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.