The races filled up quickly and we were delighted to see many familiar faces returning from the NDW2011, the TP100 2012 and those hardy few who had run the SDW100 just 6 weeks prior.Almost exactly a year after the first ever Centurion Running event, we were back where we’d started on the North Downs Way for our 4th race. One significant change over 2011 was the omission of the marathon distance as we focused instead on allowing more runners to take on the challenge of either 50 or 100 miles.
In the run up to race day, it looked like we would be blessed with glorious sunshine and we were not disappointed. Running in the heat creates a multitude of additional challenges for runners but the majority coped with the conditions, some making the most of the drier faster ground earlier on.
The North Downs Way is a deceptively difficult trail. Whilst there are plenty of stretches of glorious smooth wide trail running and significant stretches of tarmac where the pace can be picked up, there are also some much more technical sections to negotiate. The most difficult part, however, is the way in which the 10,000 feet of ascent accumulates, mostly up rutted or uneven stairs or paths which make running almost impossible. Those rhythm breaking stretches left many runners reeling in the heat on race day and the finishing rates certainly tell a story.
The 50 mile course remained the same as the previous year. Martin Kennards 2011 Course Record of 7:35 looked under threat from early on as Darryl Carter bore down on the aid stations at a blistering pace. Darryl made it through to the 50km mark at Reigate Hill in just 4:25 but had Steve Patterson and Andrew Stevens pushing hard 6 and 8 minutes back respectively. By the time they had emerged at the top of Botley Hill, Steve had a two minute lead over Darryl and proceeded to hang on through to the finish, taking the win in 7:22:45, 5 minutes ahead of Darryl. Both went under the old Course Record. Andrew Stevens rounded out the podium as the only other man to break 8 hours.
In the ladies race, some late drop outs left the field wide open. Marie Doke’s 2011 CR stood at 9:20:07 a tough mark to beat in hot conditions. Debra Bourne ran in a superb 9:53:20 for the win in her first 50 miler. She was followed by Alison Gordon in just 3 seconds over the 10 hours mark with Rosemary Close taking third in 10:16:52.
The 100 mile race was set up to be highly competitive with a deep field of runners toeing the start line in the mens race. The 2012 course moved to a point to point race over the 2011 out and back and those who finished both, commented on how this years was a slightly harder proposition overall.
A large pack formed at the front right from the gun pushing each other and the overall pace to what was for some, an unsustainable level. The group stayed close together through to Reigate Hill before the heat started to take its toll. Running in the top 10 throughout were Ed Catmur 2nd in the NDW50 in 2011, Max Willcocks sub 20 hr runner at the TP100, Richie Cunningham double WHW champion, Justin Montague who had recently won the Round the Island XNRG event, Manel Lago an elite runner over from Rio De Janeiro for the race, Christian Ritella from Sweden and Alice Hector tackling her first 100 but with a stellar triathlon career behind her and a strong of shorter ultra wins to her credit. Quite the race was building.
Before setting off down the course we were able to watch the front group come in to the 50 mile aid station. Ed Catmur made it through in 8:09 but took a sizable break to regroup during which time Justin, Alice, Richie and Manuel also made it in. Manuel had taken the lead shortly after botley hill but had gotten badly lost in the fields before the aid station and had lost around 20 minutes or more as a result. His motivation was low but he left refueled and looking like he was in the hunt. Sure enough as the race moved on to the 60 mile point at Wrotham, Manuel had recaptured the lead from Ed and began to steadily move further clear throughout the remainder of the race. We welcomed him over the finish line in first place in an eventual finishing time of 17:51:56, a stellar performance all things considered. The race for second was intense and Justin Montague worked hard all day to eventually finish just 3 minutes ahead of Ed Catmur in 3rd, with both breaking the 19 hour mark. Particularly impressive from both guys as Justin was running his first 100 and Ed had run both the SDW100 and Lakeland 100 in the preceeding 6 weeks. In fact Ed took home the Downs Double crown with a combined time of under 40 hours for the two Downs events.
Perhaps the performance of the day, however, came from the ladies field. Alice Hector ran with the lead guys from the start and held on right through to the finish. In her first 100 under trying conditions she blew away the female competition to record a 4th place overall finish in 20 hours and 10 minutes, paced home by her one man crew of Alexander Miller. She won the ladies event by over 5 hours and her 50 mile split time would have been enough to win the NDW50 by over an hour and a half and go an hour under the CR. It’s quite obvious that Alice can go on to achieve some incredible things if she chooses to do so and it’s wonderful to see another triathlete making a successful transition to ultra running.
Second place in the ladies field went to Helen Smith in 25:16:31 who has now finished all 4 Centurion 100 mile events in succession. Prisca Vis from the Netherlands took 3rd place back home with her in 27:29.
As usual there were some truly inspirational performances right down the line. In the 50 mile event, Israel Archuletta made the final cut by just 4 minutes making him the 80th and final finisher under the cut off from a field of 91 starters, an excellent finishing rate in hot weather.
In the 100 mile, there were still 12 runners out on course with under an hour to go and every one of them made it in under the 30 hour cut. It’s always a moving experience watching those who have battled all day, night and morning making the finishing line and we were proud to welcome all of them home under that finish kite. In total 69 runners crossed the line from 117 starters and a finishing rate of 59%.
4 official Grand Slam entrants began the NDW100 and all 4 finished. Ken Fancett turned in another superb performance earning his 4th straight 100 miles - One Day buckle and leads the Grand Slam standings by an unassailable 8 hours. Allan Rumbles wasn’t able to convert a third straight sub 24 time but did go on to finish comfortably, looking strong. Tremayne Cowdry recovered well from a hard SDW100 as did David Bird who had a long day but overcame many demons to make it over the line with plenty of time to spare.
Next up in the series is the final race of the year, this November, the Winter 100 and the less conventional Piece Of String Fun Runs.....
Once again we’d like to thank the volunteers for making the race everything that it was. A huge cast of helpers were out there on race day helping runners to achieve their goals and ambitions, many out there for hours longer than the runners themselves and performing multiple different roles. We’d like to thank the following people for their help with the event and extend thanks to any others we may have accidentally missed:
Official Timings: Neil Bryant Registration: Andy Parker, Gary Dalton, Robin Threadgold, Neil Bryant, Pete Morgan, Naomi Hawney, Sam Robson, Al Black, Dan from Oz. Course Sweepers: Dennis Cartwright, Mike Sartorious, Cameron Kirkwood, Nick Greene, Anthony Forsyth, Duncan Phillips, Bryan Webster, Charlie Johnson.
Course Markers: Ann Bath, Cliff King, Nicholas Eaton, Lee Briggs, Clare Pepper, Paul Gilbert, Sam Robson. Finish Line Teams: Paul Gilbert, Mike Jones, Clare Pepper, Neil Bryant, Sam Robson, Alex Black, Charlotte Valentine, Jon Valentine, Rachel Smith, Marc Thatcher, Dylan Thatcher, Jack Mortassagne, Grant Vernon, Ed Griffin, Keith Griffin, Jackie Elson, Rebecca Malcom, Rachel Smith, Fiona Mcnelis, David Ridley.
Aid Station Crew: Henk Van Der Beek, Sam Robson, Ann Bath, Stephen Crafford, Fiona Mcnelis, Pete Morgan, Craig Lucas, Elizabeth Bemment, Charlie Johnson, Nick Brisley, Garry Curley, Dee Combs, Robin Threadgold, Rachel Smith, Nicholas Eaton, Gabby Corry, Hugo de voil, Gary Dalton, ben Wilding, Claire Shelley, Jany Tsai, Cliig King, Ryan Spencer, Al Whyte, Dave Merrett, Paul Gilbert, Lee Briggs, Matthew Sellwood, Mark Griffiths, Spencer Rolls, Bryan Webster, Barry Miller, Luke Ashton, Brigitte Groves, David hardy, Spenser Lane, Duncan Phillips, Chris Mercer, Dick Kearn, Jan Kearn, Russell Deen, Caroline Deen, Jim Deen, Sheridan Morris, Nick Green, Lindley Chambers and family, Duncan Anderson, Craig Ecclestone, Yin-Hai Cheung, Matthew Hobson, John Whittaker, Andy Gorman, Martyn Turner, Dave Brock, Phil Elson, Sean the Driver.