Race day for this tenth edition of the South Downs Way 50 dawned cold and crisp, with bright blue skies and the promise of a spectacular day running along this very special course.
This was the first mass start of a larger field since 2019. The first time our pop up store had been back at a race since that year. The first time we were back to the buzz and excitement of the community truly being able to interact 'normally' once again and what a relief it was. The sense of community spirit has never been stronger than this weekend and what a wonderful occasion it was.
378 runners struck out at 0830 and 80 volunteers were on hand to support their every need.
The mens race looked closer on paper than it had done in the run up as Hoka athlete Harry Jones was a late non-starter. The womens race was clearly going to be contended by a number of leading lights. Both fields delivered exciting racing down to the wire.
Unfortunately whilst the fastest out of the gate made the right turns, a group of nine went straight on a little past Cissbury Ring, rejoined the course 3.7 miles further along than they should have done and hence the race on the ground was flipped on its head. The nine were told at Check Point 1 of the error and that unforutnately they would be facing a time penalty but could continue. To their temendous credit, all took the news in good grace. Quickly they became known as the Naughty Nine and much banter was had at the check points along the way as they came through.
Gradually the top men and the leading lady on the ground, Bethan Male, ran past the nine and the true race for positions unfolded.
The womens race was a runaway for Beth. She cruised home in 7:12:25 in what was a fantastic tune up for the SDW100 in June. She must surely be hoping to take a dip at Jean Beaumonts now nine year old course record.
Bethan Male (Photo: Stuart March Photography)
2021 Champion Sarah Hill and La Sportiva athlete Anna-Marie Watson were two of the nine to take the detour, which was such a shame as they were obviously two of the likely contenders for the podium. Their 60 minute penalties meant that they were out of the running. Stacey Sangster took second in 7:48. Third place went to Dani Battersby who ran on to the track about 10 metres in front of fourth placed Claire Kanja. It was only then that they were told they were third and fourth due to time penalties ahead, it made for quite the exciting final 400 metres.
In the mens race, Luke Davis who ran a solid race here last year, took it to the next level and ran home for the win in 6:49:10. Second went to Stuart Farmer who crossed the line under 2 minutes later, having entered the track with Luke still to finish. We love to see finishes where two people are duking it out on the track at the same time. Third went to the improving Guy Hudson in 6:52. The top ten guys were spread over a period of just 22 minutes.
Luke Davis (Photo: Stuart March Photography)
In the Age Categories, MV40 went to Stuart Farmer also second overall. MV50 to the now world famous Thai Cave Rescue Diver Jon Volanthen (friend of the show) in 8:20. MV60 to Phil Hoy in 9 hours flat and MV70 to David Rootes in 11:54.
FV40 went to Stacey Sangster in second overall and FV50 to Lisa Blayden in 10:11.
In total 353 runners made it over the line out of 378 starters for a 93% finisher rate. Pretty amazing stats overall.
Thank you so much as ever to our wonderful team of volunteers who allowed this season opener to go so smoothly.