Centurion Ultramarathon Blog

SDW50 2014 Pre Race Preview

Mar 23, 2014 (3 weeks, 5 days ago) | Posted by JamesElson | Tags: Preview, 2014

The first race of our 2014 season kicks off Saturday April 5th and without a shadow of a doubt, this is our most competitive starting field to date. A long list of runners will be heading in to race day with a chance of a Top 10 finish, but the few below will have aspirations of going much better than that. Expect both the mens and womens records to come down significantly, especially if the trail is dry and weather is kind. Above all else it's fantastic to see the level of competition in UK ultras rising. 

Men

Stuart Mills: Undisputed king of the South Downs circuit in recent years, Stuart Mills is something of a legend in the sport. Wins and course records on South Downs events are his speciality including the Steyning Stinger, Beachy Head Marathon,2:09 South Downs Marathon and Three Forts. Last year possibly the biggest result of his recent career came as he won the Lakeland 100 in signature style, going out as hard as possible and hanging tough for as long as he can. It's a race approach which has left many dumb founded, but is often supported by one simple fact, he often wins! He'll be looking to do a few things: Overcome his early season disappoinment in not finishing the Steyning Stinger due to a fall, set himself up nicely for his assault on the SDW100 in June and take home a win in the process. As Stuart gets a little older he'll want to continue to run for overall wins for as long as he can, but are we going to see the young guard and increasing depth of talent finally start to give him a race. 

Textbook Millsy start at the 2014 Steyning Stinger, out of shot before the rest of us have time to look up! Photo c/o Sussex Sport Photography.com 

Paul Navesey: Without wishing to sound biased given that Paul is both a Centurion Ultra Team Runner and a good friend, this boy is the most talented 50 mile trail runner we have in the South East. The downs are his back yard and he knows every blade of grass on the course. With flat marathon speed (2013 2:41 Amsterdam) and previous 50 mile Course Records behing him (Caesars Camp) he has enjoyed a consistent period of training whilst resisting the urge to over race, a mistake made by so many. With over a dozen wins behind him, and a low 6s 50 on very little effort, he will be wanting to PR, CR and take home the crown if it's his day.

Paul Navesey flying in textbook fashion. 

Marty Rea: 3rd at the SDW50 in 2013, Marty is an Irish National 100km runner with a PB of 7:21 and is working towards his main focus of 2014, the SDW100. A 2:37 marathoner and winner of the UltraRace Cardiff 50, London 50km and Himalayan 100 mile stage race in the past he has the speed and endurance.  

Paul Sargent: Winner of the 2013 Three Forts ahead of notably, SDW50 champ Mark Perkins, Paul has a number of other local trail marathon/ ultra wins behind him and will no doubt figure at the sharp end. 

Mark Perkins: Returning champ and Course Record holder with a 6:55 in 2013 in poor conditions for the second half. He undoubtedly has the ability to go quicker this year. Early season he raced the shortened Thames Trot finishing 3rd and will want to go better than that this time out.

Richard Ashton: Rick is one of the most mentally tough runners out there. He also has the running talent to go with it. With a 2nd at the Lakeland 50 in 2013, a 3rd at his first ever 100 (TP100 2013) and an early season win at the St Peters Way Ultra (45 miles), Centurion Ultra Teams biggest fan will be looking to upset the apple cart and take home his first Centurion trophy.

Paul Radford: Paul ran a 2nd place at the Ridgeway 85 mile in 2013, with a super time of 15:30 and has a list of other top finishes to his name including multiple wins at UK trail marathons.

Amongst those with previous ultra/ trail marathon wins behind them who will likely feature in top 10 standings includes: Paul Bennett (Steyning Stinger, VO2 SDW), Martin Bacon (TP100), Nick Greene (Peddars Way), Doug Murray (NDW50 2nd), 

Women

Helen Taranowski: Helen's long distance pedigree is well known and she is undoubtedly a force to be reckoned with. She was the 2012 IAU 50km World Trophy - gold medal winner in a time of 3:30, the Al Andalus Ultra Trail 2010 winner and is the current 6 hour track - UK record holder with 78.776km. 

Edwina Sutton: Expect this to be the name you see topping international ultra fields in years to come. Eddie came in to ultra running from a career in Iron distance triathlon where she enjoyed tremendous Age Group Success. In 2013, new to the sport, she picked up wins at Salisbury 50km (CR), Three Forts Marathon (CR) and Steyning Stinger, and then stamped her mark speed wise with a 4:49 and 3rd overall (1st lady & CR) at the 38 mile Downslink ultra. This year she joined the Centurion Ultra Team and has subsequently raced just once in January, where she obliterated the 44 mile Country to Capital course record, again for 3rd overall and 1st lady. 

Eddie on route to winning the 2013 Three Forts Marathon. Photo c/o Sussex Sport Phtography.com

Susie Casebourne: Susie led the 2013 event until the final turn where, in terrible conditions, she made a wrong turn which cost her the eventual win. She went on to make amends later in the year with a 4th at the South Downs 100 in 20hrs and a fine course record run at Caesars Camp 50 looking in control throughout. This is all a transition from years as a top level GB triathlete. Expect her to be there or thereabouts come track time. 

Kirsty Reade: Kirsty has a long line of trail marathon podiums and wins behind her over recent years and notably ran 190km in the Basel 24hr in 2013 proving she has the endurance as well as the speed. 

Sarah Perkins: Joint winner of the shortened 2014 Thames Trot and 5th overall, most notably a result she shared with Emily Canvin who won both our 50 mile events in 2013. Sarah will be looking to emulate husband Mark and possibly take a pair of trophies home with them :) 

There are sure to be a number of top level contenders missing from the above so please comment away below and add others to the mix!

Building a Plan

Mar 16, 2014 (1 month ago) | Posted by JamesElson | Tags: training-tips | Tags: 2014, training-tips

Work-life-training balance is something every ultra runner must negotiate. We get to work with a range of clients at Centurion, with completely different weightings to the elements in that equation. Whether you are deep in to a running career and have your training down to a relatively fine art, or are brand new to the sport, one thing remains constant and that is the analysis of the productivity of your training/ racing and the level at which you are currently running. Establishing the optimum work-life-training balance is crucial to maximising the efficiency of your training, maintaining consistency which is at the core of a runner reaching his or her potential and enjoying everything you do to the full both on the trail and at home. Training doesn't have to be in the form of a plan. Many runners from the front to the back of the field employ no fixed schedule at all and run purely for enjoyment. But if you want to improve, at least thinking about the elements below, whether in written form or not, is likely to help. 

Writing upon the balance of work-life-training, it's hard to be brief. This initial post is going to reflect on some of the things that should be included in your thought process about setting up and managing your training plan. There is no specific order to these they are all important!

- Don't take someone elses training plan and try to run it yourself.
Even if the runner in question is running the same key event(s) as you, their situation is completely different to yours. Either they aren't as fit, haven't got the same training base, have different work/life pressures, are a different weight/ build or you aren't an elite marathoner/ Anton Krupicka. Use elite/ experienced runners blogs and shared training to influence yours. Take a key session you like the look of and mould it to where you are in your cycle. Don't try to run 200 mpw with 40,000 feet of vert unless that's what is going to work for your situation. Start off 'too easy' and build your own plan from there.

- Train to where you currently are and not to where you want to be.
In short, if your aim is to run a sub 3hr marathon, don't begin by training at 6:50 min mile pace. In order to assess where you are, plan in a couple of weeks of lower mileage easy training and incorporate a time trial in to the second week. Keep this short so as not to lead you in to the path of picking up niggles, and keep it on a course that will be fairly consistent year round for example a flat 5k on tarmac. Park Run is free and a great place to do this. Give it some gas and see what you come up with at the end. Keeping splits can be useful so as to use as a comparison from last seasons race performances or later efforts in the training cycle to see how improvements are being made (or not). Another good alternative is a steady trail course (5 - 10 miles) that stays relatavely consistent year round. 

- Don't compromise quality for quantity.
This without doubt is the major rookie error in ultra training. In fact it's not just rookies who do this but very experienced runners too, caught up in the belief that mileage is king. It isn't. Trying to run as far as you can in training leads to two things: Too many miles at the same pace creating almost no improvement in either speed or endurance, or physical/ mental burn out. Here's a common pattern in training:

Run long on the weekend. Feel pretty tired until Tuesday/ Wednesday. Run mid-week but at a fairly ploddy pace not too disimilar to the weekend, Repeat. If the runner writes out his or her plan, they will find that their mileage is lower than they think and the majority of the miles are at an easy pace. This is fine for maintaining endurance, but it isn't significantly improving it or indeed their fitness. 

Running low mileage is absolutely fine, as long as the blend of quality is right. Running 100 miles in a week will feel absolutely amazing, until the next week when you can barely manage 30, and the week after when you realise that the goal of running 100 miles in a week is now unobtainable and motivation goes down the pan :) Robbie Britton, GB 24hr team runner and winner of the 2013 SDW100 says 'Build the quality of your mileage first with key weekly sessions, only then think about building your mileage steadily. It's taken me years to go from 30-40 mpw, to 70-80 mpw so don't rush rush it, you've got plenty of ultras in you yet!'

- Consitency/ Flexibility:
Consistency is the cornerstone of successful ultra training. I really cannot explain this better than Geoff Roes does in this post here. Day to day leads to week to week leads to month to month and so on. Consistency isn't about laying out a plan and sticking to it blindly, be flexible and take in to account the other things going on in your life. Ask yourself if the session you are about to run is going to achieve it's objective (and just heading out of the door to get a break from it all is a valuable objective). Remember also that a 7 day schedule is not always the answer. A 10 day schedule is often a far better way of getting the right blend of sessions together before a full rest/ very easy recovery day.

- Combine a blend of 4 key types of session: 
Endurance (long runs), Speed (tempo, progression, fartlek, interval), Hills (hiking up, CV hill sets, running hard downhill or continuous hills), Recovery. If your run doesn't fit in to one of those categories then the chances are you are running junk miles. Junk mileage can be really fun, we'd all be lost without days on the trail where we have no pressure but that of enjoying ourselves. Every day can be like that too if you want. But improvements come from balancing training out so if you can loosely or tightly prescribe your session to one of those above, the chances are you are getting something more productive done.

- Be wary of social media:
The savvy runner who enjoys social media will quickly follow/ pick up a following of a troupe of ultrarunners. When things are going well, those runners post away about volume, speed, pace, racing or just how brilliant it is to GO RUNNING! They want to tell the whole world! When those runners pick up a niggle, have to sit out with an injury, feel ill, have overdone it, DNF or just generally lack a bit of motivation, all of a sudden things go very quiet. A runner will happily share how long they ran or how quick they went at a track session as the endorphins from said run are still rushing around their bodies. When it doesn't go so well, and that happens a lot, not a lot happens. That's all ok, that's the beauty of social media as a way for many to get more from our running BUT don't second guess yourself on their performances, have belief in yourself and your plan.  

- Specificity:
Design your plan and your running to include a decent proportion of training in the same environment/ terrain/ elevation change/ underfoot conditions as your target race. Don't show up to a 100 mile not having done any hiking in training at all unless you are a monster. Don't show up to a 24hr track race having done purely hiking on mountainous terrain. Keep an element of your training fun and free and an element of it targetted specifically to your goal.

View from BGR Leg 3. Great as part of my own training for, but not good as specificity for this:

- Stepping Stones:
Set yourself targets, time trials or races at which to perform on route to your A race. These can help you stay motivated, gauge what you need to work on, are excellent sessions in their own right . Just be sure to set yourself a target in that race and stick to it without causing damage. 

- Productivity:
When you get up in the morning, assess what benefit the run is going to have. If you have a written schedule, do you feel in a place to achieve what you want out of the session listed? If you are absolutely knackered and realise that you got a bit carried away when you wrote the plan, take a break! If the session isn't going to either improve your running or give you the mental stimulation/ relaxation then adapt or skip the session altogether. 

- Recovery:
Improving fitness and endurance doesn't come from the session itself, but from the rest and recovery afterwards. If you plough through a cycle constantly upping mileage and effort with no rest or recuperation you will eventually break your body down such that it cannot rebuild stronger, the objective of training. Unless you are a full time athlete or Robbie Britton, you will have to factor in work and family to your rest/ recovery. Think about the things that cause stress, lack of sleep and compromise the quality of your nutritional intake and try to make small adjustments to improve or reduce those things. Life gets in the way a lot of the time, sometimes that can't be helped but by making small improvements you will notice your recovery between sessions is more productive and you are able to train significantly more consistently as a result. 

The next few posts will start to drill down a little in to specific components of training and racing. Hopefully there are one or two things each time that are at least worth thinking about. 

 

2013: A year in ultrarunning mega review Part 2.

Jan 08, 2014 (3 months, 1 week ago) | Posted by JamesElson | Tags: 2013

This is the second of a three part blog post about ultrarunning in 2013. This first part focused on UK Ultrarunning Performances of the Year and can be found here. This second part will focus on the top 10 performances in Centurion events in 2013. The final part will look at our ultra team and fast forward to what's happening on the race scene in 2014.

It simply isn't possible to touch on even a fraction of the incredible stories we see unfold each time we hold an event. These are the top 10 performances in our opinion. The majority of these are from those battling the sharp end of the field. The resilience displayed through those battling for the One Day buckle and the overall cut offs is in many cases even more impressive in a very different way. To honour all of those people would be frankly impossible. 

Please note, rather than re-write the entries for runners that also featured in the overall UK Performances of the Year (Ed Catmur, Jean Beaumont, Robbie Britton) these are replicated below. 

Ed Catmur, North Downs Way 100

The North Downs Way 100 is in my opinion, the toughest of our 4 Centurion 100 milers. Whilst the overall elevation change isn't great with just under 10,000feet of climbing, the climbs present in short sharp and very steep bursts. Furthermore on top of gates and stiles to negotiate, the chop and change in the underfoot conditions from chalk, to rock, to grass, to tarmac and everything in between, do a huge number on breaking a runners rhythm, not to mention the fact that the course runs a few miles long and that section after Detling.... well you have to see it for yourself. I always felt we would see someone run a sub 17 on the course in the near future. As standards in UK running rise, that was a possibility. I didn't see a sub 16 coming unless a world class 100 mile athlete decided to make the trip over. In an epic to and fro this year, Anthony Forsyth pushed Ed to a 15:44 or sub 9:30 minute miling over the full distance. With no crew and no fuss, Ed ran that rare combination of all out, yet within himself all day and recorded one of the best 100 mile performances on UK soil this year. For me, Ed's race here won't be fully understood until time gives us the perspective to look back and compare this effort against years of attempts and other winning times by top level athletes. The truth is, much like Dan Dohertys UTSW of recent times, this run could turn out to be even more special than it already seems.

Robbie Britton, Petzl South Downs Way 100

Robbie smashed the Petzl SDW100 this year in a time of 15:43, beating the remainder of the field by over an hour and lowering the course record by 80 minutes. In doing so he scooped the first place pay check of £500 put up by Petzl. In a young race, again this performance can't really be fully understood. What's without doubt is that the time, on a course with 13,000 feet of climbing is world class. What makes this performance stand out for me, and what makes Robbie the most outstanding young prospect on the UK scene at the moment, is that instead of backing off and securing an easy win, Robbie raced himself and the clock all the way to the track. Paced by Paul Navesey, he put his foot on the gas from the gun and didn't let go for a second. His drive and determination not just to win but to race the best race he could was what makes this shine beyond the incredible time.

 

Jean Beaumont, Petzl South Downs Way 100

Jean rolled through this years SDW100 like the world class athlete she is. In a very similar race to Robbie's equivalent overall win, Jean put almost 2 hrs in to second place. No stranger to 100 mile trail wins having previously held the Course Records at the Northburn 100 in NZ and the Winter 100, Jean smashed her trail PB and ran a time of 16:56 good enough for 3rd overall and walked away with the prize purse in the process. Epic Run. 

Ann Bath, Grand Slam

In 2012 when we held the Centurion Grand Slam of 100s for the first time, we were astounded when Ken Fancett raced his way to the overall fastest cumulative time and 4 x sub 24hr finishes. It wasn't just his overall performance but the fact that he was also by far the eldest Slam entrant at 62 years of age. This year Ann Bath went on to prove that age is of little consequence when going long, as she went on to breeze through the Grand Slam in a master class of pacing and effort management. Her cumulative time of 117.27 included 4 finishes all between 29:07 and 29:34. Plenty of times throughout the year Ann doubted in the latter stages of events that she would have the time she needed to complete. But complete she did, every time. At 64 years of age Ann became our oldest Grand Slammer and smiled her way from the start of the year to the end of it. 

Anthony Forsyth, NDW100

Anthony together with Ann, is the only runner in our list who didn't win the event he ran. On any other day he might have walked away with a massive margin of victory in this years NDW100, except for one factor, Ed Catmur. Anthony battled Ed all day and for the full 100 miles. In his first effort at the distance, he pulled off an astoundingly strong performance, running a 16:03. Anthony made the event the epic battle it was, pushing Ed to his limit and forming a crucial part of one of the closest fought races we've seen at the sharp end of one of our events. He trained exceptionally hard and poured everything he had in to what was an exceptional debut 100 miler. 

Craig Holgate, NDW50

Craig, one of our Centurion Ultrarunning Team, still holds the title of fastest ever Centurion 100 miler, an honour he earned when he ran a 15:11 at the 2012 Thames Path 100. In 2013 he also became our fastest ever 50 miler, during May's NDW50. Unbelievably this wasn't an 'A' race for Craig, with focus primarily on representing Team GB at both 100km and at the World Trail Champs in 2013. That being said Craig doesn't race unless he's in to win and this was no exception. With a course that runs approximately 1 mile long, he held a flat 8 minute miling pace for the race to win by 40 minutes. What made it even more of an exceptional run was that Craig finished just as fast as he started. At mile 24, Box Hill, he held a three minute lead over his rivals, but whilst the others paid for the early pace, he stretched his legs and ran a faultless race putting 35 minutes in to the Course Record. Time will tell how good a run this really was. 

Emily Canvin, NDW50

Emily came in to the NDW50 off of the back of a win at the SDW50 6 weeks earlier. Emily would be the first to admit that her run there whilst excellent, only gained her the win after a navigational error from Susie Casebourne within sight of the finish. Her run at the NDW50 however was exceptional. She looked focused from the outset and held a frenetic pace throughout, running a 7:49 for 5th place overall, 1st lady and wiping 20 minutes off of Alice Hectors previous best for the distance (as part of her NDW100 CR in 2012). 

Terrence Zengerink/ Ben Hall, Piece of String Fun Run

When we set the Piece of String Fun Run off on November 29th, we promptly stopped the 13 runners again just 100 yards up the trail. We then popped them on a minibus and with no idea of their final destination, delivered the entrants to the Kennett and Avon Canal Path in Bath. We were amazed at the resilience displayed by this years valued idiots, with 7 of the starters making it to the 100 mile point, with absolutely no idea where they were headed next or how long this would go on for. As Tim Landon who had a commanding lead, crashed out with an injury around 105 miles in, Terrence Zengerink promptly gained control of the race and forged ahead seemingly unphased by the continued misery piled upon him. Behind him, Benjamin Hall had paced himself gradually all day, night and day again and was in for the duration it seemed In to his second night of the race, Terrence was met by co-RD James Adams on the trail and offered the next section of the course. Little did Terrence know, but he would be stopped just 100 metres further on. His choice was to continue for potentially 15 extra miles (at least) or stop, the same decision he had been faced with a dozen times already. He chose to continue and in doing so became the first to finish and 3rd ever only finisher of the Piece of String. An hour or so later Benjamin Hall arrived at the same point. With Terrence hiding in the car so as not to give the game away, Ben took his time, refueled and pushed on to be met with the same outcome. Could you run 130 miles and then choose to continue in to your second full night of running with no sleep and no idea how much futher you had to go? If the answer is yes I'd suggest you apply for next years PoS Fun Run....

Sharon Law, Winter 100

Sharon ran one of the smartest, most balanced 100 mile efforts we've seen from a champion this year. The pace at the start of the 2013 Winter 100 was frenetic with scores of runners returning off of the first 25 mile leg in blistering time, Sharon used all of her experience to maintain her relaxed but supremely efficient strategy, not pausing at aid stations and running smooth and steady throughout. At the 75 mile mark she finally overtook Charlotte Black who went on to an excellent 2nd place in her debut 100 miler, and opened up on the final 25 to finish 10th overall in 18:44. 

Ed Catmur, Winter 100

The only person to feature twice in our performances of the year. Ed started the Winter 100 at what can only be described as suicide pace. He ran like he wasn't afraid of anything, with a 15:44 at the NDW100 behind him and numerous other marathon/ ultra wins under his belt in 2013 he wanted to go out with a bang and went all in. On a dry course in perfect conditions he destroyed the first 100km of the course and looked set to run well under 15 hours. As it turned out, Ed lost his stomach coming back in to the final 25 mile out and back. That happens in 100 mile running. Ed's performance to this point was stellar enough, but it was the way he fought through that final 25 miles, being chased down by Matt Winn Smith who closed to within 30 minutes at the 87.5 mile point that nets him this second mention. Holding a 10 minute mile pace whilst running practically bent double with cramping isn't easy at the best of times, but he overcame huge adversity to finish with a 16:05. The 5th fastest time at any of our 100s.

Martin Bacon TP100, Debbie Martin-Consani TP100, Wendy Shaw Grand Slam, Mark Fox Grand Slam.

Whilst just outside the top 10 performances of the year, the above four get special mention. Martin had been knocking on the door of a 100 mile victory for some time. He finally got it right at the 2013 TP100. In awful conditions he drew on all of his experience and hung on to fend off the younger competition by a few minutes at the death, heading home with the trophy he had dreamed of for some time. Debbie ran a super solid race through the mud, rain and sitting water executing faultless race day strategy to record her first Centurion win and educated the remainder of the field in the art of how to race a 100 mile trail race. Wendy and Mark ran smart and smooth Grand Slams, significantly bettering the current record held by Ken Fancett. Wendy's incredible consistency continued as she went on to her 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 5th consecutive Centurion 100 mile podiums. Mark recorded a stellar SDW100 performance in 4 solid sub 24hr efforts and is the current record holder for the 4 events at 83:32, volunteering at the two 50 milers to complete a unique slam of all 6 events. 

2013: A year in ultrarunning mega review Part 1.

Dec 21, 2013 (3 months, 3 weeks ago) | Posted by JamesElson | Tags: 2013

This is the first of a three part blog post about ultrarunning in 2013. This part focuses on UK Ultrarunning Performances of the Year. The second part will focus on the top 10 male and female performances in Centurion events in 2013. The final part will look at our ultra team and fast forward to what's happening on the race scene in 2014.

In the US, Ultra Running Magazine has been going since the 1980s and quickly established itself as the authority on results and reports for all US ultra distance events. Whilst the sport has exploded in recent times, Ultra Running's UPOY (Ultra Performance of the Year) and UROY (Ultra Runner of the Year), remain the most presitgious honours bestowed to North American Ultra distance athletes. The awards can be handed only to North American Runners though they do allow residents to be included, so that UK runners like Joe Grant, Ian Sharman and Nick Clark are all eligible for awards. 

UK Run Ramles, otherwise know as Profeet's Richard Felton made the jump last year to polling for UK UROY and UPOY, a move that was welcomed. The difference with Ultra Running Magazine is that they have a very well established board of judges drawn from all areas of the sport and who's opinions are greatly respected. Between them they vote for their individual picks and proceed from there to the awards. I'd like to see something similar done here in the UK. 

The below is my own individual perspective. I have absolutely no qualification to judge these athletes and I will undoubtedly have missed off mind blowing performances by UK runners by the handful. That's the difference between one individual and a committee. There is still no universal publication of results for Ultra Distance races and we are still a ways off from one central source where all results are fielded. DUV statistik leads the way and the hard work the guys over there have done is incredible. As the database grows this has become the go to place to check out other athletes historical results, much like the power of ten here in the UK or Ultrasignup in the US. Long may this growth continue. 

So finally, before I start, please go wild with comments for who has been missed and who deserves recognition that I haven't included. This, as with all of my pre race previews, comes from my own tracking of the sport in the UK only, so try to hold back on criticism for information sorely lacking :) I've included non-UK resident UK athletes. In my opinion that's the way it should be done. 

Male UPOY

Steve way, Stockholm 100k:
UK 100k running has fallen by the way side in recent times. In recent years, we have struggled as a nation to produce athletes capable of going under the 7hr mark, where in days gone by the benchmark was a full 40 minutes less than this. Finally it seems we have an athlete who can bring back the glory days and begin to compete for the podium at the Worlds. As a sub 2:20 marathoner making his first foray in to ultras, Steve Way is probably the most exiciting prospect out there and his first effort in Stockholm this summer was electrifying to follow as he blazed his way to a 6:40, the 5th fastest UK 100km runner of all time. 

Ian Sharman, Leadville 100 & Grand Slam:
THE Ian Sharman has in my opinion taken another step towards becoming the best of the best, in 2013. With a prolific level of racing in the past including 100s of marathons and ultras, he began fine tuning his training towards specific and more elevated goals three years ago and hasn't looked back since. Performances prior to 2013 including his 6:01 at Comrades and his 12:44 at Rocky Raccoon 100, have been, for me, the most outstanding runs he has had to date. With 3 Western States 100 Top 10 finishes behind him, he decided to embark on the adventure of the Grand Slam of Ultrarunning in the US this summer. The drama that unfolded as Ian raced the overall record for the 4 x 100 milers, as well as compatriot Nick Clark, was something to behold. In a summer where he banked his 4th consecutive WS Top 10 and a strong Vermont 100 just three weeks apart, he then went and ran Leadville in a way that I simply would never have predicted he could have. I spoke to him the week prior to the race and his goal was to win the race. That wasn't something born out of a big ego, but out of confidence in his ability, something that is inherent in many of the very best in the sport. He raced through the first 13 miles of Leadville in 1st place, I was surprised, the runners behind him undoubtedly were too, and promptly put any concerns about how the altitude would affect him out of the back door as he made the turn at Winfield and ploughed through the other 800 runners still headed outbound to mile 50. After the event he described the final 13 miles as the most painful he'd ever experienced. The threat of Nick from behind, the monotony of that final lakeside path, the will to better the Grand Slam record and to win the race outright, drove him to become the third fastest runner ever over the course. With the quality of athletes that have shown up to run Leadville in it's long history, this for me, puts his result up there with his Comrades and Rocky efforts as one of the best trail 100s ever run by a British athlete. As he went on to Wasatch and finished 2nd to Nick, he broke the existing Grand Slam record in a time which I think will stand for a long while to come. But for me, his Leadville was one of the outstanding runs in the US this summer, irrespective of the other 3 100s he flew through around it. 

Nick Clark, Wasatch Front 100: 
Nick, like Ian Sharman, has been exiled from the UK for some time. His family are in Kent and my hope is that one day he will run the NDW100. In the meantime, Nick still calls Colorado home and has been one of the most consistent runners on the US scene over the 100 mile distance for a number of years. THis year he pushed Ian all the way in the Slam, but excelled himself by taking the win at Wasatch in his final race of the 4. 

Marco Consani, Tooting Bec 24hr:
Marco is Mr humble. For years he has watched his wife Debbie run world class performances over the 24hr distance, supporting Team GB and quietly going about the business of becoming one of the best Ultra distance trail runners in the UK. This summer he finished 2nd in the WHW Race, in a time that would have won it most any other year, but was bettered by Paul Giblin who is also mentioned in this post. Marco decided to try his hand at a 24hr race in September, with the roles reversed and Debs supporting him this time around. The GB 24hr team qualifying standard was at the time, 231km. Marco knew this was do-able, in fact he went out with a plan not just to better this but to record a world class effort. He did exactly that. Rattling off 8 minute mile after 8 minute mile, he shattered the 15hr mark, running 14:31 for the first 100 miles. He went on to hold a steady effort all of the way to the finish, to record one of the best 24hr totals in recent years of 154 miles, the best of 2013 by any British runner and put himself as our new number 1. All in his first 24hr event.

Ed Catmur, North Downs Way 100:
The North Downs Way 100 is in my opinion, the toughest of our 4 Centurion 100 milers. Whilst the overall elevation change isn't great with just under 10,000feet of climbing, the climbs present in short sharp and very steep bursts. Furthermore on top of gates and stiles to negotiate, the chop and change in the underfoot conditions from chalk, to rock, to grass, to tarmac and everything in between, do a huge number on breaking a runners rhythm, not to mention the fact that the course runs a few miles long and that section after Detling.... well you have to see it for yourself. I always felt we would see someone run a sub 17 on the course in the near future. As standards in UK runners rise, that was a possibility. I didn't see a sub 16 coming unless a world class 100 mile athlete decided to make the trip over. In an epic to and fro this year, Anthony Forsyth pushed Ed to a 15:44 or sub 9:30 minute miling over the full distance. Anthonys performance would have merited an appearance on here on it's own, but with no crew and no fuss, Ed ran that rare combination of all out, yet within himself all day and recorded one of the best 100 mile performances on UK soil this year. For me, Ed's race here won't be fully understood until time gives us the perspective to look back and compare this effort against years of attempts and other winning times by top level athletes. The truth is, much like Dan Dohertys UTSW of recent times, this run could turn out to be even more special than it already seems.

Lee kemp, Highland Fling

This has to be the most under appreciated run of 2013. The Fling has had a history of attracting this countrys very best. Jez Bragg, Andrew James, Terry Conway, Paul Giblin, Scott Bradley - just some of the names that have thrown down over the many years this race has been in existence. Lee Kemp's Course Record 7:02 this year was significantly faster than any of those athletes before him, and was enough to put him well ahead of a who's who Top 10 of UK ultrarunning this year, including but not limited to many other names on this list (Ricky, Marco, Paul for a start). Much like Dakota Jones breaking Matt Carpenter records in the US, this was a game changing run and one which strangely seemed to fly a little under the radar. 

Ricky Lightfoot, World Trail Championships 2013:
Ricky became World Trail Running Champion in Wales this July, not just winning the 77km race outright in 5:36, but destroying the competition by over 10 minutes. Whilst this performance made him world champion, a result that quite obviously speaks for itself. Craig Holgate described the course afterwards at not having a single flat secion and with temps hitting 27 degrees, put Rickys peformance out there as one he felt would be hard to comprehend by anyone not out there on the course.  

Paul Giblin, WHW race:
For me, this was the most outstanding ultra distance run on UK soil in 2013. In 2012, we stood at the sports centre at the end of the WHW race, to see if Terry Conway would come in inside of the course record 15:44. He destroyed himself to come in inside of it and ranked it as an even better performance than his epic and renowned sub 20hr Lakeland 100 Course Record. Paul took another 32 MINUTES off of that time (15:07). In the UK, we don't have too many races like this, with a deep history of incredible competition and lasting performances to compare against. This is one of the truly classic UK ultras on one of our greatest trails. Much like Tim Olson's 14:46 at WSER in 2012, this was a game changing performance. Paul redefined what is possible on this route. Having finished 2nd to Terry in 2012 and run a Winter WHW later that year (where his retinas froze), Paul obviously knew it like the back of his hand, and had the confidence to go out at a pace that most could not have sustained even as far as the first CP, Drymen at 13 miles. He ran fearless and executed it flawlessly, breaking only when he arrived at Beinglas before the CP had even opened (losing a few minutes) The brilliant Q&A he wrote afterwards gives more of an insight in to how he did it and what it took. What amazing things does he have in store for the future. I hope he goes on to race some of the other bigger global 100s and show us the level of class he displayed here. 

Robbie Britton, Petzl South Downs Way 100:
Robbie smashed the Petzl SDW100 this year in a time of 15:43, beating the remainder of the field by over an hour and lowering the course record by 80 minutes. In doing so he scooped the first place pay check of £500 put up by Petzl. In a young race, again this performance can't really be fully understood. What's without doubt is that the time, on a course with 13,000 feet of climbing is world class. What makes this performance stand out for me, and what makes Robbie the most outstanding young prospect on the UK scene at the moment, is that instead of backing off and securing an easy win, Robbie raced himself and the clock all the way to the track. Paced by Paul Navesey, he put his foot on the gas from the gun and didn't let go for a second. His drive and determination not just to win but to race the best race he could was what makes this shine beyond the incredible time.

Ben Abdelnoor, Lakeland 50:
The Lakeland 50/100 has quickly established itself at the pinnacle of UK Ultra Running Events. Excellent organisation, stunning and challenging courses and some incredible performances have set them aside as must do events. Ben ran a 7:39 bettering the course record by 7 minutes and winning on the day by over 40. Again, the quality of this performance is both against the competition on the day but more so against those that have raced this course before and know how brilliant a time like that is on a course like the Lakeland 50.

Paddy Robbins, Spartathlon:
Mr Grand Union this year turned out what was for me, the best result of his running career to date, one which has included multiple wins/ CRs at the longest non-stop races we have here in the UK. After 4 Grand Union victories including his Course Best of 25:37 and a win at the Viking Way last year (as well as numerous world class GB 24hr performances), Paddys 27:09 at this years Sparta was the stand out long performance of 2013 by a UK runner. Paddy rolled out of the gate at Sparta in his trademark fashion, running very easy and allowing 3/4 of the field to gallop off into the distance, including yours truly. His metronomic pace has become a thing of legend. Whilst most fade dramatically over the distance, Paddy is somehow able to keep a flat even pace going from beginning to end. This skill set is almost unique in races of the length of spartathlon. Simply put, his second half race splits are unmatched by any other runner. Cruising past me at mile 65ish, he went on to record a nigh on even split for a race where almost all of the climbing (8000 feet) comes in the second 76 miles, for a 7th overall and finally put in a Sparta effort akin to the golden days when UK runners were pushing for the podium/ outright wins in one of the worlds classic races.

Danny Kendall, MdS:
Danny has become somewhat of an MdS specialist in recent years. The fact of desert racing is, that the more you run them the better your race management becomes, in an event format where race management is so crucially important. Gear, nutrition, hydration, sleep, body temperature management, recovery, electrolyte balance. These are some of the many things that contribute to success in desert races beyond pure fitness. Dannys times this year have been top end all the way from cross country through road marathons and on to ultras. But his MdS this year, 21:46 got a British athlete in to the top 10 overall for the first time, ever. A combination of brilliant running, brilliant race management and superb fitness. 

Iain Ridgeway, JFK 50:
The JFK 50 mile is the oldest ultra in the US. In years gone by it's mix of Appalachian Trail start and blazing fast towpath second half, have brought in some epicly quick times, this year was no exception as Zach Miller blazed a 5:38 for the win. In 2011, Dave Riddles 5:40 (since bettered by Max Kings 5:34) was enough to win him US UPOY. This year, a Brit went over and much like Ian Sharman last year (and ellie greenwood on the ladies side) ran a blistering race and put the UK on the US map so to speak. Whilst this performance wasn't a win, or a Course Record I've included it as it was brilliant to see a UK based runner go over and throw down a 4th place at one of the US's most prestigious events, something that happens all too infrequently. Any sub 6 hr 50 deserves recognition and Iains 5:57 was exceptional. 

Female UPOY

Lizzie Wraith, Lakeland 100:
Working the Boot aid station at this years Lakeland 100, we had a chance to see Lizzie Wraith come through as first lady, in a mind boggling early pace, looking supremely comfortable in her (for lakeland) lightweight Salomon S-labs, and wondered if perhaps, like watching Lizzy Hawker in her early UTMB days, we were either witnessing something truly special or a truly unsustainable early pace. It turned out that we were witnessing the former. Rory Bosio ran, for me, the oustanding world female performance this year at UTMB, gaining 7th overall and taking hours off of the CR. Lizzie's Lakeland performance whilst not on Rorys level was similar to it in many ways. Running in a 24:15 and taking 4hrs off of the CR and finishing 8th overall. What more is there to say.

Sharon Law, World 24hr:
On her way to 226km at the world 24hs in Steenbergen in May, Sharon set new Scottish 200km and 24hr records. Her total earned her 3rd in the Europeans (held concurrently). A huge performance, a PB and good enough to help secure the silver medal for the GB Team. 

Joanna Zakrezewski, World Trail Champs:
Similar to Ricky Lightfoots effort at the WTC, Joanna did the UK proud, coming in 4th female clocking 7:01 overall. On any given day, a 7:01 over a 77km course would be a phenomenal effort, but with the elevation change and heat on the day, this was an exceptional run. Joanna is no stranger to epic performances on a world level but this trail performance added to her 7:41 for 2nd at the World 100k's in 2011. 

Sue Harrison, European 100km Champs:
Sue posted third overall at the European 100k's this past April, clocking a 7:48 for the distance, placing her 4th fastest on the UK ultra list. Again, in comparison with male performances, Sue has put herself on the map in a very similar way to Steve Way, with this only her second attempt at the distance. Clearly we have much more exciting times ahead in the future of UK 100km running. 

Jean Beaumont, Petzl South Downs Way 100:
Jean rolled through this years SDW100 like the world class athlete she is. In a very similar race to Robbie's equivalent overall win, Jean put almost 2 hrs in to second place. No stranger to 100 mile trail wins having previously held the Course Records at the Northburn 100 in NZ and the Winter 100, Jean smashed her trail PB and ran a time of 16:56 good enough for 3rd overall and walked away with the prize purse in the process. Epic Run. 

Mimi Anderson, GUCR Double:
This is the one performance included in either list which has nothing to do directly with time. There was uproar in the US a couple of years back when Jenn Pharr-Davies' outright Appalachian Trail record was recorded as female UPOY, and in the whole I agree with the condemnation for that selection on a number of levels. That being said, how do you give the credit a performance on that scale deserves, without mentioning it alongside the best race performances? When Mimi began running backwards down the GUCR course two days before this years official race, most thought that she had finally bitten off more than she could chew. Her aim was to run the 145 miles to the start, in under 36 hours and then return to finish the official race after a short night of rest. 300 miles (almost) back to back. Not only did Mimi finish, she made the initial journey in 31:50 and came back in a time of 36:49, 8 hours inside of the cut off and good enough for 5th female. Truly a mind blowing individual effort.

Who gets your vote? Please comment at the bottom.

2013 Winter 100 Preview

Nov 27, 2013 (4 months, 2 weeks ago) | Posted by JamesElson | Tags: 2013

I may live to regret saying this, but right now the forecast for the WInter 100 looks good. Cold but good. That being said runners who are used to long distances in British winter and mountains at anytime will have prepared for conditions where strength wins out over speed - Richie Cunningham and Jean Beaumont epitomised that last year as they gutted out incredible times in rough weather whilst much 'faster' runners fell by the way side. It's often those without any time goals, racing the field and not the clock that persevere in poor condtions. Faster running this year will make for a fascinating race. Conditions often dictate the times in trail racing, often as much or more than an atheletes ability on the day.

Here's a preview of the front runners in both the mens and womens fields. As always, this is off the top of my head with very little research behind it so please feel free to add others using the comments field at the bottom. 

Overall we have an anticipated start field of 95 with 9 x 2013 Grand Slammers going for number 4 and many Centurion Veterans returning. No doubt there will be some stories of huge strength in adversity all the way to the final cuts as is always the case with 100 mile trail events, particularly at this time of year. 

Mens Field

For me there is one stand out runner this year, Ed Catmur. Ed, for me, would be UK UROY (others like Ricky Lightfoot and Craig Holgate have also had stellar years) but it's likely that most are unaware of his achievements in 2013, because he doesn't have a blog or twitter account. So excuse the lamenting on his achievements here but in light of the term UK UROY being used around runners achieving purely quantity over quality Ed has struck the balance of both. Ed will be looking for his third 100 mile win of 2013 at this event. He won (actually the only finisher) of a Saxon Shore 100 earlier in the year, before going on to destroy the NDW100 course record in one of the most outstanding performances of 2013, anywhere in the UK. He did it without any crew or support just off of his own back. Finally after a few years of knocking on the door of something incredible, he put the pieces together and nailed it. Amongst those things he won the Milton Keynes & Welsh Marathons and just set a PB at Bournemouth finishing 8th with a 2:34. This level of road speed in a marathon matches closely with the likes of Ian Sharman and Craig Holgate who are pushing the front line in UK ultra distance running. Believe me when I say that Ed is right up there with the best and would be competitive in most bigger/ global field 100s right now. His skill set is not limited to the road and marked trail. He's also an orienteer which is a skill that assisted him in his wins at the Saunders MM and the Ultra Tour of the Peak district. The Saunders is not a small time event, a certain Lizzy Hawker traditionally used it as a build up to many of her UTMB wins. If conditions are dry and cold as they look likely to be, Ed can go under Craigs Centurion 100 mile best of 15:11 here, I have no doubt.

Luke Ashton is an enigma. I hope he doesn't mind me saying that earlier in the year his promise as he took 2nd at a muddy, wet and cold Thames Path 100 which was a break through effort in his first 100 miler, waned away a little as he raced a lot and turned to running many events barefoot which brought down some of his overall times. If Luke comes to the Winter 100 with his game face on, he could run Ed hard, particularly if he can reduce the time he spends in CPs down, it's just a case of which Luke we'll see on the day. 

Warwick Gooch stands tall amongst other men as winner of the 2012 Caesars Camp 100. In awful conditions he made it around well under the 24hr mark and jogged a comfy 50 miler there this year looking relaxed and in control. He will feature from the off. 

Dave Ross, marathon man. Dave has had a great year running sub 7:30 at Comrades for the second year in a row. More importantly perhaps he managed to get his Western States monkey off of his back and finished in a great time, before building on that to a superb NDW100 run under the 18 hour mark. Alongside of those things he consistenly races marathons under the 3hr mark and recently set a PB of 2:51, something that means a lot to a man with 300 marathons under his belt. Dave's undoing will only be in his own pacing. If he can resist running the first 25 too hard he may wipe hourse off of his NDW100 time. At the TP100 he went off of the front and came unstuck in the last 20 fading to 6th in the cold. Can he pace himself from the start and hold on for another PB here? I reckon so.

Matt Winn Smith had a sterling 100 mile effort at the TP100 in 2012. As a triathlete and ultra runner he holds all the right attributes to succeed, planning, strength, speed and will have a strong race here no doubt.

Eduard Egelie ran his first 100 in 2012 at this event. He has improved week on week over the past 12 months running a very strong NDW100 for 6th overall and is prepared better than ever this time. Top 5 runner with podium potential.

Ronnie Staton produced the UPOY of this year under some careful coaching from someone who knows what they are doing ;) He ran the 200 mile Wainwright Coast to Coast route non-stop in 56 hours. I can't begin to describe what an incredible effort that is. With that behind him and having run this event and numerous other 100s before, in a mind game there is no winner against this man. 

Women

Sharon Law must sit top of the pile as the Scottish 24hr record holder, taking 8th overall at the World 24s this year with 226km clocked. She's no stranger to success on the trails either. Her sub 9hr Highland Fling time being one of many.

My Scottish contact tells me also that Charlotte Black, on route down from the Shetland Islands for this race, is one to watch. With some strong 100km performances behind her she will hopefully light up the competition here. 

Wendy Shaw is 2nd overall in the Grand Slam stakes and podiumed at all 3 of our Centurion 100s so far this year. That's no mean feat. Always solid, always working and getting faster Wendy will want this for numerous reasons. Look for her to push through strong in the latter stages.

Mary Heald surprised everyone including herself it seems by winning the NDW100 this year. Mary DNFd the winter 100 at mile 83 last year, and has since gone on to put herself within 100 miles of the grand slam. Quite the comeback. Can she do it again here?

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