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.