18 Mar 2024

Hundred Hills 50km 2024 Race Report

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The 2024 season opened with a bang this past Saturday 16th March as over 400 runners set off on a bright and sunny morning on their 50km adventure around the Chilterns. Stonor Park was once again our start, middle check point and finish - with the two loop course taking runners out through the village check points at Ibstone and Skirmett on Loop One and then Hambleden and Bix on Loop Two. The course is set up for first timers and experienced racers alike. 

2024 marked the second edition of our Hundred Hills 50km and it was wonderful to see such a cross section of runners out on course. Lots of people were out there running their first ever ultra and the nerves were palapable. But they were joined by a large number of Centurion regulars out there getting a longer run in before their spring 50 and 100 milers, or just testing themselves against the distance. At the sharp end we had runners capable of lowering already stout course records from Year 1 - Daniel Weller's 4:05 and Amy Jo-Clarke's 4:46 - which, it should be added were set on a day when the rain fell for the entirity, turning the course into a bit of a mud bath!

This year however, things were drier out on course - there were the typically muddy cross country style bridleway sections but there was a lot of good dry trail in there too and it was a glorious sunny morning for all of our runners.

In the womens race, past Chiltern Wonderland 50 champion Sophie Biggs looked like the most experienced and consistent performer on the line, but she was up against sub 3 hour marathoner Anna Klucnika, who may only have had one ultra under her belt before this, but in that race she'd not only won but beaten all of the guys too. 

Anna Klucnika

It was in fact Anna who went off in the lead and she was to hold that position all day, steadily building her margin from start to end. She ran through half way in 2:05, with Hannah Shutt in 2:15 in second and Sophie in third in 2:17. 

Anna held a strong pace through the slightly longer second half and ran home in a new course record time of 4:32, 14 minutes under the previous best. Sophie used all of her experience and came home second, a big improvement over her 2023 run here in a time of 4:56. Third place went to Rachel Lindley who closed brilliantly to finish in five hours flat. 

Sophie Biggs

Rachel Lindley

The mens race was a very different affair with a lead pack heading off together at a blistering pace. Within the group out front were Robbie Britton and Mark Darbyshire from our Ultra Team - both serial winners over countless events, Kallum Pritchard, Thomas Wright and Hugo Hewitt. 

Through check point one and the 10km mark, Robbie had a small lead of just over a minute. Back through to half way at Stonor Mile 15, that lead had stretched to five, but with the rest of the pack were still together in the hunt and with the exception of Hugo Hewitt, didn't pause for a second to take anything from the check point. 

Out on to loop two, Robbie maintained his lead through the Hambleden check point, but on the gradual road descent to the final CP at Bix, irretrievable stomach issues hit and he was passed by Mark Darbyshire who had moved into second by himself and was now charging hard. Whilst he admitted to looking over his shoulder a lot in the closing section, Mark held on to win in a new Course Record of 3:57. Whilst Mark has been clearing up course records at long standing classic 100 milers like Lakeland 100, NDW100 and the Arc of Attrition, he hasn't raced these shorter distances against deeper competition as much. To see him perform to this level at event which, one could argue, is not completely in his wheel house really exemplifies what an incredible athlete he is.

Mark Darbyshire

The other guys rounding out the podium ran superbly paced races and closed well to move up over the second half. Kallum Pritchard took second in 4:03, also under the old record and third place went to Alistair Courtney in 4:10.

Kallum Pritchard

In the age categories we handed out our new awards for the first time, these will be a feature at all of our events going forward. We have always rewarded age cats and podium finishers with prize vouchers but these new mementos will we hope be treasured by those who earn them!

In the womens race, awards were as follows:

FV40 to Rachel Lindley, also third overall. FV50 to Sophie Biggs, also second overall. FV60 went to Eleanor Grant in 8:02. We had three FV60 finishers which was a superb tally, one we very rarely see and an example of what is possible!

Eleanor Grant won the FV60 Category

MV40 went to Mark Darbyshire who won the mens race. MV50 went to Jason Leaf who finished in 4:30 and MV60 to Doug Cackett in 5:25.

385 runners crossed the line which is a new record for us in terms of total finishers at an event. Long may it continue.

A huge thanks to the team of 60 volunteers who made it all possible. From course markers and sweepers, check point teams, registration, parking and finish line crews literally none of this would be possible without you all. 

Next up is the South Downs Way 50 on April 13th and we look forward to welcoming a similar field size there.