The 2015 Autumn 100 was our 6th and final event of the year. The format of the race, with its four out and back spurs returning to Goring every 25 miles, engenders a feeling of amazing camaraderie out on the course. Volunteers, runners, crew and race staff all get to see much more of the race and of each other, than on our other point to point or single loop courses.
Scanning the list of entries, I was overwhelmed by the number I recognised either as previous volunteers, runners or crew. We also had a deeper field on both the men’s and women’s side precipitated not by the influx of new elite runners, but by the steady improvement of so many of returning Centurion finishers.
Since the beginning of 2014, the team of staff and core group of volunteers at our events had been asking me if and when I would ever try seeing our events from the other side, as a runner. After directing 29 events since 2011, around a week or so prior to the A100 I finally felt confident enough to make the transition over from RD to entrant. The format of the race - never being more than 12 miles from HQ if I were needed, the strength of our team ethic such that no single person is required to make things work (including me), gave me the confidence to hand over my usual roles and responsibilities on the Friday night before the race. Drew Sheffield and Nici Griffin our two senior staff were handed the emergency line and were in charge of the key decision making whilst I removed myself from the process. The next morning I lined up for kit check and collected my bib number. I did however still do the briefing and made sure the runners knew who was responsible for them over the weekend!
The race became as usual, about the sum of the incredible individual stories out on course. This is a longer report than normal, for which I apologise, however at this point in the year many much longer journeys than a single race, deserve to be highlighted. These don’t need any enhancement, the facts speak for themselves. There are too, many other equally incredible stories that go unspoken.
Ken Fancett became the first person to complete a 3rd Grand Slam. He did so in a time of 84 hours and 23 minutes. His fastest of the 3. His 14th Centurion 100, all of them under 24hrs. He’s also finished many other 100s during the same time frame including Stage Coach 100 just 2 weeks prior to the A100. Ken is 66 this year.
Sally Ford set out to become overall Grand Slam champion for 2015, and to try to record a 4th 100 Centurion 100 mile victory in 2015 after wins at the TP, SDW and NDW 100’s, a feat that will alone, surely never be repeated. In the end she was beaten only by Sarah Morwood, who took 40 minutes off the fastest ever female 100 mile finish time at any Centurion 100. Sarah retained the title from her Course Record win in 2014.
Mark Haynes overcame a cancer diagnosis and 3 tumours in late 2014, to be back on his feet and running in March of this year. He said he owed it to himself to attempt at least the Thames Path and finish he did. He completed each of the next two 100s under his own steam, quietly and without pomp and ceremony. He dared to reach out to the community on facebook a week prior to the race and won everyone over with his humble words about just what the journey had meant to him. His finish at this year’s race was at least as emotional as we’ve had yet at a Centurion event. It was clear that it suddenly hit Mark too, just what he’d achieved, to be there with his family and to have our staff and volunteers respond to him the way that they did - well you could put everything else aside and that single moment would make it worthwhile for every ounce of energy that goes into making an event happen.
Sandra Brown finished her 168th 100 mile (or longer) race. Sandra’s time was 24:36:42. She walked every step.
22 Grand Slammers finished the 4th and final 100 of the year. Peter Kaminsky the SDW100 champion ran 16:29 for the overall title, just over an hour behind Dave Ross’ 2014 GS Record.
73 volunteers assisted the 205 runners out on course, two of those completing the Volunteer Grand Slam.
So as for the race itself….
205 of ‘us’ kicked off at 1000 on Saturday and began our out and back journey north on the Thames Path. Conditions were exceptional, particularly underfoot, certainly a lot better than the mud bath of 2014. This first of four sections is pan flat and so forgiving that runners often come back way ahead of target pacing. Early on, a group of four including Chris Brookman, Dave Ross, Ed Catmur and Mark Denby sped away from the field and made the turn in under 90 mins. Headed back to Goring, two of those four dropped off of the pace and Chris and Ed moved positively out on to Leg 2. The Ridgeway up to Swyncombe and back is flat to begin with some rollers up towards the far end of the spur, with fantastic trail through Grim’s Ditch and over farm and woodland.
I was running in 3rd at that point, thinking almost solely about whether my current effort was going to allow me to run rather than walk leg 4. I could hear the closing of gates and the occasional coughing of the ever smiling Duncan Oakes, all the way out to mile 35. We emerged largely together into the first of two very open fields and there ahead were Chris and Ed looking to be moving a little less well than earlier in the day.
Within a mile or so, I made the turn around at Swyncombe in front and made use of the small descents back to Goring. Getting to see every other runner in the field on this leg, as we all did, was an incredible experience and confirmed for me that we made the right decision to go with a race of this format.
Out to Chain Hill on leg 3 with my pacer and old friend Paddy Robbins and feeling good, we made decent progress and 8 minutes from the 100km mark/ leg turn around we came across Chris moving extremely well with his pacer - so a gap of 16 minutes or so. Duncan looked solid and happy as always, a few minutes behind of Chris.
Into mile 75 in 10:11 and I felt thankful that there was plenty of running left in the legs. Marco’s 15:03 winning time was in considerably worse conditions to those we were experiencing and I felt confident we could run most or all of this final section because it was dry and I’d saved enough. In the end I was able to make it back to HQ in a total time of 14:35. The reception I received was totally overwhelming and to share the whole experience with a group of people with whom I’ve shared so much over the years made it the most fulfilling running experience I’ve ever had. It was all capped off by a short speech from the man I try to emulate in terms of what he has achieved in the sport as a runner and an organiser, Dick Kearn. Sincere thanks to the whole team from me for allowing me to see things from the other side. I learned a huge amount. We can try to put into practice those things and continue with every event to keep improving the safety and enjoyment of all of our future runners.
Chris Brookman ran in for 2nd, in our 4th fastest ever 100 mile time, 15:05. 3rd place and continuing the most incredible streak of consistent 100 mile results, Duncan Oakes, still smiling from ear to ear. The only other person to beat the 16 hour mark, and Sarah Morwood home as first lady, was David Barker who deserves mention most of all for such a strong leg 4 and superb pacing from start to finish.
Sarah’s energy out on course is amazing. Gracious, supportive, always having fun but with that fiercely competitive side, she brings an incredible mix to the table and reaps the benefits of the success it yields. 16:12 sets a huge new benchmark for the increasing number of women running our 100s.
Sally Ford picked up 2nd in 18:11. From 2015 she took 3 winner trophies, the female Grand Slam title and a new record thanks to four such consistently brilliant runs. To run four 100 mile races in one year of that standard is such a rare thing. She took things to a completely different level this year.
Third lady home was Melissa Arkinstall in 18:51, 6th fastest ever female time on this course.
In the end we welcomed home 156 of our 205 starters within the 28 hour cut off, for a finishing percentage of 76%, an equal highest ever 100 mile finisher ratio. 102 runners broke 24 hours, and 34 broke 20 hours, both percentage records at Centurion 100s.
With that we close 2015 and look forward to the start of our first 8 race season in 2016, with the introduction of our 2 new 50 mile events and the 50 mile Grand Slam.
To all of our runners, volunteers, crews, staff and supporters, thank you for making this an incredible year.
The weather gods treated the volunteers of the 5th North Downs Way 100 to a beautiful weekend of sunshine, warm temperatures and clear skies. For the runners that meant some stunning views from the ridge but some difficult conditions to contend with during the first and for some, second days.
218 runners started out from Farnham at 0600, all with the dream of making it to Wye in Kent by noon the following, 103 miles to the east.
Through the early stages of the race, course record holder and 2013 champion Ed Catmur blazed away from the rest of the field and got himself to the 50 mile check point 30 minutes ahead of second place. Ed has raced with us many times in the past and has a number of trademarks that are easy to spot. The typical pattern might be fast start, solid middle, dodgy stomach, big slow down and a concession of time in the latter stages. The reality is however, that however hard he goes and however much he tails off, Ed really can suffer with the best of them. He pushes himself all the way and regularly requires ‘some time’ at the finish. This event went exactly to script and as he emerged in to Detling, with a 45 minute plus lead, he spent 20 minutes in the check point tending to various issues. He left determined and in the end faded just little enough that he held off the closing of Ally Watson. Ally had a very impressive debut 100 mile coming in just 9 minutes behind of Ed’s 18:02 winning time. Ed’s raised eyebrows when Ally walked in to the hall at the end said a lot. Jeremy Isaac ran close to Ally for large portions of the race and held on for third overall in 18:56.
The ladies race wasn’t entirely as predicted but yielded yet another incredible run from now triple Centurion 2015 100 mile champion, Sally Ford. Sally started in and around the top ten as in her previous two wins of this year, moving up through the places and reaching half way in good shape. Behind her, she gave Mari Mauland only five minutes however, and got on with the job after Knockholt of closing out the race. That she did in emphatic style. She looked relaxed and comfortable all the way and stormed home to a 19:20 winning time, taking 49 minutes off of the previous course record. That was a 9hr PB on the course for Sally. Mari faded during the final stages and in the end was just overhauled by Maryann Devally who took second in 21:17:56. Mari’s time was 21:24:37 for third.
The overall picture was one of struggle for many, with the conditions of the day presenting hot, humid weather. Fueling issues were rife. As the day wore in to night, conditions turned in to close to ideal however with low wind, no rain and temperatures around 13 degrees. That allowed 53 people to come in under the 24hr mark to earn their 100 MILE - ONE DAY buckles, the final of those being Donna Mitchell who made it with just 12 seconds to spare.
As the Grand Slam moves on to the 4th and final event of the year, Sally Ford has the overall lead on Peter Kaminsky (SDW100 overall champion) by 25 minutes, but is a way off of Dave Ross’s Grand Slam record.
In the end a total of 137 finished this 5th edition of the race for a percentage of 62%. One of the lowest finisher rates we have seen at a Centurion 100 miler.
A massive thanks to all the volunteers, crews, medics and staff that looked after runners flawlessly from beginning to end.
This was our 4th South Downs Way 100 and the 2nd one sponsored by Petzl. With prize money on the table we had a full field of 266 starters and a huge range of experiences.
After a heavy storm overnight, conditions cleared in time for race start as the last of the rain dispersed. Runners were left with almost perfect conditions for a June day in the UK, with temperatures around 19 at their highest and a tail wind for the vast majority of the race.
As the race set off with a lap of the Sports Ground, it was already clear we were not going to see the blistering early pace set by Stuart Mills from 2014. Mind you with his opening 6 minute mile, perhaps we will never see that again!
The first runner in to Queen Elizabeth Country Park at mile 22 was Stellan Fries with a slender margin on a group of other runners. He made a navigational error however, which led to Simon Martin who was right behind, making the check point first, 2:57 on the clock, a 4 minute lead over Gordon Forrest in 2nd, before a gap back to a very tightly bunched field (including Stellan), containing within the top 10, the two lead ladies Sally Ford and Jess Gray, just seconds apart at this point. Stellan found his way back on course, but this and a later error were to cost him dearly.
The early part of the race makes for fast running and that often has the effect of a heavy slow down in average pace right across the field, between the next major Check Point at Cocking (mile 35) and the ‘half-way’ aid station of Washington (mile 54). It is by there that we get the clearest indicator of how the race may pan out.
Simon Martin held on to the lead all the way to Washington, but a lead which was at one point 15 minutes, had been eaten away to under a minute, Stellan Fries now right behind. At 8:15 and 8:16, times were over an hour off of Mark Perkins’ 2014 splits, unsurprising given his 14:03 course record, but a sign that the race was perhaps going to slow considerably too.
Behind Stellan, Luke Ashton, Pete Kaminsky and Sally Ford were all within a few minutes of one another and roughly 15 minutes back. These three runners together with Stellan would go on to secure the top places in a display of consistent running from each. Sally was making the biggest move, at one time climbing up in to second and we were looking forward to seeing if she couldn’t challenge the guys for the overall win. Jess Gray came in to Washington with 8:48 elapsed but sadly dropped there with a number of issues leaving Kate Whitfield and Annabelle Stearns, previous NDW50 champ, in 2nd and 3rd respectively, just a minute separating them also.
On to Clayton Windmills mile 70 and we had a really close race on our hands. Simon had begun to drop back through the field, but Stellan had forged ahead in 1st and had a 10 minute lead over Peter Kaminsky. Both looked fresh and motivated. Sally, Luke and Graham O’Loughlin were between 16 and 22 minutes back and it looked like our winner would come from that group of 5. Through Housedean Farm mile 77, Stellan held his margin, but by Southease mile 83.5, Peter had taken 3 minutes back and was now 7 minutes behind. But Stellan held strong through Alfriston and was making his way on down to Jevington at mile 95 when disaster struck. His eye caught by some reflective green tape not associated with the race, he followed a trail off course through some woodlands and found himself off course. He was unable to find his way back to the point he had left the trail and quickly became disorientated. Around 40 minutes later with a number of people out looking for him and his map and in hand, he did re-find the trail to the check point, but by then had been passed by Peter, Luke, Graham and another runner Nick Wolversen. Heart Breaking for Stellan who had run in 2014 and finished 8th overall.
Peter held his lead through to the finish and ran in for a time of 16:50:36. Luke finished incredibly strong and came home 2nd just under 2 minutes back, hitting the track as Peter was finishing his lap. 3rd and 4th were separated by just 30 seconds as they rounded the bend in to Sports Park and with some loud encouragement from his pacer, Graham O’Loughlin dug as deep as he could to hold that margin to the line over 4th place and closing Nicholas Wolversen. They had pushed each other all the way on the final 2 mile road section but were congratulating of one another in the true spirit of the sport.
Next home came Stellan. I often quote Karl Meltzer when asked about runners getting lost on a course, ‘that’s trail running’. And Stellan’s beaming smile at the finish showed his class. Obviously gutted at losing his way he was pragmatic and delighted to run as well as he had for those final 5 miles after re-finding his way. A truly classy competitior.
Sally Ford came home in 6th overall with a superb winning time of 17:28, 5 minutes faster than her TP100 time from last month. As a Grand Slammer it’s exciting to look ahead at the final two races and see what she can deliver. So far it's 2 races, 2 wins.
Annabelle Stearns enjoyed an extremely strong race, clinching second lady in 19:01. Kate Whitfield took 3rd and also broke the 20 hour barrier, running home in 19:49.
The first three male and female runners each took home £500, £250 and £150 respectively, courtesy of race sponsor Petzl.
The field were much more tightly bunched than usual at a 100 mile event, which made for some exciting exchanges in positions all the way through to the end.
Of 266 starters we welcomed 109 home in under 24hrs for the 100 MILES ONE DAY buckle. Leaving the final few aid stations close to the cut off, Joanna Turner our last runner out on course and potential Grand Slammer was clearly going to give us the nail biting finish we love down at the finish! Reports from the Trig Point with 2.6 miles to go were that with 48 minutes remaining it would be tight. With a mile to go she had 15 minutes and we knew she would at least be on the track as the cut off of 29:59:59 passed. Hitting the track with 4 mins 30 to go she eventually finished with just under 2 minutes to go in 29:58:01.
Overall the event was a huge success, thanks largely to the 97 volunteers who carried the runners through their 100 mile odysseys. We welcomed home over 200 finishers at a 100 mile event for the first time and passed the 3000th ever Centurion finisher mark. Thank you to every single person involved with getting our field home safely.
Focus on Individual Runners:
James Binks who has course marked for us since 2012, turned 70 last year and was our oldest starter. He finished in a ‘disappointing’ time of 28:41. He has given so much to our sport and our events in particular the last few years, being personally responsible for seeing so many runners safely over the finish line without the need for navigation.
Ken Fancett is now mid-way through his 3rd Grand Slam and has 1400 Centurion miles to his name. His time of 20:48 comes as a 65 year old.
Two ladies, Lou Dutch and Bex Johnson were raising money for Mosaic, a charity set up to offer support to bereaved children. A big group awaited them at the finish and after a 400 metre lap of the track, they crossed together with many of the kids and charity staff members. Their support was incredible and made for one of the most emotional finishes we had on the day.
Finally, a shout out to Tim Vincent who clocked our slowest ever lap of the track at 12 minutes. It was everything he had left to give.
The 5th edition of the North Downs Way 50 dawned warm, bright and with the trails in good shape, gave runners the promise of a superb day of running. This race has taken on a special place in the calendar for many and we had a huge number of returning runners. 232 toed the line including the 2013 Champ and Course Record Holder, Craig Holgate.
The first few miles of the course are flat and fast and we often see a large number running together through the early aid stations. At Puttenham, CP1 just 6.5 miles in, Craig already had a gap of over 2 minutes on a group of four behind and commented that nobody else seemed to want to go with the pace - so he settled in to time trial his way to Knockholt.
Through Box Hill he set new record splits, becoming the first runner to make it through the 24 mile marker in under 3hrs (2:57) and by that point had a 15 minute lead. He stretched that through the toughest section of the course up to Reigate Hill (50km) reaching there in 4hrs flat, and then made Caterham with a gap of 6 minutes on his previous record split. As the heat kicked up to the highest point of the day, Craig was evidently feeling the effort of his 7:01 100km from 2 weeks ago, particularly on the climbs. But true to the classy competitor he is, he pushed all the way to the line and held on for a 6:43, bettering his previous time by 4 minutes. Nobody else has ever broken 7hrs on this course. Another superb run from the man in yellow.
Behind Craig, the pack were really tightly bunched all the way through Reigate Hill, with around 20 runners all within 20 minutes of each other. It was there that the shape of the event began to change dramatically as one by one the lead guys slipped back. A couple made navigational errors and lost time on key sections, but largely the heat finally took it’s toll. Emerging from the carnage, was Jess Gray, lead lady, who had been in 12th at Box Hill. By the 50km mark she was up to 8th, and from there on in, made her way through the entire field (bar Craig) and popped out at the finish in 2nd overall with a time of 7:49:47 - just 36 seconds outside of Emily Canvin’s 2013 Course Record. A superb run. Jess is still relatively new to ultra running but will be lining up for her debut 100 at the SDW next month. A very exciting prospect.
Two of the four Italians racing came home together in 3rd with a time of 8 hours flat. Davide Grazielli and Bortolo Mora are two fantastic ambassadors for the sport with a true love for the trails. 2nd lady was picked up by Maree Jessen in 8:57, Emma Diggle coming home 3rd in 9:14.
The front runners seemed to have suffered more in the heat than the guys and girls out there for the longer duration. The steady flow of finishers became a torrent through the 10 - 11 hour mark, and we welcomed home many repeat finishers as well as a host of first timers. All thankful to the volunteers for making it happen. As the sun dipped below the horizon, the 13 hour cut off loomed. A few runners were nudging up against the final check point cut of 1910 at Botley Hill - giving them 1 hour and 50 minutes for the final 7 mile run in.
Our 205th finisher, Ian Macnaughton made it home with a scant 45 seconds to spare. Heart breakingly, behind him Christopher Fox missed the 13 hour final cut off by just 9 seconds. Two other runners made it home outside of the cut off, each having given everything to make it home in time. That leaves us with the stats of having had the two closest finishes to cut off ever, this year, Maxine Lock making it home 11 seconds under at the SDW50 and Christopher Fox’s time here.
All in all the day seemed to be a big success, in large part as always thanks to the efforts of the 60 volunteers out on course, many of them up for up to 24hrs making the day as smooth and safe as possible for the runners.
The 4th Thames Path 100 and more records broken, both through outstanding performances on the course and attendance from both runners and volunteers alike.
The weather has plagued this event for 2 out of the previous 3 editions and during the week leading up to this years race, it looked like that could happen yet again. However race day dawned dry and overcast, staying that way until the small hours of the morning when rain began to set in. The back half of the course which contains more rutted trail than the earlier miles slowed some of the later runners down but on the whole the going was good.
The early favourites going in to the race were all in the right place at CP1, the front end of the field and running hard. Sam Robson cleared Check Point 1 at 11 miles in 1:18 and had already opened up a 2 minute lead over Mark Denby, Ian Thomas, Matthew Ayre, Martin Bacon and Max Wilcocks. As usual with the TP100, runners lured into the easy going and screaming fast early miles suffered as the race went on and only 2 of these initial 6 leaders went on to finish. Some injuries, some other issues. In fact by Dorney Lake at 30 miles, Max was running way out ahead with Matthew who we knew would drop at Henley due to an early announcement of the fact. They went through in 4 hours flat and with lead of 14 minutes over the rest of the field. That lead would grow throughout the day as Max remained strong through the middle part of the race. At Henley, his lead had grown to 34 minutes and it was clear that if he could hold it together, we were likely to be looking at a one horse race.
Onwards through Reading he remained strong, but started to drop some time as he moved through Whitchurch and Streatley and he slowed considerably over the only section of the Thames Path with any change in elevation. Over the last 30 miles however, he held it together enough to stave off some good late running from both Nick Greene and David Barker. He made Abingdon mile 91 in 14:50, and suffered out the last 9 miles to come home in a total time of 16:35:11, claiming his first 100 mile win.
Nick Greene came home in second after an extremely tough fought battle with David Barker. At Streatley, Nick was 12 minutes ahead, by Abingdon 20 miles later he was 6 minutes behind, but made up that ground and with a mile to go, powered past and came home a scant 90 seconds ahead of David. Superb racing by both guys and great to see in the final stages of a 100 miler.
The ladies race was led from the gun by Sally Ford. Sally had finished second last year and had been recording some excellent and improving race results in the interim. Mimi Anderson the incumbent record holder ran well in second, in her trademark consistent style and it was clear that if Sally faltered Mimi would be waiting in the wings to push past. At Dorney, Sally’s lead was 25 minutes, at Henley mile 51, it was up to 37 minutes and she was into 5th overall. The second half of the race has the tougher terrain and we normally see huge drop offs in pace, it often being a case of who falters the least that comes home first. Sally was up to the task and motored on, moving into 4th at Reading mile 58 and held that position for the remainder of the race. She came in with a huge new course record of 77 minutes in 17:33:42. Mimi ran home for superb second in 20:06:41. Rounding out the top 3, Wendy Shaw recorded yet another podium place in 20:34:49. Wendy now has 9 Centurion 100 mile finishes including all 4 Thames Path 100’s, with finishing positions of 5th, 4th, 3rd and 2nd.
265 runners started the race, our biggest ever 100 mile starting field. Overall the flat nature of the course and the fast early pace seemed to take it’s toll on the field from the go. From 3 drops at Check Point 1, the pattern continued and we lost runners throughout the day, night and day. 3 made it agonisingly close, getting as far as the final Check Point at Lower Radley (mile 95) before their races ended. 182 finished for a rate of 69% with 106 coming home under 24hrs to walk off with the new Thames Path 100 miles - One Day belt buckle.
The TP100 forms the first of our four 100 mile events and hence the first in the Grand Slam series. Of 48 hopefuls at race start, 34 made it through, albeit that is a much lower first event drop than we have seen in previous Slam numbers.
Another special mention to Ken Fancett who at 65 again broke the 21hr mark and kept up his lead on the All-Time Centurion mileage leaderboard with 1250 (11 x 100’s, 3 x 50’s). Tremayne Cowdry and Ray Hasler also completed their 10th Centurion 100 milers.
We broke another record at the event, one which we are most proud of. We had a total of 97 volunteers and 15 staff out on the course and every single person contributed to the safe and successful weekend we enjoyed. From themed aid stations to crews going above and beyond to help runners in so many instances, to the volunteers go our biggest thanks.
This race once again set a number of records for us, particularly notable were:
At the sharp end of the race, the lead up was full of discussion about some very interesting battles that might shape up on the day. In the men’s race the head to head seemed to be between returning champ and CR holder Paul Navesey and young money, Victor Mound. At 20 years of age Victor finished 4th in 2014, however his recent training and race results told us that he was likely to go very much quicker this time out.
We felt a time around 5:50 would see the win in good conditions and the two boys were both training (sometimes together) towards that target. Alas, Paul’s calf continued to act up during the core of his training block and with a few extra weeks to the Highland Fling he made the wise decision to sit this one out and save it for Scotland. That left one man on a mission….
In the ladies race we had 4 stellar ladies looking to make a mark, however Sarah Perkins and Emily Canvin were both forced out with issues prior to the start and in the end Gemma Carter’s day ended early at Housedean, leaving one woman on a mission….
A very busy registration at our new location in Worthing College preceded race start at 0900 prompt. After 500 yards and the turn in to the trail, Victor had a 20 second lead and pursued the hill at effort. He didn’t let up all day, but for a man with such raw speed as he possesses, he also ran a remarkably smart race. At Botolphs, Saddlescombe, Ditchling Beacon and on down to Housedean and the marathon mark, his splits were within a couple of minutes, sometimes less, of Pauls’ 2014 CR splits. He looked incredibly comfortable and had such a massive lead from the start that it seemed a foregone conclusion he would literally run away with it.
In to Southease he was behind his ETA, though ahead of Paul’s time, but over the section down to Alfriston he made great going and started to show he could possibly break the 6hr mark and the finish line team were set up in good time for it.
Over the trig point with 2.8 miles to go and Victor flew down the hill at a cracking pace. In fact his last few miles were all mid-6 minute miling. He made the track with 5:51:30 on the clock and ran a 90 second split for 5:53.
How good a run was it? He nailed it. One of those times a runner trains hard for one goal, knows exactly what he is capable of on the day, runs a well paced strategic race irrespective of all other runners, and gets it as close to perfect as possible. The time says a lot, the conditions were not perfect, some sticky mud in places and a wind that switched between North and North-Easterly, but pretty good for April on the downs. Victor showed that his future potential is scarily exciting.
Behind Victor Pip (Jack) Blackburn ran a great race, despite suffering a low patch on the climb out of Southease put the gas down and broke the 6:30 barrier for second place. Third went to Jon Ellis in only his second ultra, who powered around the track just ahead of Doug Murray who continues to astound in his strength from year to year - both just under the 7hr mark. That race looked exciting but in fact Doug had let Jon push ahead after he made a nav error in the final couple of miles and re-appeared behind of him. Doug is a true sportsman.
In the ladies race, Sarah sat in and around top 10 overall all day. With 3 previous trophies to her name at our 100 mile events, and a heartbreaking nav error at the 2013 event, where she lost out on a clear win with a couple of miles to go, she was back to make amends and put a great long effort behind her before she travels to the World Trail Champs to represent Team GB in a months time. She wasn’t threatened all day and in the end came home with a time of 7:19, 8 minutes outside Eddie Sutton’s CR but 48 minutes ahead of 2nd place Alex Coomber in a super effort 7:53. 3rd place was picked up by Kate Rennie in 8:07. Both made up places throughout the day, typical of the leading ladies.
311 people eventually crossed the line. Every one of those runners goes through their own incredible story in the lead up to the race and then the day itself. The sense of community around each of the CPs where our incredible volunteers assisted every one of them as if they were rock stars, was palpable. For that and the efforts on both sides, we are incredibly grateful.
As the day wore on and the light faded, a bright and nearly full moon came out over the track at Eastbourne and the final headlamp lights could be seen descending off of the downs and into the town. We knew that Maxine Lock now at the back and just ahead of our sweeper was cutting it fine but we weren’t prepared for just how fine. With 2 and a half minutes to go to the 13hr hard cut off, she made it on the track and a crowd of people screamed at her to get shifting. She began to run stronger but on the back straight seemed to slow again and with 200 to go I was convinced she’d miss the cut by 10 seconds or so. On the final bend however she dug as deep as she could and in a truly inspirational feat, made it over the line with a whole 9 seconds to spare. Thank you to the finish line team for setting up the gantry where they did and not another 50 metres further on!
Sarah Morwood our ladies winner, decided earlier in the day that the lady who spent longest on the course was more deserving of the trophy then her, and so left it behind for Maxine who was awarded it at her finish. What a sport we have!!!
A huge thank you to all the volunteers, runners, staff, crew members and of course South Downs National Park who made this an incredible opening event to our 2015 season.