With it’s new home in mid-October, the 3rd edition of the Winter 100 was set to be an exciting race from the get go with strong fields on both the womens and mens sides, alongside a host of other incredible stories for which endings were being sought.
The Winter 100 course is a series of four x 12.5 mile out and backs, giving runners at both ends of the field a chance to see and support one another, and those at the back to watch the race at the front unfold. From a logistical standpoint, it means our runners come back to HQ every 25 miles allowing them access to their drop bags and service from a host of hard working volunteers and race staff. At the outlying aid stations, hardy volunteer crews went through the night, outside and in, to keep the runners moving during the final throws.
At this point it’s worth going in to a bit more detail on what the volunteers go through to make this race happen. We had a total of 71 volunteers filling 93 slots at this event. 53 of those people were returning volunteers. With 152 starters, that works out as almost 1 volunteer for every 2 runners. What’s more significant is the level of care and selflessness that those volunteers bring with them. Every event we’ve staged this year, we’ve noticed an increasing level of community spirit between the volunteers and the runners. Without the time and effort of those people, there would be no ultras. Many of the crew were awake from 0500 on Saturday until late Sunday night, far beyond the 30hrs of the race, working for no other reason than to help those people achieve their goals.
It’s witnessing how much a finish means to an individual and their loved ones that all of that work pays off ten fold. Before I go on to break down the race, I’d just like to mention Jon and Natasha Fielden who sum up that community spirit entirely. Two of our longest standing volunteers they have assisted at almost all of our races to date. When we lost our checkpoints to wind and weather in 2012, they sat up all night in the back of a Luton van attending to the 35 finishers we had that year. Jon ran this as his first 100 and was a broken man at mile 75, unsure probably of how he was going to make the finish. After a very long night with Natasha pacing him for the final 25 miles/ 9hrs, they came in together to a very emotional finish. There was no doubt that that moment summed up the relationship between staff, volunteers and runners at our events. Not for one minute is that taken for granted and long may it continue.
Back to the sharp end of the race, the first loop was run in trademark blistering pace by Ed Catmur our 2013 champion and Course Record holder. At the 12.5 mile mark he held a 30 second lead over Marco Consani who looked the most comfortable of the top 10. Chasing were Paul Radford and Dave Ross. At the 25 mile mark, Ed and Marco came in almost together in 3:03, already with a 10 minute lead. Out on to loop 2, the two seemed to be loosely together for the duration, and again returned within 2 minutes of one another to mile 50, in 6:22/24. Not a bad 50 mile time as a stand alone. Their lead by this time over 30 minutes on Dave and it was a two horse race for the overall win.
Spur 3 out on the Ridgeway is long and largely flat with some very fast running for those with some gas in the tank. Marco ran out ahead but held back a little as he arrived at the 100km mark Chain Hill aid station in 8:23 with Ed just 4 minutes back, but on the return leg Marco really let it fly in what was the decisive move of the race. He returned to HQ mile 75 in 10:09 elapsed and knew that he had put 20 minutes in to Ed just on that stretch. He stayed a while eating as much as he could get his hands on and then got on with the job in hand, loop 4. In the end, despite fading in the final stretches,
Marco stretched his lead out to almost 90 minutes on Ed, finishing an hour under the course record in 15:03 for almost exactly 9 minute mile pace. Ed suffered badly in the last 25 again but as he always does, kept moving forward for 2nd place in 16:28. Dave Ross stayed consistent and despite a detour down the Kennett and Avon Canal in Reading, made it back for 3rd place in 16:42 for 3rd.
With that result, Dave Ross became the new Grand Slam record holder with a combined time of 70:03 for 400 miles. His results: TP100 14th, SDW100 3rd, NDW100 2nd, W100 3rd, all under 20 hours and a cumulative time that will be hard to beat.
In the ladies race, we were treated to a similar battle between two runners, right from the off. Returning to mile 25 in 3:42 & 3:43 respectively, Sarah Morwood of Mud Crew & Centurion Ultra Team Runner Debs Martin-Consani both went straight out on to loop 2 looking relaxed and focused. Wendy Shaw was in third place at this point, 30 minutes back, a position she would hold all day through to the finish.
Debs and Sarah stayed close on the first Ridgeway leg, with Sarah edging a few minutes further ahead with each passing checkpoint. At mile 37.5 her lead was 7 minutes, rising to 12 minutes by mile 50. A gap that could still be closed in just a couple of bad miles. Loop 3 the pattern continued and we were all left wondering whether both would hang on to make it a really close finish. As Sarah came in from loop 3 she was in good spirits and left quickly, Debs arrived 27 minutes behind, exactly on plan and still as fresh as when she started. Many of the male runners could learn from the pacing of the top ladies.
Both Sarah and Debs climbed the rankings throughout the race, going from 19th/21st at mile 25 to 4th/7th overall by the finish. Sarah retained her lead through loop 4 and in the end began to edge further away from Debs, running in a new course record of 17:22 and her third Centurion title of 2014. With a fantastic UTMB in the summer she really has had a huge year and continues to get stronger. Sitting about telling jokes at the finish she only had us wondering what might lie in her future. Debs arrived at the finish in 18:10 for second, also under the existing course record. It was great to see two of the UK’s top ladies battling it out all day long for the win. Wendy took another Centurion podium with 3rd in 21:50:32. She has more podium placings at our events than anyone else. She again climbed the rankings from start to finish.
152 runners began the race and a large number of drops began accruing from the end of loop 1. The ground underfoot was muddy in places, but the weather was extremely kind to the runners, if a little warm early on, coinciding with many going off fast as we usually see at this event, the wind and rain abated and allowed a clear passage for the majority of the race. 47 runners made it home for the 100 Miles - One Day buckle, with one particular to note. Ken Fancett at 65 was the oldest finisher of the race, but that is irrelevant when you look at his stats. I know I mention Ken a lot, but that’s simply because his is perhaps the most impressive of all of the records we have had to date. Ken’s time at this event was 20:56 for 17th overall. That rounded out his 2nd Centurion Grand Slam and in doing so became the first to achieve that and the first to finish all 6 of our standard events within a calendar year (Traviss Wilcox also achieved that second feat on Sunday). Ken's 2014 slam time was 30 mins quicker than his 2012 slam time. As if all of that wasn’t enough Ken had just returned from running Georgia Jewel 100 in the US a few weeks before hand.
A total of 95 runners made it in under the 30 hour cut off, 16 of those were Grand Slammers. 41 started out the year hoping to reach the 400 mile target. 2 of those were ladies Katherine Ganly and Ellen Cottom, both outside of Wendy Shaw’s Grand Slam record. The final Grand Slam standings can be found here.
It’s been the most incredible season of racing at our events. We’ve welcomed home 1004 runners across the 6 finish lines, with 530 of those - 100 milers. Course Records went for the men at the SDW50, SDW100 and W100 and for the ladies at the SDW50 and W100. All of this was made possible by around 500 volunteers, so many of them returning race after race.
To all of you who have been involved in our 2014 season, thank you. There is of course just one race to go. One of the single most miserable opportunities available in running. The Piece of String Fun Run. Starting on Saturday November 1st, stay tuned for some fun via our twitter and facebook pages.
Back in 2011 this was our first event, held alongside marathon and 50 mile options, on an out and back course to Knockholt Pound and return. Little has changed in the interim with the exception of the course extending now as a point to point all the way to Wye in Kent, rather than returning to Farnham. And the fact that we had 37 finishers in that first race. 3 of them started again this weekend. We also welcomed back 114 returning Centurion Runners and 89 volunteers, of which 57 had either run or volunteered with us before, exemplifying the level of community we are lucky to have at our events.
This route is a hard one. Probably our hardest. The long sweeping sections of faster flatter running are interrupted all too frequently by sections of twists and turns on rutted trail and various flights of steps up and down steeper hills which can zap a runners energy at whatever stage they are reached.
This year we would have 180 starters. At runner briefing 0530 on Saturday morning, we went through the course conditions but crucially also the likely weather forecast. Much like the TP100 in 2012, it was going to be a race of two halves, split unevenly by the conditions.
At 0600 the runners began their journey, in fair temperatures and dry, sunny weather which made for some easier early progress. The benchmark of the race pace at this event is always at Box Hill, mile 24. This brings to an end one of the easier sections of the course. Ed Catmur, returning to retain his 2013 crown, was just 4 minutes down on his 2013 CR split, with Dave Ross running alongside. As Box Hill and Reigate Hill came and went, Ed and Dave traded the lead as Ed is wont to do in our 100s. Usually, he comes out on top….
As the race rolled on to Wrotham at mile 60 and Holly Hill mile 66, Dave started to pull away a little and we were wondering if one of the UK’s most prolific marathoners was going to run away to his first 100 mile win. Certainly Dave has taken his running to the next level this year and thoroughly deserves results from the effort he always puts in. Emerging to Bluebell Hill almost out of nowhere however, Duncan Oakes took control of the race, blazing past Dave at a pace Dave was unable to match.
Duncan is no stranger to ultras and he is one tough cookie. Last year, his 27:57 at UTMB showed just what a class act he is, alongside 2 consecutive second places at UTSW. The out of nowhere comment, leads on from the fact that Duncan had finished Lakeland just 2 weeks before the NDW100, in 7th overall. Somehow he had found the legs to kick on from that and start to drop the hammer at mile 75 just 14 days on.
He never looked back. Through the final 4 check points he put a further 41 minutes in to Dave and ran away with the win in a superb 17:04. Dave held on for a second, one better than his 3rd at the SDW100 and completed number 3 in his quest for the Grand Slam. Should he finish the Winter 100 under the 30hr cut off and at least 3hrs ahead of Jeremy Isaac, he is now guaranteed the overall Grand Slam record. Jeremy’s first 100 was here last year. He ran one of the smartest days of the race as he came past Ed to finish 3rd overall in 18:01. Ed faded in the final stages but in his typical gritty fashion, still pulled through to finish 4th in a time of 19:16.
In the ladies race, there was only one lady in it for much of the day. Wendy Shaw who has podiumed at more of our events than I can count, led Caroline Billis and Jenni Ball by 2 and 4 minutes respectively at Box Hill. By the half way mark, Caroline had slipped back out of contention, and Wendy’s lead over Jenni was up to 20 minutes. That lead stayed almost static right through to Detling, mile 82, with a gap of just 16 minutes at that point between the two. On route to Lenham, the weather started to come in, in a huge way. Wendy found herself soaked through and lost a lot of time as Jenni managed to hang on to her pace and forge past. In a heartbreaking end for Wendy, she made the incredibly tough decision to stop at mile 98.4, Dunn Street. A lesson for most ultra runners out there, Wendy knew to continue even the final 4 miles would put her in danger and made not just a smart decision but the only decision she could have made. Jenni went on to capture the win in a time of 21:54 to add to her 4th place at the NDW50 back in May. A superb debut 100.
Katharine Ganly ran a smart race, looking for her 3rd of 4 in the Grand Slam, getting stronger and stronger with each passing race and took 2nd overall, followed by Rosie Williams. Rosie dropped from the event last year so for her to gain a podium spot this time was both unexpected and an amazing way to cap off her race.
The first three men and women took home prize money put up by event sponsor Eventbrite for their hard work.
Most of the 180 strong field progressed well through the first day and on towards Wrotham at mile 60. Up until Wrotham’s closing at midnight, the weather was calm and almost ideal for good progress. The Met Office had warned all week of the remnants of Hurrican Bertha tracking towards the South East sometime over Sunday morning, and at almost exactly 1am on Sunday, the wind and rain picked up dramatically. The leaders were of course already done by this time, but for everyone else out on course the difficulty of the trail and the wet, windy weather was magnified significantly. Holly Hill caught the first of the weather closing at 0200. As the race wound it’s way east, so the storm caught up with it and by Bluebell Hill, the number of drops was climbing at an incredible rate. We lost 15% of the field at that check point alone. Almost all of the runners who made it through mile 75, made it to the finish. Few dropped at Detling, taking the shelter of the hall to get on some hot food and drink, change in to drop bag clothing and press onwards across one of the hardest sections of the course between miles 82 and 86.
The finishers began to increase in number as the race at the back of the pack began to take shape. The final runners aren’t racing each other, they are forming bands of brothers as they each fight for every bit of forward progress to stay ahead of the cut offs. At Lenham, mile 91, our final runners inside the cut offs made it through with 25 minutes to spare. Christian Kammer and Richard Townsend were done. Gloves were off, packs were off, they weren’t going on any longer. But a few minutes later, after some deep conversation between staff, volunteers and runners, they decided to see if they could yet do it. From experience of time there vs cut offs, I guessed they would make it with ten minutes to spare but gave them more of a chance than that. Behind them, three runners still on route for Lenham were beaten by the cuts in huge, valiant efforts getting them as far as 91.
On to Dunn Street mile 98.4 and just over 4 miles from the finish, we knew the runners through there needed 75 minutes to make it in. With 80 minutes to go till the final cut, Emiko Kawakami and 4 other runners cleared the check point with volunteers rushing around to get them on their way as quickly as possible. Then the waiting game began.
Passing Emiko at mile 101, she was running with her pacer through the last village, with total determination on her face.
At the level crossing just 400 metres from the finish, tensions were running high, when with just 11 minutes to go, 4 runners made it in. Richard and Christian had made it. I’m not sure if they could believe their fortune reversal. Between Detling and Lenham they had averaged 2.5mph and had given up all hope. From there on in they turned in an average almost twice that and finished the race with 29:52 on the clock. Emiko was next as she burst in to tears hugged by her crew at the finish. Finally, John Whittaker who had pulled out of the race injured on email on the Friday, but decided to give it a shot, made it over the line with just 5 minutes to spare. It’s worth noting too that Marketa Martins, who last year missed the cut by just 7 minutes at the finish, completed the race this year in a time of 28:01. Way to come back stronger 12 months on.
All in all 110 runners made it over the line from 180 starters, 61% overall and with 36 breaking 24hrs for the 100 MILES - ONE DAY buckle. 17 of the 18 remaining Grand Slammers completed the race, showing as always that if you can get through the first 2, your chances of finishing all 4 in one year are exponentially higher.
This race continues to be statistically the hardest of our 4 and I think the majority of this weekends runners would attest to that.
A couple of final runner highlights. This race saw Ken Fancett become the first runner to complete 1000 miles at our races, on route to his potential second Grand Slam. And Rob Young deserves a mention for his insane project which can be found here. He ran a marathon prior to the race, and then was shipped off after his sub 24 hr finish to the Salisbury 5-4-3-2-1 50km which he duly completed.
A 2 month break now before the Winter 100 and then the final event of the year with it’s own race date for the first time ever, the Piece of String Fun Run…..
In the lead up to the 2014 Petzl South Downs Way 100, the team behind the scenes had worked harder than ever to ensure the event laid on was as perfect as possible to create the best support and conditions possible for a fast race. The few days before this years event were hot and humid, but with a big thunderstorm which ended just prior to race start, the air cleared and a slightly cooler day and night presented themselves to the starting field of 239 runners.
That number made this our biggest ever 100, up from 217 at this years TP100. This was matched by the largest number of volunteers we’ve ever had out on course supporting those with the dream of reaching Eastbourne in under 30 hours.
Friday night saw the 3rd annual SDW kids 1 mile. And the record breaking weekend began there. Max Sydenham looked cool and calm during his first 0.5 mile loop and with 400 to go it looked like he could break the course record. With an outstanding sprint finish he crossed the line in 6:07 setting a new benchmark for the under 12s! 7 other runners toed the line, with one other particularly notable achievement, Spencer Chapman-Skill deciding that one medal wasn’t enough, did the double and ran the race twice, the second time 7 seconds quicker than the first! Our youngest finisher was Isla Hill in 9:47 aged just 4 years old. Stars in the making and I am very much looking forward to the day that one of our kids 1 mile finishers goes on to complete the SDW100 in full….
Lining up amongst the starting field were half a dozen internationals, a large cast of returning runners (some going for 3/3 SDW finishes to date) and those hoping to finish their first 100.
The half mile lap of the field to begin was led by Stuart Mills. Stuart was doing some sprint warm ups before the race and I had wondered why given that an easy lap of the field seemed to be the perfect way to get going, but I quickly saw why. It is not an overexaggeration to say that he led by almost a minute after the first 0.5 miles. His astonishing starting pace led to some disbelief amongst the crowd and lead runners behind him, but chatting to Stuart afterwards he made his plan clear.
As an analytical runner, Stuart has succeeded in running at the very top of both Ironman and Ultra Running for a career most could only dream of. He knew on paper that Mark Perkins was capable of a much faster finish than he was, so made his move early in an aim to put so much time in to Mark that he wouldn’t be able to close the gap, or would be defeated psychologically by it. He hung out at what I like to call ‘suicide pace’ for the first 22 miles, reaching QECP and the first major land mark in the race in 2:43. For the purposes of reference I’ll mention here that Robbie Britton’s course record from 2013, was 15:43. Stuart was 26 minutes under Robbie’s split through here. The thing was, Mark wasn’t that far behind! He came through in 2:52 and looked very comfy. Richard La Cock, this years NDW50 winner also looked comfy in 2:57. All three were under the fastest times we’ve ever seen for that section of the course. Through Hartin Downs Stuarts gap was reduced by Mark, and as they reached Cocking aid station at mile 35, Mark crept past and made 2 minutes whilst Stuart ate and drank at the CP.
From there on it was a different kind of race: Mark Perkins vs the clock. Each time I saw him he seemed fine. At the NDW100 last year he struggled, reaching half way suffering cramps and other issues which dramatically slowed him. This time he had his family as crew once again, operating at an incredible level of efficiency, giving him the mental and physical lift each time. And with over a marathon to go he picked up Sarah, his wife, as a pacer, a lady who enjoyed 2nd place at the UK 100km champs this year. Everything was faling in to place as he went further and further ahead of course record splits, by almost a minute a mile, averaging in the low 8s. 46 minutes at 54 miles, 64 minutes at 70 miles. Were we finally going to see someone go under 15hrs at one of our 100s? I kept waiting for the slow down, but it never came. He was in pain leaving 91 with sore feet and feeling the hurt, but then again that’s fairly typical for 91 downland miles!!! As he came off of the trig point with less than 3 miles to go we braced ourselves for one of the most astonishing performances in a UK ultra for many many years.
Mark crossed the line in 14:03:54. The first thing I told him was his time and said ‘15:03?’. I had to check the watch again before I could confirm that he had in fact broken the course record by 100 minutes exactly and won in an average pace of 8:26 per mile.
I don’t know what the record for a 100 mile trail race on UK soil, is. I imagine we would need to have the course ratified officially for distance, something that is almost impossible for a trail race, but whatever the case I would hazard a guess that Mark’s is either the fastest or one of the few fastest ever run on UK soil. A truly incredible athletic achievement and one that no one could have predicted.
Behind him, Richard La Cock also ran an astonishing race, using his own experience from 2 NDW100s and two super 50 mile efforts this year, to convert in to a 15:11 finish, which also went 32 minutes under the course record. A bit like Western in 2010 when Anton smashed the record but was beaten by Geoff, Richard may feel hard done by but was accordingly delghted and amazed with his own time.
Third place was picked up by the indomitable David Ross who is in the shape of his life, that’s saying something for a man who has 300 marathons, 10 Comrades and a number of 100 mile finishes to his name. He dipped under 16 hours for his first sub 17 finish and his first podium.
Behind him, Duncan Oakes, winner of this years Classi Quarter came over the line in 16:26 smiling from ear to ear. A truly talented runner with a superb attitude to the sport.
And then came Stuart Mills. I’m personally delighted he chose to race this event this year. Whatever anyone may say about his pacing, he races that way for a reason. It’s always tactical, he’s always thinking, and whilst some people might criticise that, what better way to silence those people than by winning as he did at least years Lakeland 100 in the same way. This time it didn’t work out and he had a very long hard day (for him) out on course. But he didn’t jack it in, he hung his head and gritted his teeth and jogged on to the track with perfect form as always and finished up in 5th in 16:33. Then sat around joking and watching the football on the track TVs!
The male race was a runaway from Mark. The ladies race had a similarly strong line up, but was led from start to finish by Sarah Moorwood. Sarah has so far run 3 100 milers, and won them all. At the TP100 she suffered in the final 50 and slipped a long way back of her potential finishing time. She’d learned a lot there and knew she had been a little lucky to hold on to the lead to the finish. This time she got it almost bang on. The threat from the trio of Team GB girls behind her, Emily Gelder, Karen Hathaway and Sharon Law, didn’t seem to phase her and she was able to convert a strong start in to a stunning 17:36 for 9th overall. Our second fastest ever female 100 mile finish behind Jean Beaumonts astonishing 16:54.
Sharon Law, winner of 2013’s Winter 100, ran a super solid race throughout. Admittedly not feeling like her best at any point she showed true class in staying strong and consistent from end to end with an 18:51 for second. Karen and Emily earned joint 3rd coming home together in 20:11.
Mark, Richard, Dave, Sarah, Sharon, Karen and Emily all walked away with prize money from this years sponsor title sponsor Petzl. We’re extremely grateful to them for helping us to attract the calibre of runner to the event which led to some superb racing and blazing fast times.
24 runners made it home under 20 hours, and a massive 90 made it in under 24hrs for the coveted 100 Miles - One Day belt buckle. Jay Mccardle entered the track with under 2 minutes to go to make the mark, and kicked hard down the back straight to finish with a massive 28 seconds to spare.
The warriors out fighting for their finishes within the cut offs were still a way back on course racing to fulfil their own dreams. It was a sobering thought, that when Mark finished, we still had runners between check points 6 (mile 42) and 7 (mile 50) making their way to Eastbourne.
The cut offs snared people at each point as the aid stations began to shut down, but not many. And something strange happened with our final runners, they began to get faster! Having shaved cut offs at many of the check points, runners began to make time back somehow, feeling that pull of the finish. Jimmy Hartwelll, final runner on course and within 5 minutes of the cut at one point eventually brought the race to a close in a time of 29:30. Our fastest ever final finisher.
All in all, 179 runners made it home, for a 75% finish rate. This race continues to bring out the fastest times from all sections of the field, and our highest finisher rates. Something to think about when considering this or the TP100 as the faster course.
A massive thank you as always to the incredible team of volunteers and indeed the management team for their exceptional dedication in allowing an event of this magnitude to run so well. And a final thanks to Petzl and Gu Energy for supporting us throughout the year.
Back in 2011, the NDW50 was our first ever Centurion event, held alongside 100 and marathon distance options. The course has remained unchanged in that time aside from the final 200 metres through Knockholt Pound village. Over the previous 4 years we’ve seen excellent weather each time, and this year was no different.
195 runners gathered at the trail head in Farnham on race morning, faced with 50 hot and hilly point to point miles. The route has plenty of flatter runnable sections but with a blend of lots of different terrain types and some stuff climbs including Box Hill, Reigate Hill and Botley Hill in particular the routes 5600ft of ascent feels like a lot more at times. The difficulty of this race as a 50 is somewhat borne out by Craig Holgate’s superb course record of 6hr47, the only runner to have ever gone sub 7.
The first section of the race is flat and fast and we welcome the lead pack through Puttenham aid station at mile 7, in 50 minutes flat. Already slightly ahead of the group was South African Richard La Cock. With a 7:01 5th overall at the SDW50 six weeks earlier he came in looking to improve and make his way on to the podium for the first time. The furious early pace stayed constant through Newlands Corner and on to Box Hill at mile 24, which is where the race really starts with the brutal ascent of the steps of the western side. It’s a short climb but a steep one and it pays to be patient. Richard’s time through the Box Hill aid station before the climb was 3:01, 7 minutes up on course record. He was pursued by Thomas Jeffery in 3:10 and Adam Stirk in 3:18, already slipping back from Richard’s relentless running.
On to Reigate Hill and across the most difficult section of the course, Richard arrived to a big crowd enjoying the sunshine, still on course record pace, but with the first cracks appearing as the heat began to take it’s toll. The gap was still growing however, yet he didn’t stop to check splits and timings, he just pressed on. Caterham View Point, mile 38 and Richard had dropped 6 minutes in 6 miles on Craig’s 2013 best and it was now a case of him holding on tight to the lead he’d built in the early stages. That he did, as he pushed through Botley Hill mile 43 and powered on home to the finish in a superb time of 7:05:12. The second best time we’ve seen on the course and with a path laid down by some very talented runners before him.
The battle for second and third was intense and separated by just a few hundred metres just 20 minutes from the finish, where both runners went off course. By the time normal business had been resumed, positions had switched and eventually John Melbourne ran out a 5 minute gap on third place Thomas Jeffery. Their times were over 40 minutes back of Richard’s, showing that depsite their detour he truly had had a stellar day.
In the ladies race, Gemma Carter led proceedings early on, running with the lead guys and positively sprinting through the first aid station. As the day wore on Gemma began to suffer with some stomach issues and the frenetic early pace faded, on which Annabelle Stearns was able to capitalise. After dropping from the race in 2013, Annabelle had unfinished business and looked utterly determined from the outset. Her steady early pace saw her climb from 14th at Box Hill to 9th overall by the finish and run out the ladies winner in a time of 8:18, good for just under 10 minutes miling. Gemma rallied and toughed out her finish for second lady in 8:36, to add to her podium finish from the SDW50. Third lady Deborah Turner broke the tape in a time of 8:54.
Many of the runners found themselves having to dig especially deep in the warm temperatures but were treated to the usual feasts laid on at the aid stations. Assisted by 50 of the most incredible volunteers, they were met by Allan Rumbles’ bacon barge at mile 11, and later with Jelly and Ice Cream at Caterham Aid station, something which is becoming an annual fixture continued on by local, Bryan Webster.
Last year the race saw a huge finish rate but it became obvious from early in the day that many were going to suffer at the hands of the heat to an early end to their race. All in all, 171 runners made it across the finish line under the 13 and a half hour cut off to be labelled official finishers. The battle at the back from Botley Hill in to the finish, was truly epic, With 10 minutes to go we were still waiting on 9 runners to come home. A sudden rush brought 5 of them across the line, the final runner Jeffrey Lee leaving himself just 19 seconds to spare, our tightest ever finishing margin. The final 4 made it to the finish just after the cut off had passed and deserved the credit for giving their all to complete the challenge. We hope they will all come back next year to dip in under that official cut off.
Of the final finishers lists there were a few extra worthy mentions. Ken Fancett became our highest all time Centurion runner. Having completed the Grand Slam and holding the record initially, he has now run a total of 800 miles at our events, and is entered in to all 6 of our races this year including his second Grand Slam. Rusty Gardham also finished 3 from 3 in his attempt to complete all 6. And we had our youngest ever finisher at 18 years and 10 months, Ryan Holmes.
A huge thanks once again to our army of volunteers, to the National Trust and National Trails for allowing our races to go ahead and to the runners and their families that make this event what it is.
In 2012 and 2013, the Thames Path 100 was fated with appalling conditions at some stage of each race. Traditionally taking place in March, we made the call after excessive flooding over countless weeks and months, to shift the event to the first bank holiday in May and finally we were blessed with almost perfect running conditions for the third edition of the event.
227 runners registered early Saturday morning in Richmond-Upon-Thames, 107 returning Centurion runners and 120 new to our races, all with the dream of making it to Oxford in under 28 hours.
The Thames Path 100 is a deceptive race. Looking at the course profile, with under 2000ft of climbing for the duration, it’s easy to see a blazing fast course. But covering 100 miles on foot is a challenge of enormous proportions at any time.
In the early stages, Ed Catmur ran ahead of the field trailed closely by Martin Bacon out in the lead. We watched all of the runners safely over Hampton Court Bridge and in to aid station 1 at mile 11. We saw our first drop runner there and throughout the weekend we dealt with a higher than average number of drop outs, despite the good conditions.
As the day warmed up, Ed ran fast but seemingly controlled in his usual fashion of leading out. We made our way ahead of him through the teams at Walton, Wraysbury and our new 50km check point at Eton Dorney Rowing Lake, where runners were greeted by a giant chicken. We watched as Ed opened a gap on the field that grew with each check point, eventually reaching the half way point at Henley in 6:56, 40 minutes up on Martin Bacon in 2nd. The field were moving well at this point, with almost 30 of the 227 starters reaching mile 51 in under 10 minute mile pace. Amongst those numbers, Sarah Morwood who was running extremely well out in front of the ladies field in 8:02, a minute per mile up on 2nd and 3rd, Di Roy and Sally Ford.
As dusk came and the temperature began to drop, so did the quick early pace for almost all of the runners. Ed battled on in his typical mercurial fashion, seemingly done for at numerous points during the final 20 miles but hanging tough for yet another 100 mile win, taking the honours in 16:38, just under 10 minute miling. Ed has now won the last 3 Centurion 100s and with the slam ahead of him will want to add to that. Perhaps the strongest finish came from David Pryce. He ran through the 22 mile CP in 25th place, and finished 2nd, just 20 minutes behind Ed, catching him at an average of 3 minutes per mile during the final 15. Needless to say a slightly longer race and it could have been very interesting indeed! Behind David, Tim Landon picked up 3rd in 17:48, also having climbed the rankings all day.
17 runners broke the 20 hour mark, including ladies winner Sarah Morwood in 19:57, chased hard by Sally Ford in the final stages who came home 2nd in 20:19, a huge improvement on her past results. Kerry Sutton picked up 3rd in 22:08 another sterling effort.
At the other end of the field, runners were facing a colder than average night as temperatures dropped in to low single figures. It was the undoing of many as the salvation of warm aid stations proved too much for some. As the dawn came around with light starting to appear from 5am, the runners looking to make the magic sub 24hr mark and the coveted 100 miles in One Day buckle, began the epic final throws of their respective battles. 83 runners made that mark, Stephen Cross home with just under 90 seconds to spare and Russell Morling missing out by just 6 minutes.
Time crept away and the cut offs caught out a few at each check point as the end drew nearer and nearer. With 10 minutes to go we had 3 runners still out on course from the last aid station at mile 95. At that point I took a phone call from Caroline Billis, the final runner out on the course. She was quite happy but said she might just miss the cut off, would we wait for her with her bag! The two runners ahead of her made it in with 9 minutes and a very narrow 90 seconds to spare from Sweden’s Per Hedberg. Still no sign of Caroline as the clock ticked around for 28 hours. Cut offs in ultras are a necessary part of safety and a huge part of the challenge is to finish within the official time. Caroline eventually crossed the mark just 5 minutes past the 28hr limit, smiled and said thank you for a wonderful race, no regret or frustration at missing out by such a narrow margin. A shining example of what makes the runners at these events so special. She covered the whole 100 miles on foot. She will be back to conquer the time limit of this race, in the meantime she plans to race Transvulcania the next weekend!
All in all 147 runners out of 227 starters made the finish, a rate of 65%.
This years Grand Slammers started their journey to all 4 x 100 milers within the calendar year too. 41 began the day, only 20 made it home for a very high attrition rate. Those 20 go on to the SDW100 with the dream still alive….
From first to last, our runners were extremely complementary of our outstanding volunteers. There was someone out there assisting for every 3 runners over the weekend, giving their time utterly selflessly to help others fulfil their dreams. To each and every one of them a massive thank you from all of us.
This years SDW50 was a record breaking race for Centurion in many ways.
Going into race weekend, the management team and volunteers went into overdrive making sure that no detail was left to chance. We braced ourselves for the arrival of such a large crowd and were delighted to see so many familiar faces from the UK ultra scene, but also a host of new ones too. This event has the potential to be one of the most competitive, scenic and exciting trail 50s we have here in the UK and we definitely started to see that shine through this year.
As the runners lined up at the start, the elite guys and girls began to filter forward, wary of the narrow trail under a mile in to the course. Last years champion Mark Perkins, our two Centurion Team Runners Paul Navesey and Edwina Sutton, Paul Sargent and Rick Ashton all looking smiley and ready to give it a good go. Behind, a total of 315 runners all ready to get themselves to Eastbourne, 50 miles by foot in under the 13.5 hour cut off.
As the gun went at 0900 prompt, runners streamed past the crowds and away on to the trail, meeting the South Downs Way proper 4.6 miles in.
Heading to aid station 1, mile 11, the crew were anticipating Paul Navesey to be through at 1010, and 2 minutes behind schedule sure enough he appeared, followed a minute back by Rick, Paul Sargent from Burgess Hill Runners, and another minute back, Mark Perkins last years champ. Already a big gap had formed over the rest of the field and it seemed set to be a 4 horse race for the overall.
It wasn’t by chance that all 4 of these runners knew the course intimately. They had each spent hours recce-ing it, racing on it and learning it’s peaks and troughs. In the ladies race, the eventual top 3 ladies had done exactly the same. Clearly each of their hard work had paid off enormously.
Up and over the second hill fort at Devils Dyke, runners made their way down to Saddlescombe Farm CP2 at mile 16.6. the volunteer team there were sharing the aid station area with a holding area for ewe’s carrying triplets and were promptly rewarded with the spectacle of lambs being born literally adjacent to the aid station. Runners began streaming past, still led by Paul and Eddie respectively in both races, both with commanding leads even at this early stage.
Housedean Farm at mile 26.6 is a great mid way marker in the race. It comes at the end of one of the fastest sections of the course after the flat track from Jack and Jill windmills, all the way down to the A27 crossing. Paul was within a minute of his ETA there, screaming through the marathon mark in just over 3hrs and on track for his A goal of a sub 6 time. Mark Perkins had moved in to second and with his usual winning smile was making himself popular as always with everyone out on the course and running extremely well, set to obliterate his own record of 6:55 from 2013. Behind him Rick and Paul Sargent still looked strong though of the 4 Paul seemed to be working that little bit harder.
The week prior to the race we had been granted permission to migrate our Southease check point to the new South Downs YHA facilities right on the downs, and what a great venue it turned out to be. Friends, family and crew were there to assist the volunteers see the runners through this 34 mile point and kept a wonderful atmosphere going all day. Paul screamed through bang on 6hr schedule, Mark was 10 minutes behind exactly as he was at Housedean, and was met by his crew of father and his little girl, complained a little of cramp but still had a beaming smile.
Three of the lumpier climbs in the race come in the final 16 miles, and it’s on the climbs that Paul is at his strongest. Everyone seemed to pay a price - small or big - from the hot early pace, but Paul held his own and turned off the SDW with 2.8 miles to go in 5:50. He made his way down to the track and entered it with 6:10 on the clock. Yours truly had estimated a finish time of 6:11 exactly and with an 88 second final 400 split (that’s sub 6 minute pace), he crossed the line in 6:11:28.
The race for second was on with Rick Ashton closing in usual fashion and passing Mark Perkins with less than 10k to go.
As Rick turned on to the back straight of the track, Mark came in to the stadium, and eventually crossed the line just over a minute back over Rick’s 6:23. All three went well under Marks’ 2013 Course Record set in poor conditions. Interesting to note that in the men’s race, the top 5 runners average age was just 28, against an average entrant age of 40. A sign of the younger generation pushing the pace at the front perhaps….
In the ladies race, Eddie Sutton held a 13 minute lead over Sarah Perkins (3rd Placed Marks’ wife!) at mile 27, 34, 41 and the final aid station at Jevington. Amazingly consistent splits from both. Eddie turned off the SDW first and held strong to the finish running in a 7:09, with Sarah following in at 7:19 both over an hour under the 2013 CR of 8:22. Super running from both. Gemma Carter who had a very strong race in 3rd all the way held on to the final podium position in 7:32. Eddie still new to ultras now has two wins and two course records to show for 2014 so far. She has a very bright future ahead.
Out of a field of 315 starters, we ended up welcoming 301 across the finish line. A finish rate of 96% which is quite frankly exceptional. It was truly amazing to watch the interaction between runners and volunteers, friends, family, crew and pets along the way and great to see so many supporters at the finish line welcoming loved ones home.
Our final finisher Graham Kanna came off the downs looking like he may just miss the final cut off, but was brilliantly ushered by Mike Sartorius our mercurial sweeper who had covered all 50 miles to that point, to a final finish of 13:28, 2 minutes inside the final cut.
All in all this was a special day from the blazing times at the front, to the strongest finishes at the back and one where the ultra community as a whole seemed to swell together to make it an unforgettable experience for all involved.
The greatest thanks as always go to the volunteers, but also to the SDW National Park for allowing us to stage this event and our sponsors for this event, Gu and Orange Mud.