A wonderful, uplifting few days was had by all who attended the inaugural Wendover Woods Weekender over 7th-9th July. This event was originally slated for July 2020 but when Covid hit we had to postpone it and we'd been waiting for the right moment to try again.
When we did decide to go for it, we decided to go big (for us!), combining our popular Wendover Woods 50 miler, usually in November, with the Night 50km and 100 miler that have traditionally taken place in July. But the format of the weekend also gave us the perfect opportunity to add in a 10 miler and some kids races too to give everyone who has ever wanted to run a race with us but never had the chance, the opportunity to do so.
In the process, the WW100 became the 100th ultra we have staged in our 13 years of existence and it was the perfect way to celebrate that.
On top of it all we had our first ever 'Event Village'. The incomporable Allie Bailey took charge of the Speakers tent and a line up of Workshops, Guided Runs and Guest Speakers were spread across the weekend. The Centurion Running Store, Nomadic Sauna, Pair Ups with the Green Runners' Darren Evans, La Sportiva, Petzl, Ultimate Direction and Exhale Coffee - all on site to provide those camping with us for two nights the chance to live in our own little bubble for the weekend.
There were many stories from the six different events, so here are a few highlights from each of them.
For the third edition of Wendover Woods 100, just 30 brave souls toed the line but formed what was a really special event. This is undoubtedly one of the toughest 100 milers in the southern half of the country, with 20,000ft of climbing over the 100 mile 10 lap distance. With such a small group running through our Hale Lane and Trig Point aid stations 10 times each, the camaraderie between athletes, volunteers and staff was the best we've ever had as everyone did their best to help everyone achieve the simple goal of just finishing this behemoth. The blazing heat of Friday turned into thunderstorms Saturday making conditions ever more difficult. Rachel Fawcett, previous champion over 50 miles here, showed incredible focus as she knocked down the laps one by one to run home in a new course record of 22:57:13. Adrian Busolini won it for the men, also showing incredible consistency in his 20:24:59 winning time. They were the only two athletes to break 24 hours. Having not seen any drops in the first 7 hours of the race, we lost over half of the field on route to the final 32 hour cut off with just 13 runners adding their names to the tiny list of successful finishes here. The final two runners home were both especially poignant ones. Thomas Hayward finished his third WW100, the only person to finish all three editions of the event and Magda Strycharska who won here in 2021, finished in 31:10.
WW100 2023 Womens Champion Rachel Fawcett
WW100 2023 Mens Champion Adrian Busolini
The 50 miler started at 0930 Saturday, merging with both the Climate Relay which passed through the site and the back end of the 100 - and a new lease of life was breathed into all as a result. GB 24hr team international Rob Payne led the mens race by half an hour at half way and though he faded over the final loop his 8:09 was by far the fastest of the day. In the womens race, Grand Slam leader Amy Sole led the way early on but suffering with an ITB problem turned her goal towards simply finishing. Centurion regular Samantha Llloyd went through to win in 11:12.
Sam Lloyd, winner of the 2023 WW50 Womens Race
WW50 Mens Champion Rob Payne
WW Night 50km
The night 50km is such a fun event. The woods close at dusk and so when the 50km start rolls around at 10pm, the runners have the incredible playground of woodland trails at their disposal. The depth of the small field was quite something this year, with both the mens and womens course records tumbling. For the men, Joe Turner held a significant lead by 200 metres into the race and he led all the way through to the win in 4:24, taking 3 minutes off of Matt Hammerton's previous best. In the womens, Nicole Frisby won in 5:32, bettering Susie Whatmough's previous CR by 6 minutes, with Sarah Lawrence and Karen Hacker in second and third, both within 12 minutes of her at the end.
WW Night 50km Womens 1,2,3 (Sarah left, Nicole centre, Karen right)
Start of the WW Night 50km, with Joe Turner mens race winner seen left
The shortest (grown ups) race we've ever staged, the 10 miler kicked off on Sunday morning at 1000. Despite a huge crash on a descent, Jamie Seddon won it for the men in 72 minutes, with La Sportiva Team runner Anna-Marie Watson leading home the womens race in 1:32. A special mention to two other athletes. Eros Adamides became our first registered Blind finisher, accompanied by guide runner Sarah Tizzard - the fact that he ran the twisty, rooty loop in 2:11 is a spectacular achievement.
Eros and Sarah
Liz Sheffield, who has marked almost every one of our races for as far back as we can remember, finally ran one of our events herself and became only our fourth ever FV70 finisher of any event ever.
Anna-Marie Watson (La Sportiva) seen here climbing 'Gnarking Around' won the Womens WW10
Jamie Seddon won the Mens 10 miler in 72 minutes
Sorry to all the grown ups but the best part of the weekend was the U12 race. A field of 33 runners ranging from 3 to 11, sprinted around the permiter of the two 10 acre fields to cross the line in the biggest kids races we've had to date. Hearts were stolen as the final, youngest finishers came home.
WW Kids U12 Race Start
The U18 race saw 6 junior runners head into the woods, descending all the way to the base in astonishingly quick fashion, before repeating the final 1 mile of the course back in to trig field - up the steep climb of Railing in the Years and the notorious staircase in the middle. All six finished under 19 minutes and it was widely agreed that almost none of the adults on site would get anywhere near their times.
WW U18 Race Start
We cannot thank our community enough for bringing such an incredible weekend together. Of course the biggest thanks reserved for the team of volunteers who under pinned the entire event. Some of them were on site for over 72 hours, pulling multiple shifts in order to get things away as smoothly as possible and it was worth every ounce of effort.
Thanks also to our event partners that made the weekend possible. Allie Bailey who managed all of our Speakers, Guided Runs and Workshop area, delivering many of them herself alongside Julie Dennis, Anna Harding and our Centurion Coaching Team. La Sportiva UK, Ultimate direction, Petzl, Injinji and Vaga for sponsoring the events and the event village and being on hand to help people try out demo gear and shoes over the entire weekend. Pierre Papet and Steve ashworth for all of the event media. Darren Evans, Green Runners and Pair Ups for organising the Climate Relay to come through on Saturday morning, repair so many pairs of trainers and talk to us about what matters most. Nomadic Sauna and Exhale Coffee for bringing the vibes and the good times
Wendover Woods 50 will be back in November 2024, the Weekender.... TBC but after all of the feedback we maybe won't take much convincing to do it all again sometime.