This third edition of the Chiltern Wonderland 50 saw 241 runners congregate in Goring on the banks of the Thames, ready to tackle this beautiful 50 mile loop of the Chiltern Hills. The course is almost a figure of eight, initially running the first 3.5 miles of leg four of the Autumn 100, down to Whitchurch before banking off up the first climb of the day. Through Tokers Green and Bix check points to 17 miles the course is fast and runnable, then the hills kick in and from there to Christmas Common at the 30 mile mark the field usually splits up and gaps grow between the runners. The final 20 miles are the fastest of the day and it's those with running legs left in them that benefit from the fantastic trails over the final third.
Conditions on the day were close to perfect. The trails were bone dry, the nettles down against earlier years and temperatures averaged 17 degrees across the day.
Out front from the start were a group of three featuring Oli Thorogood, back from his second place finish last year and clearly looking at a possible record breaking run, Geoff Cheshire and Steve Hobbs. The pace early on was fast, the trio making it to Bix three minutes ahead of Jon Ellis' split on his way to running a 6:25 CR last year.
Geoff, Oli and Steve ran in close proximity for the first half of the race
Over the next 10 miles, Geoff and Oli forged ahead and Steve began to drop back, eventually being passed by Ollie Stoten who climbed to third at Grims Ditch, in his now trademark power finish. Just two mins separated Geoff and Oli for much of the second half of the race, the leading drifting back and forth until with five miles to go Geoff was able to finally kick away from Oli to bring home the win in 6:38. Oli's strength on the climbs was just bettered by Geoffs descending and flatter running. A gap of just three minutes separated them by the end. Ollie Stoten took his second consecutive podium at our 50s, running in with a 7:02 for third.
Geoff Cheshire with his winners trophy
In the womens race we saw a dominating run from Amy White from the outset. She had a two minute lead at check point one and stretched that all day. Leading by half an hour at the half way point it seemed likely that we would not only see a course record, but a big chunk taken off of it as she looked likely to close in on a 7:30 finish time. However just before Swyncombe at around the 50km mark, she began to suffer issues with her hip flexor and it became somewhat of a grind from there as the problem became more and more acute. She leaked time to Eddie Suttons course record through the final two check points but held on to come home with a 7:55 time for a new record time by just over 3 minutes. She was in a good deal of pain at the finish, but will hopefully not require too much recovery before she starts out at her first 100 mile event back in Goring at our Autumn 100 in just under four weeks time.
Amy White striding out as she led the race from wire to wire
Behind Amy, Christine Howard ran another solid race and held second place all day, eventually running home in 8:44 thereby also picking up the 40-49 Age Category win.
Christine picking up her second podium finish at this event
Third place went to Rachel Dench who went back and forth with ladies GS50 leader Lisa Martin early on, before holding on to that spot to the line in a time of 8:58.
Rachel Dench ran in third for much of the day
In the age category awards, the FV50 prize was taken by Tamatha Ryan in a strong 5th place overall run of 9:10. In the mens, the MV40 title and the new age category record was set by overall winner Geoff Cheshire. The MV50 award went to Andy Jones in 8:41 and the MV60 prize to Ian Lowe in 10:57.
The 50 mile Grand Slam standings have not changed but certainly look as exciting as ever. The leader coming in to the event, Rob Hayward, ran a great race coming home in 7:38 having passed James Warren who currently sits second in the table, with around 15 miles to go. The gap at the end was small however and the gap between those two going into Wendover Woods 50 and the fourth and final race of the series, is just 27 minutes. In the womens, Maria Russell now leads with a solid run, taking the overall lead from Lisa Martin who struggled with injury on the day but bravely held on to finish and will want retribution at Wendover.
Rob Hayward leader of the GS50 standings going into the final race, running early on with Amy White
All in all 211 finishers crossed the line which is a new record for this event, interestingly each of the three editions of this race have seen an 88% finish rate which is just underneath our overall average across 50 mile races since 2011, of 89%.
Thanks go as always to the 49 volunteers who made the race the safe and successful one it was and to the landlords and farmers of the Chilterns for allowing us to take the runners on this picturesque route over hills and through the valleys.
Thanks also to our sponsors for their continued support. Ultimate Direction, Injinji, Petzl, La Sportiva, Runderwear, Gu Energy and Tailwind Nutrition.
Next up is the Autumn 100, back in Goring over the weekend of 13th-14th October. We welcome to that one some of the cream of UK ultra running, with many international names toeing the line. We are hopeful of seeing some blisteringly fast times as we have in many of the previous editions. Follow along over race weekend via the live link on the home page.
Our largest ever starting field joined us for the eigth edition of the North Downs Way 100. 238 runners hoping to make it to the finish line in Ashford, tackling on route some of the highest temperatures we've ever had at an event. An eventual finish rate of 63% was the fourth highest we've had at this race however a tremendous level of endurance but also race management by the 151 runners who eventually crossed the finish line.
In the womens race, 42 toed the line which is a record for the NDW100. Amongst them, the 2017 champion Mari Mauland, the 2017 CW50 champion Rachel Fawcett, Laura Swanton with two podiums already to her name at our 2018 100 milers and Ingrid Lid who has showed big potential in her relatively short ultrarunning career to date.
The race was close from the outset, with past champion Mari unsuprisingly heading the way and making it through Newlands Corner CP2 at mile 14.7 in 2:09 elapsed, but already at this stage there was little to choose as both Laura and Ingrid trailed by less than three minutes.
Mari leading early on
It was these three who held the podium positions all day. Rebecca Lane ran close early on in fourth but would eventually drop and Rachel Fawcett ran her usual consistent race to move from fifth to fourth over the course of the day. Ingrid seemed comfortable from early on, but the women always show the men how it's done and we've come to expect two things from our leading ladies in 100s this year, consistent pacing and overhauling the majority of the mens field on the way to the finish line. Ingrid passed Laura around mile 40, to move in to second between CP4 and CP5 and by Knockholt Pound, mile 50, Mari still led in 8:31 with eight minutes advantage over Ingrid with the same gap back again to Laura.
Over the second half of the race it was Ingrid who seemed to gather strength but the gaps remained fractional all day. By the 100km mark she had the lead and from that point to Detling mile 82, had between a 7 and 10 minute lead over Mari. But by Lenham Mile 91, Mari had reduced that down to exactly a minute. In the final stretch however, Ingrid was able to find that little something extra to make it home first in a time of 19:38 for a win in her debut 100. Mari ran home second just ten minutes down and Laura picked up third in 21:08 for her third straight podium finish.
Ingrid Lid lifts the winners trophy in her debut 100.
In the mens race, the lead changed hands much more frequently and it was similarly hard to judge how things would play out in the end.
Early on it was 2017 mens champ Norbert Mihalik from Hungary who made the pace, passing through Box Hill in 3 hours flat, 12 minutes up on course record splits. Behind him, Paul Russhard was 12 minutes back and bang on record pace with Steve Hobbs hovering a couple of minutes further back in third. Throughout the second quarter of the race, Norbert began to hit some stomach issues and the heat slowed the sharp end off. Norbert held on to reach Knockholt Pound mile 50 in first but sacrficed that lead in the check point as he tried to recover. Paul, Steve and Nortbert all eventually leaving mile 50 together in 7:35 elapsed, now half an hour down on record pace. It looked like it could be a war of attrition from this point on.
Paul Russhard running in second place early on before taking the lead around mile 55
Paul looked most comfortable and had clearly paced this one better than perhaps he has ever done before and pushed through Wrotham first, with a five minute lead over Norbert. Steve Hobbs eventually dropped just past the check point there and that catapulted Matthew Dickinson into third and he looked strong. Norbert began somewhat of a death march from there on in and considered dropping multiple times, but to his great credit toughed it out to eventually cross the line a number of hours down on his 2017 effort. Meanwhile, Matt began to close in on Paul with the gap 8 minutes at mile 76, 5 minutes at 82 and eventually passing Paul just before Hollingbourne with around 15 miles to go. At that point he clearly had the bit between his teeth and finished in very impressive fashion, running down the last 13 miles in under 2 hours. His winning time of 17:21 puts him 7th on the all time list.
Matt Dickinson also winning his debut 100 miler
Paul came home in second with a superb 17:53. The battle for third was perhaps the highlight of the day, with James Williams, Steve Speirs and Peter Windross all within a few minutes of each other at the turn off of the NDW with 5km to go. On the very gradual incredibly kind tarmac descent to the stadium it was anyones, but Steve made it in first with 18:52:59, James' 18:53:38 just 39 seconds back and Peter 18:54:33 within a minute of that. The closest podium finish we've ever seen.
A number of age group records also went this time. Perhaps the performances of the day from the MV70 category. Chris Coleman ran home in 25:10 for what is a 21 minute record in the Vet 70s. Behind him John Fanshawe took his third step towards a first MV70 Grand Slam with his third finish of the year. This is only the second time that two MV70s have finished the same event and that is really great to see. We are yet to have an FV70 finisher but surely it is a matter of time....
Patricia Keene broke the FV60 record with a 28:57. With the FV50 category going to Elaine Deane in 28:01. The FV40 went to Mari in second overall.
Patricia Keen set a new FV60 record with her 28:57
In the other mens categories, Steve Speirs shattered the MV50 record, his 18:52 literally hours ahead of the previous best. The MV60 went to Ken Fancett in 24:07, Ken has finished this event 7 times and won his category every time. Peter Windross in 5th won the Mv40 award.
One other notable mention, David Thompson finished this event for the 8th time in 8 editions. He is the only person to have finished all editions of this event. Long may his streak continue.
As always our greatest thanks to the volunteers who made the event what it was. Provision of countless extra litres of water, bags of ice, ice lollies, fresh fruit, coke and everything else runners could require literally enabled many to make the finish line when they otherwise would have failed.
Thank you also to our key sponsors for making this happen. La Sportiva, Petzl, Ultimate Direction, Injinji and Julbo. Runderwear, whose team crewed the Wrotham check point. And Tailwind Nutrition. For whom in charge of Tailwind in the UK Mike Julien crossed the line in 151st place for his third finish of 2018 and kept his grand slam hopes alive by 14 whole minutes. Congratulations to him.
There is one more 100 in 2018, the Autumn 100 which caps off the grand slam in mid October. Before then our third 50 of the year, the Chiltern Wonderland on September 15th.
The seventh edition of the South Downs Way dawned warm and dry with a record field of 305 itching to get going. This race took us over the 10,000 starter mark across all events, this being our 27th 100 mile and 49th race of all time. The previous evening saw the seventh edition of the much more important SDW1 Mile Kids Race in which 27 starters aged 1 to 11 reminded us all of the unabashed joy of running. Everybody won.
The SDW100 race got underway at 0600 the next morning and quite quickly there were some familiar faces out front in both the men’s and women’s races.
In the men’s race, the early pace was set by Stephen Hobbs and Mike Ellicock, with Charlie Harpur and Jon Ellis close behind. Jon our reigning Grand Slam 50 Mile record holder looked by far the most comfortable. Behind those four it was great to see Stellan Fries back and looking focused. Stellan led the race in 2014 before going off course with just four miles to go. He was back for his fourth try at capturing the crown. Peter windross made up the remainder of the lead pack, following on from his TP100 victory last month.
The usual pattern of this race is a fast pace to Queen Elizabeth Country Park at mile 22, a gradual slowing to Cocking at 35 and by Botolphs at around the 100km mark a true picture of how the race will likely unfold. As early protagonists fell away it was Charlie Harpur who emerged at Washington all of a sudden with a commanding lead and ran up the hill out of the aid station with authority. With this being his first 100 miler it remained to be seen if he could manage his race and his pace to sustain to the end and guesses were going either way.
But Charlie in fact went from strength to strength over all of the remaining sections. A fast marathoner with a 2:33 at London this year in the heat, he held back early on and ran the best paced race we’ve seen in a while from a leading 100 mile performance, eventually crossing the line in 15:01, the second fastest time we’ve seen at this event behind Mark Perkins’ 14:03.
Behind Charlie, rewards went to runners who remained smart early on and ran well paced races, basically the same story of any 100 mile race. Stellan came all the way through the field to finish a very strong second in 15:50, a new MV50 record. John Melbourne found himself right in the thick of the battle for the podium spots after chasing down those ahead and eventually just lost out to Stellan, picking up third in a tremendous 15:56. Fourth was Jon Ellis in his first 100, having wrestled with stomach issues for the last two thirds of the race and suffering a slight detour with 18 to go.
The women’s race was equally as exciting right from the gun and the time gaps between runners close all day. Sarah Cameron, second at the 2017 NDW100 ran strong and ahead from the gun. With victories at prominent ultras in France where she lives, Sarah’s debut on the SDW went seemingly very close to plan. She would need that with quality and consistent runners behind her. Laura Swanton fresh off of second at last months TP100 impressed yet again and tracked Sarah all day. Rachel Fawcett previous CW50 champion running in third for the majority of the race, again not too far back from Laura. The shape of that remained consistent with the time gaps growing marginally check point to check point almost like clock work through the day.
Through QECP mile 22 Sarah’s lead was just 2 minutes over Laura and 4 over Rachel. By cocking mile 35 Sarah had stretched to a 14 minute lead over Laura and Rachel running close together. In to Washington mile 54, Sarah’s lead was out to 25 minutes over Laura and Rachel 39 minutes back looked likely out of contention and now running for a podium place.
At Housedean Farm mile 76 Sarah came in running strong and focused with a smile on her face and it seemed with a 30 minute gap that she would hold it. That she did running home in 18:14 for her debut Centurion win.
Laura held her position behind coming home in a superb 18:45, her second, second place in two 100s just 5 weeks apart. Third place went to Rebecca Lane who ran herself on to the podium ahead of Rachel by Housedean Farm and stayed in that position through to her finish in 20:06.
Records were broken as the weather remained excellent right through to the cut off. We handed out 223 buckles our highest ever at a 100 mile, with a 73% finish rate showing just how good things were on the whole out on the trail. 108 of those buckles were for 100 Miles in One Day.
In the age group awards, Tracy Owen won the FV50 category with a 23:21.
The MV60 won went to Ken Fancett for the sixth time. There was a huge new MV70 record too for John Fanshawe in 25:11 taking over three hours off of the previous best.
113 volunteers made the event happen. The amount of hours poured in to each 100 is just staggering and to them from all of us, thank you.
Grand Slam standings have been updated and are available here. in the mens, Peter Windross now has a commanding lead after coming home in a strong performance this weekend following his TP100 win. In the womens, it's Laura Swanton who leads in 38:22 total time.
The 2018 NDW50 was our eighth edition of the first event (alongside the 100 and a marathon!) back in 2011. Blue skies and superb underfoot conditions greeted the runners. We welcomed a large number of familiar faces to what has become a favourite race for many to return to, year after year. We also had plenty of first timers and there was some very nervous looking folk indeed in the run up to the start at 0800 this past Saturday. Notable mention in the starting field goes to Chris Fox, back to finish what he started - having missed the cut off by 9 seconds in 2015. More on him later.
Crucially we also welcomed our highest ever proportion of female starters, 25% of the field something which has been gradually moving up over recent events. Hopefully it won't be too long before we are talking about equal numbers in our sport. Long may this upward trend continue.
We expected a fast mens field to be led out by returning champ Neil Kirby and WW50 2017 Champ Stuart Leaney. They seemed to have the greatest pedigree coming in and with conditions as they were, the course record set last year by Jon Ellis looked under threat.
However, we were suprised to see from the gun that Ed Knudsen and James Osborn went out with Stuart and pushed as a threesome for many of the early miles, Neil sitting just behind in fourth. The three out front looked comfortable and rattled through Guildford together at mile 10. By Newlands Corner the second check point, things had begun to split up and it was Ed who took the lead, coming through there in 1:40, with Stuart and James both sitting back within 3 minutes.
The section over to Box Hill is screaming fast, largely flat before a long very kind road descent through Denbies Vineyard and Ed stayed ahead through those miles making the Stepping Stones at mile 24 in 2:50 elapsed, now 6 minutes ahead of Stuart and a full 12 ahead of James. It seemed likely to those looking on that the race was moving too fast and the heat and hills that were to follow would indeed take their toll on all of the runners - however for the front two it proved to be less of an issue than for most and they blazed ahead in a really closely fought battle. By Reigate, Ed Knudsens lead was down to 3 minutes and on route to Caterham Stuart took charge and put a couple of minutes lead in to Ed. Instead of capitulating however, Ed fought every step of the way and made Stuart work hard for his eventual win in 6:46, our third fastest ever time at this event. Ed came home just 4 minutes later.
Stuart Leaney receives his winners trophy from Mimi Anderson
James Osborn unfortunately dropped shortly after Box Hill after crashing in to a tree - he was not the only one as two other runners impaled themselves on a obscured broken branch before our favourite Russian runner Vladimir Zalesskiy stopped to clear the lethal weapon, going on to then run home with the MV50 category win. It was Ollie Stoten who ran a tremendous closing section with the fastest split of the day to finish third and break the magic 7 hour mark with a 6:58, his first Centurion podium after many attempts.
Ollie Stoten stormed through the final two stages to break the 7 hour barrier and make the mens podium
The ladies race was equally contested and exciting to watch. Sarah Sawyer, Lisa Martin and Fiona Park ran within sight of each other for most of the early miles and came through Guildford all within 30 seconds of one another. At Newlands Corner Check Point 2, all three were with 60 seconds with Sarah and Fiona arriving almost together. On and down to Box Hill, Sarah took the lead with Lisa moving in to second behind as Fiona began to drop back. The gap between Sarah and Lisa stayed at 2 minutes or less through the next three check points and it seemed it could go either way over the final 7 miles in from Botley. Sarah held the lead, whilst unfortunately Lisa took a detour shortly before the finish so we were denied a possible closer result, but Sarah who had held the front since around mile 20 came home first lady in 8:44 elapsed for her first Centurion win.
Sarah Sawyer picked up her first Centurion Trophy in winning the womens race
Lisa Martin picked up second in 9:01 having lost around 15 minutes in her detour. Third went to Tamatha Ryan who ran a very solid race to eventually come past Fiona Park, crossing the line in 9:04.
Of the 252 starters, just 17 runners dropped from the event for our equal highest ever finish rate of 93%. This time, Chris Fox made it home with just over 30 minutes to spare and was welcomed home to great relief from volunteers and staff alike. His 9 second miss in 2015, finally put to bed.
Chris Fox receives his medal 'back' as well as his new one for this finish
Final runner out on course Brian Duggan left it close but ran the last mile and powered up the hill to cross the finish line with exactly 100 seconds to spare. Our 234th finish of the day and a new record at this event.
Brian enjoying his finish with plenty of time to spare!
Age Category Awards went to James Warren (MV40) who continues to go from strength to strength, Vladimir Zalesskiy as mentioned above (MV50) and in his 33rd Centurion event finish Ken Fancett (MV60). In the ladies race Fiona Park took 4th and the FV40 category with Sarah Sawyer and Tamatha Ryan also running as FV40s taking overall prizes. First FV50 went to Joanna Edwards in 9:26.
A link to the initial Grand Slam table is here, with standings after two of the four events.
A special thank you to Allan Rumbles, Spencer Rolls and Mark Thornberry for manning the seventh and final ever Bacon Boat on the canal in Guildford.
Centurion Naval Division: Allan Rumbles, Spencer Rolls and Mark Thornberry (Photo c/o James Elson)
Massive thanks too to the 67 volunteers who supported all of the runners so admirably on the day. Of those 67, only 6 had not either run or volunteered with us before showing what a fantastic community we have.
In three weeks we welcome 300 starters to the South Downs Way 100 and hope you will join us again then.
A record starting field of 314 runners ably supported by a team of 97 volunteers 'enjoyed' one of the hottest events we've ever staged. Blazing sunshine during both Saturday and Sunday resulted in tougher than usual conditions for runners but potentially the best volunteering conditions to date!
Setting off from Richmond Upon Thames at 1000 on the Saturday morning, we were looking forward to a really exciting womens race, a seemingly wide open mens race and the usual raft of incredible stories from the full breadth of the field looking to complete the journey to Oxford within 28 hours.
Immediately, times were slower than we've seen in the past. Check Point 1 at our new, old location back at Cowey Sale in Walton now mile 12, saw Alex Whearity and Stephen Hobbs side by side out in front in 1:33 elapsed. Though slower than usual, the pace for most of the field seemed too fast for the conditions, temperatures already in the low 20s and expected to reach 26 by the late afternoon. The decimation of food and particularly Tailwind supplies this early on reflected the fact that many were already working hard to stay on top of fueling and hydration.
Ultra Team runner Cat Simpson running strong and controlled early in the race before an existing foot injury derailed her day
Bridge crossing. One of the few 'hills' on the course
At this event we usually see a few early front runners setting a blistering pace, with the shape of the race settling down to a more accurate long term picture by around Hurley mile 44. That was certainly the case this time as the eventual winner, Peter Windross emerged at Hurley first and held that position right through to the finish. He seemed shocked to be out front, but Peter has recorded some fine and very consistent performances in the past couple of years and this day was testament to a well judged race, drawn from experience. He arrived in to Henley mile 51 in 7:21, by which point his 19 minute lead seemed fairly secure and he continued to put time in to the rest of the field all the way to the finish. In fact by mile 70 his lead was as much as 50 minutes and his winning time of 15:49 was streets ahead of the competition. A fantastic well executed win for Peter.
Peter Windross (left) running early on with past champion Ed Catmur
Behind him, the pairing of Stephen Hobbs and Peter Jackson pushed together from shortly after the half way point, through to around 20 miles to go, at which point the link was broken and Peter Jackson ran strong through the final miles to come home second in 16:42. Stephen picked up third in 17:55.
In the womens race the seemingly deep competition was out of the picture by Reading, mile 58, leaving just two clear contenders for the victory from that point on. Sam Amend, Course Record holder suffered in the heat and was forced to withdraw. Our own Centurion Ultra Team Runner Cat Simpson pulled over early with a damaged foot, gutted at not having had time to recover from a bike crash the previous week. And Mari Mauland, last years champion was also forced out with stomach issues. Therese Falk - winner of Tooting Bec 24hr last year - looked strong throughout and untroubled on her path to eventual victory in 18:44. It appeared very much as if she had a lot more to give, but held back a little because she is representing Norway at the European 24 hour Championships in just 3 weeks time. We wish her the best of luck there.
Therese Falk winning on her Centurion debut
Second place went to Laura Swanton, who ran brilliantly to Streatley and closed the gap on Therese for a brief period before slowing in the final third and coming home a fantastic second in 19:36.
Third place went to regular Kit-Yi Greene who ran a smart race as ever and took her home first Centurion podium finish in just over 21 hours.
From the sharp end, through the mid pack and in to the back of the field, the number of drop outs during the first afternoon and overnight was high. We saw the second lowest finish rate we've had at this event, with 42% of the starters eventually succumbing before reaching the finish. That figure is beaten only by the flood course year of 2013 when 55% crossed the line (our record low finish rate at any 100 was 43% back at the 2012 Winter 100).
It was the heat that primarily took it's toll with many suffering stomach problems or earlier than normal fatigue. Those that pushed on through that first day found a cool but calm night awaited them and for those that had held something back, conditions later on made for very good going.
In to the second morning and the heat began climbing again for those back on course and there were some very tough final miles indeed. For the warriors out looking to come in during those final few hours, the temperature again reached 26 degrees.
Our final finisher Brent Mullane brough the event to a close collapsing between the timing mats and requiring one final roll to record his finish time of 27:51, 9 minutes to spare. He has just under two weeks to recover before theNDW50, being as it is that he is attempting the double slam.
Brent Mullane rolls across the line with 9 minutes to spare.
Notable mentions go to Markus Flick who recorded his 7th straight finish - he has finished all editions of the TP100 and W/A100 and travels over from Germany each time to take part. This year he was found asleep at Radley by the RD but was awoken and finished with plenty of time to spare!
And of course to Ken Fancett, the only other person who can claim the same. Ken finished his 24th 100 miler with us this weekend and yet again won his age category. Out of the 26 total we have organised. He has never dropped at one of our events.
In other age category awards, John Fanshawe won the MV70's coming home under 24 hours. John was also our first ever MV70 finisher and now holds the course records for his category at the NDW100, A100 and TP100.
For the women, Mandy Foyster came home first FV50 in 24:46.
Huge thanks to the incredible support of the volunteers out on course, without whom none of this would be possible.
A final word of thanks to our sponsors: Julbo, La Sportiva, Petzl, Injinji, Ultimate Direction, Hyrdrapak. With a special mention to our two others:
Firstly Tailwind Nutrition - we got through thousands of servings this weekend and the man in charge of it all at Tailwind UK, Mike Julien, ran a superbly executed race to climb from 292nd at CP1 to finish 114th.
Secondly, Runderwear, who managed our Reading Check Point for us so brilliantly as always.
Our season once again opened with the South Downs Way 50 and what a spectacular opener it was. In the lead up to this sixth edition of the event, conditions on the Downs had been poor, as they had across the UK for much of the winter. Sitting water and mud were features up and down the course. But two dry, bright and windy days on the Thursday and Friday before race start Saturday morning, were enough to dry the chalk downland out almost completely. Suddenly the course was as good and fast as ever, presenting this years runners with close to ideal underfoot conditions. To add to that, the rain that was forecast for across the 13 hours of the race didn't materialise until later on and many were able to enjoy a predominantly or entirely bright, clear day with stunning views in all directions.
This year we welcomed 389 runners to the start in Worthing. Two stand out athletes amongst them, both en route to representing Team GB at the upcoming 2018 World Trail Championships. Tom Evans in the mens race has become arguably the UK's leading ultra distance trail athlete over the last 18 months with Top 5 finishes at the MDS, Eiger 101 and CCC behind him. In the womens race, Sarah Morwood was looking to add to her six previous Centurion crowns. From the gun it was those two runners who showed their true class and ran home with tremendous course records.
Tom led off the field and much like Victor Mound in 2015 when he ran a seemingly untouchable 5:53, time trialled the entire way to the finish. Appearing at Botolphs check point 11.2 miles in to the race and with 1:13 elapsed he was under record pace from the start. His long flowing stride and easy breathing belied the fact that he was averaging 6:30 minute mile pace. He didn't stop at Saddlescombe Farm, nor at Housedean which marks the 26.6 mile point and which he reached in 3:01 elapsed.
Tom powering his way through the early miles, this just before Botolphs/ Check Point 1
In to Southease at mile 33.8 in 3:52 he made his one and only pause for any official aid, taking on one additional flask of water and he admitted later he was feeling lower at that point and was very pleased to get some hydration on there. Across Firle Beacon his stride was as strong as ever and on and down through Alfriston and Jevington in unbroken focus the only question was how far under 6 hours was he going to run. In the end he cruised around the track and finished with his trademark salute (Tom has served in the British Army for many years) in a time of 5:44, making a huge 9 minute dent in the existing course record. It was close to a flawless performance and truly sensational to watch. He moves on to the Worlds with authority.
In the womens race, Sarah Morwood dominated in the same fashion albeit with a narrower cushion over some of the other leading ladies in the field earlier on, before stretching away and showing true class in the closing stages. Through Botolphs in 1:32 Sarah had a two minute lead over second, but that lead had become 13 minutes by Housedean the 'half way' check point, only for Sarah to finish up with a staggering 47 minute margin of victory by the finish.
Sarah with her trademark all-day smile, early in the race
It takes great patience to go out at a conservatively enough effort to run the same pace for the last miles as the first, but that is exactly what Sarah did. From being 20th at the first check point, she passed everyone in the field apart from our top two men, to finish third overall. Her course record of 7:03 was thoroughly deserved. In 2013 Sarah went off course at this event and ended up on Eastbourne sea front in what was her first major ultra. She has subsequently gone on to win this event twice, the SDW100 twice, the A100/ W100 twice and the TP100 - in her eight Centurion starts. Quite an incredible record.
Behind Tom in the mens race, Alistair Palmer ran strong and determined all day, coming home in 6:53 for the only other sub 7 hour time of the day. Third place went to Tomasso Migliuolo in 7:09, converting his impressive mountain running resume to a flatter faster course.
Second place in the womens race went to Annabelle Stearns another incredibly consitent performer in our events. She passed eventual third placed finisher Christine Howard soon after the Southease check point and the two battled hard all the way to the finish, both coming in under the 8 hour mark in 7:50 and 7:59 respectively. It was fantastic to see such competitive racing.
Annabelle Stearns after her second place finish
Down the field there were rafts of PBs and relatively few drops, amongst some extremely impressive age group performances.
Of particular note in the V50 category, Rick Curtis bettered his own record and ran 7:22. In the V60 mens category, Timothy Boone ran a superb 8:41 and we had a new V70 record from Richie Morrissey. Richie was our second to final finisher at the inaugural SDW100. Last year he ran this event in 12:00 and this year came back and set a new best of 11:49. Annabelle Stearns was just outside her own V40 womens record and the V50 age female age cat went to Samantha Ridley.
All in all 353 runners crossed the line down eleven year on year (there were four less starters this year than last), a tremendous day on these beautiful trails that we are privleged to be able to race on.
A huge thanks to the 80 marshal's out on course enabling the race to be the safe and successful one that it was. We welcome 300 starters to the Thames Path 100 next month on May 5th so join us again then via the live link on the homepage to follow online.