With a fourth place at the Winter Spine in 2022, followed up with a second at this years Summer Spine and top ten finishes at races like Lakeland 100 and the West Highland Way Race along the way.
Laura Swanton-Rouvelin on route to her CW50 course record (Photo c/o Stuart March)
Ally Whitlock: Ally's ultra career began with the NDW50 in 2017 and since then she has gone on to steadily improve at a range of distances over time with some super results. More recently she has raced on different terrain and run winter events with success too. Fourth at the SDW50 and SDW100 in 2021, she was then fifth at the TP100 in 2022 before running her best result to date, a second at the Autumn 100 in 18:27. This year she finished third at Wendover Woods 100 and had top ten finishes at both Arc 50 and the Summer Spine Sprint distance.
Rebecca Lane: Another Grand Slam 100 mile finisher, in 2019, Rebecca has a raft of wins and podiums at long distance events, some of which will stand her in very good stead here in terms of both course knowledge but also conditions and terrain. Stand out performances include third at the SDW100, a win at the Chiltern Way Ultra (214km) in 38 hours and third at Winter Spine Challenger in 40 hours in 2020.
Sarah Place: Sarah has built up her resume from 50-100km in 2017 (her best finish with us was an eighth at the SDW50 in 8:44) , through her 100 mile debut at the TP100 in 2018 and on to more recent finishes at the next level of events in terms of difficulty including UTMB, Arc of Attrition and Madeira Island Ultra Trail.
Danielle Harris: Danielle ran our Grand Slam of 100s last year, nipping under 24 hours in all of them with the exception of the NDW100 and postin gtwo top ten finishes along the way. This year she's already finished two of the tougher 100 milers out there, the Arc of Attrition and Wendover Woods 100. Livlng locally to the course, her knowledge of the route and past race experience will set her up well.
Sophie Bennett: Sophie finished her first 100 miler at Wendover Woods 100 this summer, alongside Danielle - a very impressive debut. Then went on to a fifth place at UTMR - Mischabel 100km in September. Last year she came home twelfth at the Dragons Back too.
Sophie Bennett and Danielle Harris finishing Wendover Woods 100 in July (Photo c/o Pierre Papet)
Mark Darbyshire: *****Edit 10th December - Mark has withdrawn from the race with a positive covid test this morning***** Our Centurion Ultra Team man is at the top of the tree when it comes to UK 100 mile racing. After several solid runs at the Beacons Ultra he burst onto the longer scene at the NDW100 in 2019 where he ran home for a huge win and course record that still stands - 15:19. In 2021 he shattered the seemingly untouchable Lakeland 100 course record by 40 minutes, winning the race in 19:10. He also won several other races that year including UTS100km. In 2022 he then took the Arc of Attrition record down to 19:12, a time that still stands 45 minutes faster than anyone elses. Third at Penyagolosa. 19th at UTMB where things went wrong (!!!) and second at Ultra Trail Atlas Toubkal all followed amongst a raft of shorter race wins and podiums. This year he ran home for an Arc 50 record to kick start the year. Then won the Lakes Traverse and then took the win at the inaugural 13 Valleys 180km race around the Lake District by a mere 7 hours.
Mark Darbyshire (Photo c/o: Steve Ashworth Media)
Ry Webb: Ry has been around Centurion events since the very beginning, he ran the inaugural NDW50 in 2011! Since then he's done a host of different events around the world but always seems to come back to include one or two of our events each year, along the way. He joined our team and our coaching team a few years ago and promptly went and won the NDW50 in a course record time (since broken by a tiny margin this year). That followed years where he ran the 50 mile Slam, landing on the podium at all four events. Ran a 100 mile PB at our Track 100 of 13:24. And won the competitive Lakes in a Day ultra. As he stepped up onto the international scene he's had some great results but none better than his fourth place at Leadville Trail 100 this past summer.
Ry Webb (Photo: Steve Ashworth Media)
Sam Skinner: Sam has had a great 2023 with an eighth at the Arc Of Attrition and a fifth at Lakeland 100, both in the 22-23 hour range. Prior to that he took fourth at the Dragons Back 2022, second at Race to the King and third at Race Across Snowdonia amonst many other solid finishes.
Nicholas Smith: Had an oustanding run recently at the Self Transcendence 24hr in Battersea where he set a new 100 mile PB of 14:06, stopping there rather than pushing on for the full 24. That followed a second at WW50 in the summer and a sixth at the NDW50 in May. In 2020 he won the Robin Hood 100 in 17:23.
Sebastian Betouret: Our 2021 Wendover Woods 100 Champion. Seb has done a lot over the years and specialises especially of late, in doing the very toughest of races out there. He finished PicAPica this summer - the race with possibly the steepest profile of any 100km+ ultra (aside perhaps Barkley), and then backed that up with a run out at a 24hr track race! In the past he's done well at some of the biggest races including Grand Raid Reunion, Tor Des Geants and UTS100 amongst many many others. Picking up good results at shorter races along the way too. Just two weeks ago he was second at Copthorne 100km around Box Hill.
Fumiaki Imamura: A prolific racer, Fumiaki has so far in 2023 clocked up at least 9 ultra finishes including wins at Stort 30 and Essex 100 mile. But has also gained experience in the super long, finishing Northern Traverse and UTS 100 mile too.
James White: James was 16th at the Winter Spine Race in 2023, in a time of 117 hours. In 2022 he was 9th at the Autumn 100 in 17:09 and has previously finished well at both Tor Des Geants and Swiss Peaks 360. He has more experience than most in the 200 mile+ arena.
David Pryce: David ran our inaugural SDW100 in 2012. Since then he has come and gone from regular racing but somehow always seems to be able to turn out great results. Some may remember he even won the Piece of String Fun Run back in the day! In 2023 he has already won the Devon Coast Coast Ultra over 112 miles. Last year he had a solid run out at Autumn 100 with an 18:30 finish. Prior to that he won the Chiltern Way ultra (214km) twice and even ran home second at the Thames Path 100 in a 100 mile PB of 16:56 back in 2014.
Live tracking for the race is available from 0800 Wednesday 13th December via the tracking page here.
Good to luck to all of our runners!