The inaugural Thames Path 100 was an epic weekend filled with all the typical highs and lows of a 100 mile race. It contained incredible performances from the front runners posting blistering times, insipiring tales of triumph over adversity by runners from all sections of the field and the disappointment for some of an elusive finish.The inaugural Thames Path 100 was an epic weekend filled with all the typical highs and lows of a 100 mile race. It contained incredible performances from the front runners posting blistering times, insipiring tales of triumph over adversity by runners from all sections of the field and the disappointment for some of an elusive finish.
One thing is for sure, however easy a 100 mile race may look on paper, there is nothing easy about covering 100 miles on foot in under 30 hours. All in all 128 runners completed their journey from a field of 191 starters, a much higher finishing rate than we had anticipated pre race and a credit to those that took on the enormous challenge of running from London to Oxford in one go.
Race registration went smoothly at the Old Town Hall on Richmond waterfront and it was great to see so many familiar faces from the ultrarunning circuit plus a good dozen runners coming back for more after running in the North Downs Way 50/100 in 2011, our first Centurion event. After a short briefing the runners ammassed on the start line and at 10am sharp left for the first aid station at Walton, mile 12. Early reports came in to us whilst we were setting up aid station two, that the front runners had gone through Walton in 1:31, Robbie Britton, winner of the NDW100 in 2011 out in front but hotly pursued.
The conditions were absolutely perfect for a fast day, with dry ground from a week or so of very little rain and relatively cool temperatures.
The conditions were absolutely perfect for a fast day, with dry ground from a week or so of very little rain and relatively cool temperatures. The sun did come out however and a few red faces were seen later that day. The pace of the leaders through Wraysbury, Windsor and on to Cookham remained high, whilst the pace at the back of the field seemed to be dictated by the 4mph cut offs. Many lost time around the Eton/ Dorney Lake area where a gap in markings around the diversion caused significant issues, but with perseverance runners found themselves back on course, either using their maps or intuition.
On to Henley and the 51 mile point, we found ourselves being chased hard by Craig Holgate who had stolen the lead around Windsor and begun to open up a gap over Robbie in 2nd, Martin Bacon, David Ross, Graham Booty, Matt Winn Smith and a handful of others. Mimi Anderson led the women, a lead which she would hold on to all day in a thoroughly impressive win.
As darkness fell, the temperature dropped but not too significantly and the aid station teams welcomed runners with open arms through Reading (mile 58), Whitchurch (mile 67) and Streatley (mile 71) where Dick Kearn of GUCR fame had established a perhaps too comforting welcome of hot food and drinks for runners in out of the dark. The police kindly removed all of the glow sticks leading runners to and from the Whitchurch aid station down Manor Road leading to some interesting route taking in that area but again everyone persevered, shepherded by volunteers who spent all night on rotation at the corner of the high street ensuring runners held the correct path.
Craig Holgate crossed the finish line in 15 hours and 11 minutes for an incredible 100 mile debut, an average pace of just over 9 minutes per mile.
Craig pushed on through Benson, Little Wittenham and Abingdon and shortly after midnight we received notice at the finish line that he was on his way down the last 5 mile stretch from the Lower Radley aid station. He crossed the finish line in 15 hours and 11 minutes for an incredible 100 mile debut, an average pace of just over 9 minutes per mile. He was followed by Robbie Britton in a very strong 16:02 for 2nd and Martin Bacon picked up 3rd in 17:41. The winner of the female race, Mimi Anderson came through in 18:50 in joint 7th overall running with Cliff King and her pacer Penny Matkin and looking as strong as every on crossing the line. As the 20 hour mark came closer, Sandra Bowers ran in for 2nd in 19:54, timing her finishing push to perfection. All in all 14 runners broke the 20 hour barrier.
The forced abandonment of the race at 12:05pm on Sunday, or 26 hours and 5 minutes into the race was an absolute necessity and undoubtedly prevented adding further runners to the growing list of those treated with cold related illnesses both at the finish and out on the course.
The next significant marker was a big incentive for those still on course - with sub 24 hour times earning runners the coveted 100 miles - One Day Belt Buckles. We eventually ended up handing out 68 with Philip Smith picking up the last one, finishing in a well timed 23:56. As is always the case following the 24 hour mark, a gap ensued before runners started to re-emerge out of the now worsening conditions. We were braced for a very different day of weather on the Sunday, but the incredibly fast and dramatic decline in temperature coupled with heavy rain turning to sleet and then snow and heavy winds threw any remaining runners out on the course into a critical situation, for which the majority were not prepared. The forced abandonment of the race at 12:05pm on Sunday, or 26 hours and 5 minutes into the race was an absolute necessity and undoubtedly prevented adding further runners to the growing list of those treated with cold related illnesses both at the finish and out on the course. Runners were phoned and reached out to on the course by an incredibly diligent group of aid station volunteers, sweepers and course officials so that everybody reached safety by 2:26pm when the race ended. A full report on the abandonment can be read here.
We'd like to thank all 191 runners who toed the startline in the inaugural event for making it the race that it was. It will be back in 2013 with a few significant changes, but the core of the race will remain the same.
Thank you to the 80 volunteers that gave their time and energy, some who worked tirelessly for 36 hours straight to get runners across the finish line in as best shape possible.