Lakeland 50/100 weekend is a special one in the UK ultrarunning calendar. The races embody all the best bits of UK Ultrarunning. A superb course, fantastic volunteers and a community inspired race environment. This was the 10th anniversary.
The organisers really care and as always, that is the most important ingredient in making a race a great one.
Back in 2014 I'd decided that I wanted to have a go at three Lake District 'projects'. The Bob Graham Round, the Lakeland 100 and summiting all of the 214 Wainwright tops. A bit numbers focused sure, but there you go. I thought it would take two years but it actually ended up taking nearly four.
In September 2014 I made it around the BG. I completed the Wainwrights in March. With regards to the LL100, i'd had a couple of goes and neither had worked out. In 2015, I fell at around mile 55 and cracked my hip. In 2016 I stopped after just a few hours.
This time I felt really good coming in to it in spite of being drastically down on training. In 2015 I came in off almost weekly trips to the Lakes. The reality of life now is that those trips are just not so forthcoming. I made do with what I could. For perspective I was down from 90 miles and 15000ft per week in 2015, to 57 miles with 11000ft per week in the core 8 week block.
But for lack of mileage, I was otherwise up for it. Course knowledge is really helpful here. Firstly because a lot of it is done in the dark, secondly because it's not marked. I do know the course back to front and my kit, footwear and nutrition are down to a fine art (see bottom of this post for the full list).
On balance this is a hard race. 105 miles/ 21000ft of climb. A 40 hour cut off with a finish rate of 62%. But that still translates as there being a lot of good running. This is definitely a runners course. Whilst there is plenty of rough ground and some honest climbs and descents, no climb that lasts longer than a couple of miles. When one compares that with an Alpine climb which can easily go on for 2-3 hours, this is a very different level.
In 2015 I was guilty of chasing 'Terry's ghost'. I think his course record has lured many very good runners in to starting too hard at this event in recent years. The fact that 10 years of this race without anyone coming within 30 minutes of Terrys time says a lot.
This time would be different. I'd run my own race and see how I came out.
Heading out of town. Jayson Cavill to my left and Mike Jones last years winner just behind. Photo c/o Sport Sunday
1800 start and out of town over to Seathwaite a group of 6 or 7 of us fell in together and that included all of the people I expected to be there. Mike Jones last years champion. Jayson Cavill the LL50 record holder. Chris Brookman third last year. Out in front were Bryn Jones and Lawrence Eccles. With respect to those guys they have a few years in a row now absolutely hammered it up the Walna Scar Road at an unsustainable pace for anybody and I figured we would probably see them again before long. We got blown about with a side wind and some rain about a mile in. I would hazard that it ended up raining around 25 times on and off during the race.
Seathwaite in 63 mins in 2015 was insane. 69 mins this year felt great. Over to Boot Mile 14 the ground was pretty choppy, a lot of mud and a decent fall. We all left there together but Mike put the hammer down and put a couple of minutes in to our group very quickly.
Just before Wasdale Head mile 19 I literally left one of my La Sportiva Helios SR's in a bog on a descent and had to back track. But with the exception of Mike, we all entered the check point together and by now had passed the early leaders.
Over Black Sail pass Jayson and I took things really steady. Headtorches on over the other side, up and over Scarth Gap and to Buttermere in 4:55. Record pace 4:44. Mike ahead, but that was all. Jayson and I figured Mike was going all out for the record and with the ground a little bit slower than normal that seemed a big ask.
After a pit stop at Buttermere I ran my favourite section over Sail Pass to Braithwaite well. And coming out of the other side I caught up to Jayson on the sweet stretch of tarmac alongside the A66. He was a bit down in the dumps and I think it greatly helped to fall in together. Sharing the trail on and off with Jayson for 40 miles was one of the biggest highlights of the race for sure. We were promptly dropped however, by Marcis Gubats who seemed quite intent on forcing a race, something I wasn't up for with 70 miles to go. We let him disappear on the out and back up GlendeTERROR.
Just before Blencathra mile 41, Jayson seemed to fade a little and I decided to push on. Marcis was a couple of hundred metres ahead and Mike was about 20 minutes ahead.
A long section now over to Dalemain of 3 hours or so, past the place where I fell in 2015 and turned the headtorch off a mile or so before Dalemain check point at mile 59. I arrived there with Marcis still inside. Mike left 14 mins earlier. Everything was going to plan.
Dalemain is the only place you can pick up supplies/ access a drop bag from the start. I'd barrelled through 20 of my 21 Salted Caramel Gu Gels by this point, but everything else felt good. So i just picked up a handful of gels. My aid time there was about 90 seconds. Pretty good.
Over to Howtown, 59 - 66, I felt dreadful. This point in the race, 0500-0600 is the coldest part of the day and therefore my least favourite. It's such a runnable section too but I just couldn't get moving efficiently. As I dropped in to Howtown, Marcis hammered it out up the short road climb to Fusedale and that was not a sight that offered any kind of boost. Three chia charge bars in the check point were however pretty lovely and that really helped.
Up Fusedale I really took my time. Then I had a bit of a flyer over High Kop/ Low Kop and around Haweswater. It's a great section of single track and I went well around there.
At Mardale Head, 30 to go. Ham sandwich in a cup of soup. Smashing. Up Gatesgarth nice and steady. Wet and very windy on that climb but still moving well. Down the other side I ran the descent all the way to Sadgill pretty well, with a big boost from cheer-squad captain Debs Martin-Consani who snapped this shot as I pushed on to Kentmere.
Over the top of Gatesgarth. Photo c/o Debs Martin-Consani
Just before that check point it was nice to be greeted by Rupert Bonington or Mountain Fuel fame, Kirk Hardwick and then Cat Simpson - all dressed as sheep. I had a little pasta there and another loo break but I ran in and out of there strong. Whilst I knew I wasn't anywhere close to Mike or Marcis I also felt I was doing easily enough to hold on to third. From Kentmere in, there's no significant challenges, other than you haven't any excuse not to run.
Arriving in to Kentmere mile 83. Photo c/o Dan Milton
But my Ambleside split was well down on what I wanted and it was on the short road climb up to Loughrigg at mile 90 that I felt I was in a hole I probably couldn't get back out of. My stomach was doing loop the loop and finally seemed to pack in which is rare nowadays. I shuffled around Elterwater. By now any thoughts of an improvement on third had completely disappeared. I ran, but it was a massive slog. As I crept towards Chapel Stile mile 95, I could feel for the first time I was probably haemoraging time to the competition behind. And sure enough, around a half a mile from the aid station I could hear the clapping behind for the next runner entering that 95 mile check point. I figured it was Jayson, back from the dead.
At the end of Blea Tarn, just around 99 miles it was actually Tony Maxwell who came past. Such a nice guy. He just shook my hand, asked me if he'd maybe seen me before - on a DVD or something? Sort of. Anyway, he ran away from me as if I were standing still and it was now about forcing as much as I could not to hand any more places back.
In the end my final split from Tilberthwaite in was under an hour, considering how I felt that wasn't too bad. I had an enormous chunder on top of the last descent which actually helped a good deal. And I was able to jog the road back to the school and crossed the line for a time of 22:09. Fourth Place. Mike had a superb race, with Marcis picking up second. Those guys thoroughly deserved the positions they got from their hard work. They were far stronger than me on the day. Full results are here.
I think on balance we can call that a good performance. 85ish very good miles. 20 very hard ones. Third would have been great. Not to be this time.
This race is very significantly harder than anything we organise. It's got a big starting field without being OTT. Good level competition, though of course the navigation element is a factor so to race your best you simply have to know the route. A great journey run around the whole of the Lake District. Here's a bit of advice for anyone interested in taking it on.
KIT/ GEAR/ NUTRITION/ HYDRATION
Footwear: Don't over think this part. The advice I see pre and post race on foot care these days seems to be getting more and more obscure. Keep it simple. Don't try two pairs of socks, three different types of lube and shoes the wrong size. Pick a pair of socks that fit, and a pair of shoes that fit. There are almost no grassy descents on this course. So something to handle rock is better. I wore a La Sportiva Helios SR but I would say that is fairly minimal for this course and the loose rock. The Bushido or the Akasha would be perfect. Socks wise I wore simple Drymax Trail Socks. Cheap, effective. Sorry to those who really suffered with their feet but I had no blisters, no hot spots. Didn't take my shoes or socks off until after.
Nutrition: With one drop bag at mile 59, you are going to end up carrying a lot of weight to begin with if you're not careful. Check point food consists of biscuits, jelly babies, coke - everywhere. Then you can get tea, coffee, soup, sandwiches at most places. If we say that gold standard nutrition is 300 calories per hour, my advice is to carry 150-200kcals per hour on your person and then top up with something at every other CP. I had 20 gels on me to Dalemain. 15 from there in. A few babybels and a few chia charge bars/ snack mars on me at all times. Late in the race I had some sandwiches, pasta, soup BUT in, down it, out. Don't sit down, get on with it.
Hydration: Don't start with a massive bladder or litres of water in bottles. There is fresh flowing water on almost every section. Take one of these with an in built filter and top up from the frequent streams. I ran with a 500ml handheld and didn't run dry once because I topped up on the move. Something I also saw Jayson Cavill doing to great effect. Don't add to the already substantial weight of your pack by taking loads of water with you from the start. Take a reserve flask if you are in doubt.
Kit: Here's my kit list. This fills the mandatory requirement and more. People seem to think that you need a 15 or 20 litre pack to get this stuff inside. You can get two complete sets of mandatory equipment in an 8 litre S-Lab vest. Two complete sets plus 20 gels and a bunch of cheese. You can say, oh well he isn't carrying water. That's TWO sets, so take one set out and replace it with water if you want. You'll excuse me of course if we link to our own great store where we stock this stuff anyway because we believe it to be the best of the best. I am sponsored by some of the below parties. However, if that piece of kit were not right for this event I would absolutely not be recommending it.
- Headtorch: Petzl Nao+. Don't scrimp on this. Running well in the dark requires good light. This is the best.
- Base Layer: La Sportiva Troposphere
- Waterproof Jacket: La Sportiva Hail (20000mm). I also had a second waterproof, a Berghaus Vaporlight rather than carrying Goretex. It's cheaper to buy two lightweight waterproofs than one Gore Tex, before you worry about the cost of that. If the temperature was due to be 5 degrees colder or more I would have swapped to my Montane Spine Jacket.
- Waterproof Trouser: Salomon Bonatti
- Gloves: Salomon XT Wings Mitt
- Hat: Bobble Hat. Fashion Conscious
- Shoes: La Sportiva Helios SR
- Shorts: La Sportiva Rapid Short (Back in stock from next week!)
- Exped Waterproof Phone Case and Phone
- Exped 3 Litre Dry Bag for Mandatory Gear
- S! Caps (1 per hour)
- Race Vest: Salomon S-Lab 8 Set
- Handheld Water Carrier: Salomon Hydro Handset
- Tights: Salomon Agile Tight
- Spare Windroof: Salomon S-Lab Light Jacket
- Cup: Hydrapak Speedcup
- Socks: Drymax Trail
- Compass: Silva Thumb Compass
- Map and Roadbook as supplied by the Race
- Survival Blanket
For the ongoing support, a massive thank you to La Sportiva, Petzl, Hydrapak and Lyon Equipment. To Terry, Marc and the team at the Lakeland 50/100 for making this a truly special occassion each year. Biggest thanks to the Marshal's and Volunteers who as always are the most important people of all in these things.
All Done now. Photo c/o Drew Sheffield.
The 2017 North Downs Way 100 is set to be a barnstormer with incredibly strong and deep fields in both the Mens and Womens races. See below for a run down of the likely leading Women before turning to look at the Men.
Maryann Devally: Winner Arc of Attrition 2017. 3rd SDW100 2016. 2nd NDW100 2015 in 21:17 as well as 2nd at Ring of Fire the same month. A host of other podiums at other events. Maryann is undoubtedly a possible winner of this years event.
Mari Mauland: Mari was this years Thames Path 100 winner in a superb time of 16:55. She led the SDW100 until the half way mark, but had a tough time in from there suffering from stomach issues. She did really well to gut that one out and her eventual 4th place in 19:11 was a brave performance. She will want to continue her assault on the Ladies 100 mile Grand Slam Record here. She was third at the 2015 edition of the NDW100 so she brings in that experience on top of her impressive start to 2017.
Kate Whitfield: 3rd at the SDW100 in 2015 with a superb 19:49. 2nd at the 2016 Ultimate Trails 110km. Kate also has a raft of other top ten and podium finishes at shorter ultras over the last four years.
Zoe Salt: Zoe has a string of great results behind her in a really diverse range of races. Finishes at the mega Grand Raid Reunion, MDS and Transvulcania alongside podiums at Lakes Sky Ultra, Iznik, Country To Capital etc. It will be fascinating to see what she can do here.
Sarah Cameron: It looks like Sarah is based in France and she has strung some great results together over there. 14th at the TDS, 15th at Templiers Grand Courses and a 1st there three years ago at the Endurance Trail. The potential to go well here is very high indeed.
Lucja Leonard: 13th MDS. 2nd CTS Northumberland 2016. 4th Cappadocia 2015. 2nd Augrabies 2014. Some great results behind her coming in to this one.
Dan Doherty: I recently spoke in our new podcast about the fact that we are in something of a British Ultrarunning Renaissance, with 3 or 4 individuals nationwide capable of doing things that are on a different level to that which we've seen for a long time. Dan Doherty is one of those people. His results of recent years would not make that clear. In the past he has however put himself on that international level. He has represented his home nation Ireland at 24hrs, 100km, Mountain Running and the Ultra Trail team. ACP 100km Champion in 7:05, 6th at the mighty Tor Des Geants in 83 hours (he was 2nd there the following year when he was hurt in a fall and had to drop), top 20 at both the World 100km (twice) and World Trail Championships in years past.
This year he set a new record for the Brecon Beacons Traverse. That might sound a bit off of the radar. But Dan took that record from Mark Hartell, who until recently had the second fastest ever Bob Graham Round and still holds the Lakeland 24 hour Peaks record. That time has stood since 1993.
Last year, I paced Dan over the first/ boundary leg of his Paddy Buckley attempt. I have never seen anyone move in the mountains like that before. He dropped me as we ran up Foel Ddu together after the quarry. I caught back up to him on the final peak, Cnicht in heavy clag and when we hit the short rolling road section to Nantmor, just how fast he'd been moving on some of the roughest, boggiest terrain in the land was made clear, as his average pace dropped to low 6s for equivalent effort. It was astonishing. 45 miles in to that record attempt he was literally miles under record pace, when the forecast storm came in hard over the Glyders and he was literally blown over. He descended to us off of Devils Kitchen and thus just 13 miles or so short of a new record, it was snatched away from him. When he goes again, the record will very likely go and by some margin.
So for me, it's one of those truly exciting moments leading up to this one, to see if Dan is able to string together a performance which matches his ability.
Ed Catmur: Ed is the North Downs Way 100 cours record holder with a 15:44, in one of the truly great performances we've seen at our events. The only person ever to go under 16 hours here. He has one other NDW100 title to his name and has won all of our 100 mile events with the exception of the SDW100 which has until now, alluded him. He has however suffered a string of injury woes over 2016 and 2017 and is still making his way back to his best. He would be the first to concede he may be unlikely to challenge his 2013 time here but it would be great to see him in shape to push for the top once again.
Paul Maskell: Paul is relatively new to the sport, with the 2016 Arc of Attrition seemingly his first ultra. He went on to an impressive 2nd place a the 62 mile RAT last August, before coming home with a superb win at this years Arc of Attrition 100 in February. Certainly he will be looking to be competitive here.
Nick Marriage: 9th at this years TP100, 4th at this years SDW100. He now sits second to Dan Masters in the 2017 Grand Slam standings after a very impressive first half of the campaign.
Ian Hammett: Ian always brings a smile to his racing and some fine racing it is. His string of top 10s, podiums and a couple of victories in his relatively short ultra career have put him on the map and he comes in to this as part of his build up to Spartathlon. So far in 2017 he has taken home 3rd at the SDW50, 4th at the NDW50 and 9th at the Ultimate Trails 110km.
Dan Masters: Our current leader in the 2017 Grand Slam standings, Dan has so far run himself to 2nd at this years TP100 and 5th at the SDW100. He is new to the sport and has quite the string of results to his name since early 2016. The only potential danger for Dan is the temptation to over race. At the beginning of July he also squeezed in the Belfast 24hr open race and had a tough time there albeit gutting out 200km in the end. He is super strong, and if he has rested well the plan I am sure will be to continue his progress as leader of the Slam and bring in a new overall record by the end of 2017.
John Stocker: John is our 100 mile Grand Slam overall record holder and has recently taken home the win in the Thames Ring 250. A very different type of event to this but ultimately an impressive strong performance given that he has also raced both our 100s so far this year, the Spine and Grand Union. There simply has to be fatigue however going from race to race like that so John's 2017 NDW100 will be telling. After a third here last year, can he run stronger again or will he suffer later on with signs of over-racing. Fingers crossed it's the former.
Jez Isaac: Jez has steadily built his ultra running career since his first appearance at this race in 2013, his first 100 miler. This year he has exceeded his previous achievements with a 3rd place in 16:25 at the TP100. Following Top 10s at the 2016 Autumn 100, Grand Union and TP100, he has to be looking to put himself back on the same level again here, if not go one higher.
Greg Dunning: 23rd at this years MDS is a superb result. That follows a 6th at Courcheval X-Trail (54km) and two wins at the Black Mountains 40. This is somewhat of an unknown distance it looks like, but certainly he has the ability to go well.
Other possible contendors include Norbert Mihalik (8th 2016 NDW100, 3rd 2017 Country to Capital and 220km Ultrabalaton), Ollie Stoten (1st 2015 Country to Capital, 2 x victories at T60, 4th at the NDW100 in 2012), Neil Beacher (2 x Top 10 SDW100 both sub 18 hours), Ed Knudsen (9th at 2017 SDW100).
On Saturday 10th June at 0600, approximately 275 runners will start out from Chilcomb Sports Ground just outside of Winchester in the hopes of traversing 100 miles on the South Downs Way, looking to reach Eastbourne before midday on the Sunday, the 30 hour cut off for the race.
This race has yielded the most exceptional performance we've ever seen at one of our events, when Mark Perkins ran home in 14 hours and 3 minutes. His is the course record by well over an hour and the outright Centurion 100 mile record.
Generally speaking despite the elevation change being more significant than over any of the other events, the terrain is fast underfoot and allows for long stretches of clear running. The descents allow those who are capable, the chance to really open up and make back a lot of the time lost by runing or hiking the climbs at a sustainable effort. It is very much a runners course and a fast course for the well prepared as Mark showed that day.
This year, it's a pleasure to be able to say we have a really exciting ladies race in prospect. We feature the likely leading ladies first and then focus on the mens field.
Mari Mauland: Mari comes in off of the back of a superb win at the TP100 just 6 weeks prior to this event. This was a significantly better run and vastly improved time from her 2nd there in 2016. This year, she is headed for the Grand Slam. So not only will it be the individual race position she is after, but the best possible time such that she can keep or even extend her gap over the cumulative Grand Slam record time held by Sally Ford.
Mari post TP100 2017 win
Sarah Morwood: Sarah's 17:36 in 2014 was good enough to take home the trophy that day. What she has been through since is an unimaginable journey. First clocking some further stellar performances. Wins followed throughout 2014 and 2015 at the Winter 100, Autumn 100, SDW50, Race to the Stones, Lake District 3x3000 and les 24 heures de Ploeren. She earned her first international vest and represented Team GB at the World Trail Champs in 2015. In early 2016, she was knocked off of her bike by a motorist and suffered horrendous injuries including a broken patella. With multiple operations since, it's got to be close to the case that nobody has worked harder than Sarah over the past 18 months to get her running back. Things began slowly as she built strength, only to be set back with further necessary surgery. Over the past 4 months she has undergone more intensive rehabilitation and with the surgeries now seemingly behind her, she can at last look forward, though she still manages the pain every day. BUT. In the last couple of months, the old Sarah has begun, with a lot of patience, to emerge from the ashes and this May, she ran home back to back weekend wins at the Imerys Trail Marathon and then Eco Trail Oslo 80km. 100 miles will be the furthest she's asked her knee to go since the accident. If she does manage to finish and to pull a result together, her's will be the type of story the movies were made for.
Sarah's iconic aeroplane image from the 2014 W100
Leanne Rive: Leanne brings a lot of experience to the party, both at Centurion events and elsewhere. At this event she has finished 5th, 4th and then 5th over the past three years, with a best time of 20:33. She also went on to finish Tor Des Geants last year and win Round the Rock 48 mile.
Alex Coomber: This looks to be Alex's first foray up to the 100 mile distance, but in her three other recorded ultras she's placed 2nd at the SDW50, 3rd at the NDW50 and 5th at the Stour Valley 100km, all in the past two years.
Annabelle Stearns: Annabelle holds the 7th fastest all time ladies time on the SDW100 course, with a 19:01 in 2015. She has a string of wins and podiums behind her, particularly at Centurion events. Beyond her 2nd at the SDW100, she's won the NDW50 and finished 2nd there another time as well as at the NDW100 - both in 2016.
Annabelle at the NDW50
The Men's race is somewhat wide open. Lots of very solid guys with some super results across a wide range of events in recent years, but perhaps not one stand out candidate for the overall win.
Steven Lord: Steve cleaned up at the Hardmoors Slam in 2016, winning the 55, the 60 and the 110. He also clocked a 5th at the Lakeland 50. This year, he went out hard at the TP100, led in to a fast and furious race by Mark Denby. When Mark stopped early, Steve took the lead but quickly hit somewhat of a wall and eventually gutted out a 6th place in 16:56. That felt a long way short of what he would be capable of on a good day. He will be looking for retribution here and the smart money would be on him to better that result on a course which profile wise, suits him much better.
Dan Masters: It looks to be that Dan's career in ultra running began only last year. But he raced often and quickly racked up some good finishes including a 17:23 at the Autumn 100. This year he ran home a superb 2nd place to Michael Stocks at the TP100 in 15:30. He is looking for the Overall Slam Record and will fancy his chances after that start.
James Poole: James has put put a varied and exciting schedule together over his 5 years or so of ultrarunning. Perhaps his best result to date was his 2nd place at last years NDW100 in 17:20. Notably he has gone on to longer races such as Sparta and Transgrancanaria 360, both of which he finished. If he comes in to this fresh he would certainly seem a likely contender for Top 5, if not the podium once again.
Barry Miller: Barry's running continues to improve year on year. He's had some fantastic results over the last couple of years. Second at GUCR, a finish at Spartathlon and a recent win at the Viking Way. His Marathon and 100 mile times are coming down. If he is focused and fresh on the day, it will be really exciting to see what he can do.
Matibini Matibini: Mati is the guy you've seen smiling his way through every race he runs. However ugly it gets. His ultra career is not very long and contains perhaps only one stand out performance, his 19:11 for 6th at the 2016 NDW100. What's happened since then is that he's found new depths to his endurance and his speed. He's just clocked low 2:40 marathons at London and Edinburgh. He knows now what 100 miles entails and his training would suggest that we could be expecting something very much more top end here, IF he can pace himself sensibly from the start (this of course, however, also applies to everyone else!).
Mati playing it serious at the 2016 NDW100
Steve Speirs: Steve joins us from his ex-pat base in the US. He is a super experienced runner with literally decades of road running behind him, moving in to ultras in 2009 and subsequently running a huge range of distances, terrain types and conditions. He's kept his road running up and recently won the Cayman Islands Marathon. In ultra land he's won races such as Iron Horse 100 and walked off with a masters title at Rocky Raccoon in a 100 mile PB of 15:26. He should certainly find himself in contention here, again if he is rested enough from recent racing exploits.
Steve with both the Author and Team Runner Paul Navesey at Rocky Raccoon 100 in Texas
This year is the 7th edition of the NDW50. The top 3 men in this years SDW50 return to compete against one another again here, with a host of other very strong contenders. The ladies field again looks a little lighter but that leaves room for anyone to come through and run their way on to the podium.
Jon Ellis: Jon recently ran home the victor at this years SDW50 with a 6:28. A performance that was excellent, but perhaps not quite as strong as Chiltern Wonderland 50 victory last September where he led from wire to wire. Jon has podiumed at every ultra he has finished though it is worth adding that he pulled out of the Wendover Woods 50 back in November, with a few issues. He seems to be back on form in a big way this year and must go in as favourite.
Ry Webb: Ry came good in 2016 with a very strong NDW50 performance, eventually coming in 2nd in a little over 7 hours. Last month he ran home 2nd at the SDW50 to Jon Ellis, so he will want to close the gap this time.
Paul Russhard: Paul is the guy many of you will remember from the NDW50 in 2016 who put everything on the line from the gun and went away at a pace we'd simply never seen before. His lead by mile 14 was well over a minute a mile and he continued to hammer until the proverbial wheels eventually did fall off but not until somewhere after the 50km point. He did also hang on for 3rd despite fading fast at the end. He gambled again at the SDW50 last month and ran home eventually 7th, still a fine performance. What will he bring to the table this time....
Mark Innocenti: Mark ran this race in 2016 and placed 7th in 7:27. Since then he's gone on to win the Stort 30, place 4th at the inaugural Wendover Woods 50 and run a PR at London a few weeks ago breaking 2:40 which puts him on a par with the fastest guys in this field. A definite podium contender this time.
Desborough: Dudley's second place at the Pilgrims Way on this very trail back in February, alongside a strong London Marathon in the mid 2:40s means he should come in to this with higher expectations and could certainly challenge for top 5.
Ian Hammett: Ian brings some good road pace to the trails and last year clocked up 2nd place in both our SDW100 and behind Jon in the CW50. This year he ran home 3rd at the SDW50 behind Jon and Ry. He's also walked away with a win at The Wall and Stour Valley 100km in the past couple of years with other strong results around those. Certainly he should be competitive yet again here.
Alistair palmer: 7th at the Chiltern Wonderland 50 last September and 8th at the SDW50 last monthin 7:21, can he take it up in to the top 5 this time.
Andy Kett: 6th at the 2016 SDW50 in a time of 7:14 he could also be threatening the top 5 here.
James Donald: Winner of this years Imber Ultra and a sub 2:40 marathoner, he certainly has the pace to run towards the front of the field at this one.
Amelia Watts: Amelia took home 2nd at the 2016 SDW50 and has four years of excellent results now behind her. 5th at the MDS, 1st at UTSW 60 and 4th at RTTS 100km led in to that 2nd last year. This year she's begun with a fine 15th at TGC. A really consistent performer.
Liz Weeks: Liz ran this race in 2016 and placed 4th in 8:44. A performance she will look to better this year. Her sub 3 hour marathon pedigree ranks her alongside Gill (below) as the fastest in the field and with experience over ultra distances now at events like Al Andalus, Pony Express (Course Record) and lots more trail marathons in the past year, she could be in it to win it this time.
Gill Bland: A regular sub 3 hour marathoner with a 3:07 from Boston this year she is clearly in good shape, unknown at this distance however.
This sixth edition of the 2017 Thames Path 100 is expected to see a starting field of 300 and takes place over the weekend of 29th - 30th April.
In 2016, Craig Holgate lit the course on fire with a performance that saw him reach Abingdon Aid Station on course for a 13:30 finish time. A single navigational error led him off course just after and he eventually crossed the line in 14:09. That run showed what previous editions of the TP had not, that this course is incredibly fast if conditions are good and the race is approached in the right way.
This is a runners course, with around 1500 feet of elevation gain in total and a mixture of underfoot conditions. This year we see a situation similar to the 2015 Autumn 100, where lots of returning runners with extremely solid performances under their belts at this or others of our events, look to take things one step further and take home a trophy.
Mark Denby: Must go in as favourite after storming our last 100, the Autumn 100 in October 2016 in a blazing course record of 14:07. He knows the Thames well having also run and won the T184 also in a course record time. He has finished the TP100 before, back in 2015 in 19:03 so he made a 100 mile improvement of 5 hours in just over a year!! Since the Autumn he has struggled with injury and dropped out of Athens 24hr in February. He will certainly be looking to make amends here.
Mark pre-A100 2016
Steven Lord: Steven took home the Hardmoors Slam title last year with wins at the 55, 60 and 110. He's also placed 5th at Lakeland. If he can move from hills to flat he should do really well here.
Mark Grenyer: Mark was 3rd last year in a time of 17:11, though it doesn't look as though he has raced since. If he can bring that form in here, that will put him in the mix with many of the below.
Fergus Edwards: Fergus ran 23 hours in 2012, 21:10 in 2014. He was 10th in 2015 in 19:08 and then 6th in 2016 in 17:55. Can his upward curve continue here?
Dave Ross: Dave Ross' back catalogue is massive. He is one of the most experienced runners, if not the most experienced in the field with over 100 ultras to his name. Dave's first 100 mile finish was our first event back in 2011. So far he has 11 Centurion 100s to his name including 3 Thames Path 100s. His best time was a 15:58 at the SDW100 in 2014 - a race I think he would have to count as his best 100 to date. He has never quite got the TP100 right, his best is back in 2012 where he came home 6th in 18:48. I am quite sure if he is fit and motivated which he seems to be at the moment, he will have designs on going a long way under that this time.
John Stocker: John became our new Grand Slam 100 record holder last year, taking Dave Ross' crown by just 9 minutes. His TP last year was an excellent run for 7th in 18:04 and he will look to go better this time.
Nick Greene: Nick comes in to the TP100 with a best of 16:52 for 2nd in 2015, making him I think second fastest 100 miler coming in to this event. He ran a very solid SDW50 just over a week ago and will look to build on that to another strong finish here.
Sergiy Ionov: Sergiy has some solid results behind him, most notably a 3rd place at Rat Races' The Wall. However one result stands out above all others and puts him as exceptional - a 27:27 for 15th at Spartathlon last year. If he can bring anything like that form in here he could challenge for the win.
Richard Heath: Richard is a very experienced and very capable runner. His biggest result perhaps, was a win at the Ring O'Fire in 2015, a tough race. He has plenty of Top 10 finishes behind him as well as experience at much tougher events like UTMB, GUCR and the NDW100. If he can get his ultra pace to match his road running pace he could be a podium contendor once again here.
Ammon Piepgrass: Expect Ammon to be the guy who is back in the mid pack at the start, then cruise through the field to show everyone how to really pace a 100. He's a strong guy with plenty of long experience behind him including recent finishes at UTMB and Laveredo. He has 2 Top 10s already in 2017, Country to Capital and the CTS South Devon Ultra. He's my pick for another here.
The ladies race looks particularly wide open this year with only two names standing out at the moment.
Sarah Sawyer: Sarah has improved consistently over recent years. From a 2015 finish here of 23:24, she has since gone on to bring her 100 mile best down to 18:39 for 3rd at the 2016 Berlin Wall 100. She's posted wins at RTP Stage Races and runs strong across all distances regularly placing top 10 - her last ultra was a 3rd at our inaugural Wendover Woods 50. Whilst the winter has brought a few more bumps than she would have hoped, she is a strong competitor and will bring the desire to go all the way here.
Sarah running to third at WW50 in 2016
Mari Mauland: 2nd here in 2016 in 19:11 and with lots of other podiums and top tens to her name in the last several years, Mari is a strong runner who also knows the course. With her and Sarah it has the making of an exciting race, the question is will any other ladies step forward to challenge for the overall placings.
Bryon Powell: Bryon is a true peoples hero. In 2009 he was one of the first people in the sport to put his neck on the line and turn what he did for fun in to a way to live life - creating what is undoubtedly the best Trail, Mountain and Ultrarunning Resource available today - www.irunfar.com
Whilst Bryon has some incredibly strong running results of his own in the past, including but not limited to multiple finishes at Hardrock, Western States, the MDS, a top ten at Leadville 100 - I think his main aim for this event is to see some of the English Countryside and sample the local delicacies along the way. Whatever the case we are honoured to have him running with us.
Bryon at Krogers Canteen on the Hardrock 100 course. Photo c/o Jared Campbell via irunfar.com
1) Firstly, why the Wainwrights? And did you do your first Wainwright with a view to completing them all?
I love the Lake District and I wanted to learn to run better in the mountains. The fact that there are 214 Wainwrights is an arbitrary number. Alfred didn’t have a particularly solid reason for choosing the mountains that he did - but they do encompass pretty much the whole of the Lake District. I wanted to see the whole area. Every fell, every valley and every lake is so different from the next that there is almost an endless amount of exploring to do.
2) You live quite a distance from the Lake District. How did you manage to fit it in around race organising, coaching and family?
In two ways really. I did most of them over winter times in our off season. Things are much quieter for us at Centurion between December and March, so I would try to pick weather windows and make single or two day trips. We’ve also had quite a few family holidays to different areas of the Lakes during which I’d get round to some of the harder to reach areas.
3) Ticking them off in three years is quite quick, especially with the distance you had to travel. Any tips for anyone looking to compete the round?
If doing them in a short space of time is your aim, plan your days out well. I didn’t plan and got to about 100 tops before I realised I wanted to actually start aiming to visit them all. By the time I had about 50 left, there were odd ones scattered all over the Lakes that required time and energy just to get near, let alone get up when I could easily have linked them in to other days out had I planned them better. I ended up visiting some of the tops a dozen or more times.
4) The Lake District is one of the one most beautiful places in the world, tell us about your favourite day.
That’s really hard, there have been so many great days. Maybe one of my favourites was the Coledale Horseshoe plus half a dozen others which I ran in April 2015. It was the first really warm day of the year, blazing sunshine and not a breath of wind. I pushed really hard for about three hours and felt fantastic.
View across to Whitless Pike from Grassmoor on the Coledale Horseshoe
5) It's also known for its awful weather, tell us about your most challenging day.
One November I took myself off up Haystacks above Buttermere and then ran the ridge line across High Crag, High Stile and Red Pike. The weather was atrocious and every path was a torrent of water. I’ve never seen before or since so much water coming off the hills. Coming off of Haystacks the rock was so wet I just couldn’t get any grip and I began to think that it wasn’t going to end well. But I persevered and got to High Stile but then navigated the wrong way off of the summit and started descending down towards Ennerdale. The visibility was about 10 metres and it was so windy I was struggling to stand up. I had to really carefully re trace my steps using the map and compass (the needle on my GPS was spinning round and round because of the conditions) and eventually found my way to the summit of Red Pike before I teetered my way off of the front side down to Buttermere. My hands were frozen solid. I really felt that day that had I not been able to read a map and had a compass and the OS sheets with me I would have had a major problem.
6) You completed the Bob Graham Round in 2014. Is it as tough as they say?
Yes I completed the BGR in 2014, it’s a circuit of some of the most prominent peaks in the Lake District. You have to visit 42 tops (39 are Wainwrights) and it has to be completed within 24 hours. Numbers wise it’s about 60 miles and 27000 feet of climb but the difficulty really is the underfoot conditions together with the likely navigational difficulties both at night and in any kind of hill fog which is pretty common fare. It’s tough, I think it’s wildly underestimated by people who haven’t been on that kind of terrain. I don’t think it’s as tough however as the Paddy Buckley and likely not the Ramsay Round either, the Welsh and Scottish equivalents.
7) There are some fast guys looking to have a go at the BGR this summer. Do you think the record might go?
It depends. If you look at Billy Blands record 13:53, nobody has yet come with half an hour of it. As a fell racer, he still holds course records at events like the Borrowdale, which some of the elite level runners going after his record potentially this year, have tried repeatedly to better and failed. So it makes you wonder if they can do it.
There are two things in favour of those trying today over Billy. One is that there is effectively a trod/ path around the entire BG route nowadays because so many people run sections as days out. That makes some of the navigation easier in poor weather and potentially a little faster going underfoot. Secondly, they have a time to beat. When Billy ran it, he had only the stars to aim for so who knows what he could have done if he’d had to actually go quicker.
I also think Jasmin Paris’ round from last year has really opened some of the elite level fell runners’ eyes to what is possible. She has opened a door herself I think with a run of such a high calibre.
I do think Killian is capable of bringing the record down. I don’t see the underfoot conditions presenting any kind of obstacle to him. I would imagine his descending ability will allow him to take time out of the record splits. His biggest problem will be getting people together that can keep up. I imagine he will have to look at splitting each leg down in to smaller components in terms of pacers, to allow him room to move as fast as he is capable of.
8) You were travelling and climbing in all seasons. Any advice for winter wainwrighting?
The planning becomes much more important. The conditions above just 700 or 800 metres in winter time in a storm can be absolutely brutal. Reading the weather forecast is the number one thing and understanding through experience how those conditions relate to on the ground. For example, wind speed is a big factor in terms of chill factor and how cold it can feel, but also in terms of the practicality of even being able to move. I’m quite light, and if wind speeds exceed 65 mph, I can’t stand up. So if winds are gusting in excess of that or are a steady 50mph or more, I’ll not bother going up high.
Hill fog is a major issue in terms of navigation in all seasons but particularly winter. Over time you get used to navigating in cloud and I am comfortable going out in very poor visibility and or darkness on to fell terrain. But I try to avoid going up when both are combined unless I am on major paths. Its’ very disorientating.
Usually you’ll encounter mixed conditions on the ground in terms of snow, ice and wet/ dry rock and bogs during winter. Knowing when you’re likely to need spikes/ crampons and potentially even an ice axe is important. It’s possible to do all of the Wainwrights without a rope though. Staying tuned to the Fell Top Assessors reports available every day through the winter gives you an accurate picture of what the ground conditions are likely to be out.
In terms of bogs, it’s worth pointing out that there are one or two areas in the Lakes that I’ve come very close to having a major problem in. Usually they are around outflows from tarns, last month I went up Cold Pike after dark and navigated poorly straight across an outflow from a tarn under the summit of Cold Pike. Two steps in and I was stomach deep. Some of the bogs in Snowdonia are far worse but you can still find yourself trapped chest deep or worse if you pick the wrong line in the Lakes. Learn the different colour of the grass and what a bog looks like - bright green and dark brown should be avoided at all costs.
Kit wise the list of what you should carry is greater. Number one is map and compass, even if you have a functioning GPS or the OS App on your phone. My phone has died so many times in winter due to cold. Those things are fine for quick reference but If you don’t know where you are on the map and the mist rolls in, you could be in big trouble. Taking spare gloves, waterproof gloves, Water or windproof jacket and trousers, goggles if it’s due to snow, survival bag, head torch even if you are going out in the morning, full set of base layers. Because I did so much of the running/ climbing on my own, I needed to be sure that if the worst happened and I had an accident that stopped me from getting off the hill in a place with no reception, I would be able to spend a night out maybe not comfortably, but definitely safely. You can go slightly more lightweight if there are two of you.
If you are up to speed with your kit, plan carefully around the forecast the very best days out on the mountain can be had in winter. And don’t be fooled by the relatively low height of the Lakeland Fells. Conditions on the top on a stormy winters day can be as bad as anything anywhere.
Skirting Pillar, looking across to the Scafell Massif on a March day
9) It’s good to get family involved in fell walking/running. Which wainwrights would you recommend for families/kids?
There’s a few that stand out as very simple short walks without any kind of hazards at all, so that you can take kids who are barely walking as yet to the tops. Ling Fell, Sale Fell, Latrigg, Holme Fell, Baystones and Loughrigg are all examples of that. I would imagine once kids reach 5 or 6 there aren’t many tops that would be beyond them. The only one that has a fairly precipitous drop off the top is Helm Crag which involves a short but exposed scramble on the Lion and the Lamb summit prominence. Easier rocky climbs are available widely and they can be really exhilarating for young kids but perfectly safe if you keep your eye on them,
10) You were also competing in ultra-races, so the hills must have been an important part of your training?
I’ve always just looked at it as good strength training for ultras yeah, but big days out on the hills have at times affected training a little in terms of consistency!
11) How did you feel when you finished? Is there a void or are you quite content?
Both. Because it’s a relatively small area I sat on top of High Hartsopp Dodd the final one and looked out across most of it on the Sunday evening and felt both sad and happy I’d visited all those fells.
12) The all-important question, what’s next?
I will keep going back to the Lakes, but next in terms of similar hill/ mountain challenges is Wales and the Paddy Buckley (welsh equivalent of the BG). I’d like to give it a go in time, once I know the route well enough.
The Interviewer, Debbie, in front of Yewbarrow
Last weekend I found my way over the summit of my 214th and final Wainwright. Over the last few days I've lain in bed at night and thought about all those hills before drifting off in to a deep sleep. I guess that's where you start to realise that what you had there was absolutely an obsession and not just a hobby. Sat on top of the last one, High Hartsopp Dodd, looking across the Lake District was a good feeling, but also a sad one. That being said there are of course, many more mountains to be climbed. Perhaps beecause the Lakes is such a small area and you can see most of it from the higher summits, that feeling of completeness is easier to find here.
In no particular order, here are some of my favourite pictures with small anecdotes listed underneath. I hope that it at least conveys even a tiny part of why this area is so special.
Great Gable often looks unclimbable from Kirk Fell but up the jumble of boulders on the western flank, one can look back on the Eastern side of Kirk Fell with pleasure at having found a way
Piles of metal are a unique feature of some tops. Walkers collect left over fence posts and rails and ammass them. This pile adjacent to the cairn on Great Borne is a great example
Whiteside is a wonderful Ridge, as seen here from the summit of Grassmoor, the king of the North Western Fells
Red Gully on Kirk Fell, one of the last major challenges facing Bob Graham hopefuls. The cloud boiling around Jim Turner here as he goes on to a 19:59 finish in 2015. The best moment of the day came as we found the grassy 'Borrowdale line' off of the summit of Great Gable running an exact compass bearing in heavy clag
The Path from Sail Pass taken from Scar Crags, towards Sail Summit in Mid-April. This is a truly exceptional area of the North Western Fells.
There is no 'easy' way from Scafell Pike to Scafell, the two highest peaks in England. On the BG, runners have to choose between a number of routes. This picture is taken from the Gill scramble up to Foxes Tarn - perhaps not the easiest way up in March but the safest option. On a wet day there's no way to emerge from the gully anything but soaked
The Western Fells are a totally different entity to those east of Scafell Pike. Overlooking the Cumbrian coast and as seen here from the summit of Caw, the Isle of Man (top right of picture), views on clear days are breath taking but a walker can get caught out very quickly as sea mist often rolls in to envelope the tops
The ridge out to Steeple is just spectacular and can be quite Alpine when covered with ice
Wrynose Valley. Is there a harder to reach place in the lakes? Probably not. To me, Cockley Beck at the bottom of this picture is as remote as it gets. This view is taken from the way up Wet Side Edge, to Great Carrs
View from Catstycam Summit across to Birkhouse Moor. One of the most popular areas of the Lakes. Taken in March during my final day of tops
Newlands Valley from the summit of Dale Head. High Spy, Maiden Moor and Catbells on the ridge to the right, Hindscarth and Robinson to the left. Skiddaw and surrounding peaks in the far distance
Comparison of scale. Taken from the summit cairn of Grassmoor looking down on Rannerdale Knotts (both Wainwrights) and Crummock Water
Green Crag in the far south west corner of the lakes is one of the more remote tops. And in poor weather quite a vague place to navigate around
Summit of Fairfield in May. Paul Navesey named this image Milky Bar Quad
Skiddaw summit trig point on a November night. Temperature -10C. Absolutley still and with snow thick and ice crusted enabling us to run off of the summit to Bakestall top in spikes as smoothly as if we were on a tarmac road. A magical night.
Descending Pike O Stickle on the BG, with it's summit that looks more like an Inca Temple from afar
Straights of Riggindale from Kidsty Pike. The High Street fells are perhaps a little less spectacular than most other areas, but this particular view is an exception
Louis' first Wainwright, Holme Fell aged 1
Innominate Tarn on Haystacks. Alfred Wainwrights favourite mountain and where his ashes are scattered
Martin and Lisa Bergerud sitting on Wasdale Screes overlooking Wastwater, with right to left: Middle Fell, Seatallan and Buckbarrow above. Martin and Lisa completed all the Wainwrights for a second time this winter, and impressively did so between October and March
Out of the sunlight in to the darkness, up the western ridge of Great Borne on a stellar day out in February.
Halls Fell, the quickest way from the summit of Blencathra to Threlkeld Village. BG hopefuls should try to have this descent down to just under 30 mins. Billy Bland record split 14 mins. Here's Paul Navesey at the end of a sweep of Northern Wainwright tops
Drew cresting the summit of Seathwaite Fell with Glaramara in the background. April 2015.
High Hartsop Dodd. Sunday 27th March 2017. My final summit. Understated and entirely to myself as per much of the journey
The 2017 season is upon us and as per each of the previous four years we kick off with the South Downs Way 50.
Now in its 5th year we expect a record starting field of 400 runners to descend on Worthing College at 0900 on Saturday 8th April, all hoping to successfully complete the journey of 50 miles point to point on foot across the South Downs Way to the finish line at Eastbourne Sports Park Athletics Track.
This event has typically attracted fast fields and has made for exciting racing. As the UK scene continues to grow we see more and more talent emerging, but also some of our longer standing runners improving their own training and racing through experience and putting themselves in the mix for the overall positions by virtue of their hard work.
The overall course record held by Victor Mound of 5:53 is an exceptional one, nobody has come within 18 minutes of that time. For the ladies, Edwina Suttons second attempt at the course in her 2014 victory in 7:09 is still the benchmark.
A list of all finishers of this event and their times can be found in the new Stats area on our website here.
Here is a run down of the likely lead contenders for this years event.
Jon Ellis: Jon's Chiltern Wonderland 50 victory last September was one of the performances of the year as he led from wire to wire. His 6:59 from the 2014 event was good enough for third that day and he is one of the few runners in the field capable of going significantly under the 7 hour barrier. He has podiumed at every ultra he has finished though it is worth adding that he pulled out of the Wendover Woods 50 back in November, with a few issues not least of which he was expected to become a dad for the second time that week! Hopefully his training has not been too badly disrupted....
UPDATE Danny Kendall: Danny is one of our Centurion Ultra Team Runners and has an amazing pedigree in the sport. 7 Marathon Des Sables with a best of 5th overall. 3 UTMBs. And a host of other notable finishes including mutiple wins and course records all over the UK. He will add a huge amount of spice to the front of the field.
Ian Hammett: Ian brings some good road pace to the trails and last year clocked up 2nd place in both our SDW100 and behing Jon in the CW50. He's also walked away with a win at The Wall and Stour Valley 100km in the past couple of years with other strong results around those. Certainly he should be competitive here.
Paul Russhard: Paul is the guy many of you will remember from the NDW50 in 2016 who put everything on the line from the gun and went away at a pace we'd simply never seen before. His lead by mile 14 was well over a minute a mile and he continued to hammer until the proverbial wheels eventually did fall off but not until somewhere after the 50km point. He did also hang on for 3rd despite fading fast at the end. History shows how the gamble of going hard and hanging on has both paid off with incredible victories and results, but probably more often with epic explosions. Whatever the case Paul is a solid runner and if he decides to go with that tactic again it will make for exciting racing.
Ry Webb: Ry came good in 2016 with a very strong NDW50 performance, eventually passing the above Paul for 2nd in a little over 7 hours. With a 5th at the NDW100 later last year he will certainly be looking good for a sub 7 hour on this course.
ADDITION: Mike Ellicock with a 2:31 Marathon PB at Berlin last year has the greatest speed in the field and comes in 'Downs Ready' with a win at the Moyleman trail marathon in early March. Thanks to Paul Navesey for the update.
Other men with a good pedigree behind them and a very strong change at a top 10 place include Nick Greene (4th, 5th and 7th at this event before with a best of 7:03), David Barker (3rd at 2015 TP100, 4th at 2015 A100), Paul Grundy (3rd at Lakeland 50 in 2015), Luke Ashton (2nd 2015 SDW100), David Pryce (2nd TP100 2014).
Amelia Watts: Amelia took home 2nd at the 2016 SDW50 and has four years of excellent results now behind her. 5th at the MDS, 1st at UTSW 60 and 4th at RTTS 100km led in to that 2nd last year. This year she's begun with a fine 15th at TGC. If she's rested and recovered in time she should be well in the top spots again here.
Gemma Carter: Gemma may have the best previous SDW50 finish time of any lady in this years start field thanks to her 7:32 in 2014 for 3rd. Wins and podiums at lots of other short ultras in recent years put he in good stead to be competitive once again here.
Michelle Blower: Michelle comes in to this one with a string of fine results behind her. 2nd at the Ridgeway and 3rd at the Beacons ultra in 2016 her most recent accolades.
Other ladies who will be looking to challenge for the podium include Maree Jesson (Winner Cotswold Way Century, 4th Pilgrims Ultra) and Sarah Samme (6th SDW50 2016 and 3rd CW50 2016).
A big welcome awaits all of our runners this year and particularly to this years field of Grand Slammers hoping to make it through all 4 50s in 2017.
The final event of 2016 and a brand new one, the Wendover Woods 50 is going to be a great spectacle. The course consists of five 10 mile loops, each with just under 2000ft of climbing for a grand total of 10000ft of climbing fun.
For a deeper look in to the course, you can check out our breakdown here in our notes for runners.
It's certainly the case that patience will pay huge dividends in the later laps. Expect some to go off hard and pay the price with an early bath or a painful grind to the finish.
With 47 people looking to complete the inaugural 50 Mile Grand Slam of 4 Events in one year (the latest table of results is here), there is set to be some jubilation and most likely some heartbreak too at this one. Janette Cross leads the ladies standings and Warwick Gooch the mens. Hold on to your seats!!!
It's great to see a deeper level of competition at the front end in both the men's and women's fields. Here's a quick run down of some of the likely contenders.
Jon Ellis: After his run at this years Chiltern Wonderland 50, there is one clear favourite coming in. It's really hard to compare performances race on race but ceratainly with regards to the Male Performance of the year, Jon's would be a clear favourite amongst the 50s and a top 3 overall (Mark Denby's A100 and Craig Holgates TP100 down as the other two). He led from the gun and ran extremely well over the closing miles, despite holding a lead of over an hour on the rest of the field once Neil Kirby had stopped at the second to last check point. He really showed his class that day and it will be great to see him match that performance here.
Neil Kirby: Winner of this years SDW50, NDW50, SDW100 and NDW100 - Neil was flying until the CW50. He changed tactic there, coming in off of no taper and wasn't able to sustain Jon's pace once they'd pushed through Bix at mile 17. In the end he stopped short at that one, but he will want retribution for that here and it will be great to see those two go head to head again. Living in Eastbourne, Neil gets some good climbing in his legs on the SDW so he will likely fancy the set up of this course.
John Stocker: Our new Grand Slam 100 Mile Record Holder, with podiums at our last three races including the Chiltern Wonderland 50 he will both be looking to complete the 50 Mile Slam and do so in style. He ran the NDW50 with his wife Leanne so looks unlikely to challenge for the overall 50 Mile Slam title however.
Sergiy Ionov: Flew on to the radar with a 27:27 for 13th at this years Spartathlon. That is a really stellar effort, but of course on the road. That being said he has also finished top 50 at the MDS, a 27 hour Lakeland 100 and taken a podium place at the Wall this year, suggesting he is good on a variety of terrain.
Mark Innocenti: Mark had a good NDW50 this year, finishing 7th overall, but gets a mention here after a strong Stort 30 mile race last month where he clocked 3:16. This is a hugely different proposition but clearly the top end pace is there for him and he will be looking to step it up from his super debut 50 on the NDW.
The 50 mile Grand Slam record (this is the inaugural year) looks to be heading in one of three directions - Warwick Gooch (22:20), Dean Oldfield (22:36) or Nick Greene (23:39) - all three could be competitive in this race too, however this course could easily set a runner back multiple hours should they have a bad day, and there are a host of runners on 25:** hours behind them that could come through for at least a podium position.
Sam Amend: Sam has unmatched raw speed (2:42 marathon) and comes in to this one with a first and extremely solid full year in ultrarunning behind her. Having dabbled in the past, she kicked off her 2016 campaign with a new ladies course record at Country to Capital, fending off Susie Chesher and Jess Gray whom have both gone on to super performances later in the year. Sam then moved on to the TP100, finishing 2nd overall to Craig Holgate and shattering the best all-time female 100 mile time we'd had at one of our events (this has since been bettered by Susie Chesher at the A100). She then moved on to 100km and won the Energia race in 8:09, a superb first 100km effort but one she is undoubtedly capable of bettering. Sam's recent run at the World 50km Champs saw her earn her GB vest.
Jess Gray: Jess had a great start and end to the year with a third at Country to Capital, a win at the SDW50 then in October a 2nd at the A100 in a superb time of 16:42. In between she stopped short at the NDW50 and SDW100 so she will undoubtedly want to come through and finish the year on a high with a good result here on a course that's very close to home.
Sarah Sawyer: Sarah has had a great year with lots of varied racing across different distances and terrains. She's able to turn her hand to each discipline successfully and most recently ran an 18:39 for 3rd at the Berlin 100 and a 2nd at Racing The Planet's Atacama Crossing in October.
Sophie Carter: Much like Sam, for raw speed Sophie is in a class above, in fact probably a class above almost all of the men too, with a 2:48 marathon PR. Recently she came home 1st/ 7th overall at the Stort 30 and although on a flat course, showed good sign that a conversion to trail and ultra running may go off with a bang.
With Live Timings after each 10 mile loop, tune in to the home page from 0800 Saturday 26th November for tracking and updates.
This is a brand new race on a new course. The format is 5 x 10 mile loops, returning each time to the field in which you will register on race morning. There is one other aid station at 5.5 miles in to each 10 mile loop. So effectively 9 aid stations and then the finish.
The point of this post is to give you an insight in to the course, the possible conditions and how to best prepare during these final few weeks to race day.
Many of you have recce'd the course so are by now familiar with the terrain and are well placed to think about the format and your race plan. Some of you cannot get to the course before race day and/or are new to this area and this format so this post is designed to give you some key pointers to think about in order to have your best day out on course.
The Gruffalo Resides in the Woods at Mile 1.
Laps are not to everyones liking, but if you are running the race then you have signed up for a race including 5 x 10 mile loops so we are taking it for a given that you either like a looped format, or giving it a go for the first time to see!
The benefits of laps are: Familiarity with the course during the later loops. Sharing the trail later in the race with runners at differing ends of the speed spectrum. A natural break down of the race in to smaller chunks than 50 miles point to point offers. Regular access to both our aid stations and your own provisions (you may access your drop bag each 10 miles).
Some potential challenges of laps are: Repetition of the course. Sharing the trail with faster runners who come past looking as though they are out for a 5km. A natural break down of the course in to the perfect point to quit every 10 miles. Regular access to aid stations and your own provisions where you may be inclined to waste time.
Think about the positives, not the challenges. And if you complain about having to run the same loop 5 times, it will fall on deaf ears of the Race Director who twice this year has 'had' to run 24 hour races on 1km road loops. We choose to do these things for fun!!
The course is tough. No doubt. It contains specific challenges - but these things are relative. Despite some runners returning from recces with reports of experiencing 'unrunnable bushwhacking', 100% of this course is on legitimate trail, some of it is just a bit more challenging that you get on a National Trail.
The course is characterised by a variety of different trail formats.
About a third of the course is wide open groomed trail or dirt road. Descents tend to allow for some very quick running. Ascents on these can be steep but some are runnable.
A Smooth Runnable Trail Descent in Wendover Woods
About a third of the course is on narrower trail/ single or double track which if dry makes for good running downhill, and will yield quickly to a good efficient hiking technique uphill. If muddy and wet some of these sections will become tougher going particularly later in the race with the passing of many feet before.
An Uphill Section of Trail Towards the End of the WW50 Loop
The final third of the course is a mixture of challenges which are the signature of this course. We wanted to include features that you can reflect on and try to explain to your mates post race about just how epic they are. There are five climbs on the course that in anyones book are very steep and probably unrunnable for all but a few at the sharp end of the race. The bonus is that these steep climbs are short. In reality the longest they will last is just a few minutes each. BE PATIENT, go easy, hike away. The top will come. Some have some small sections of stairs, you may even need to use a few trees as resting posts along the way. That's ok! From the top you get a nice runnable descent on the other side - of every single one. There are two descents which are narrow and rutted and require a steady footing, one down in to a field we have dubbed Power Line and one down a section of what is actually the Ridgeway National Trail which resembles somewhat a ditch and is challenging because it is filled with loose branches and stones. These sections last no more than a couple of minutes.
The Snake - A Steep but Wide Climb in the Second Half of the Loop
A Steep Section of Single Track At The End of the Loop
Gnarking Around - One of the Steepest Sections on the Course.
COME PREPARED WITH....
You need not fear the race or the route. Rather come armed with:
- Patience. A sensible pacing plan early on will reap huge benefits later as you find yourself trotting past runners who went out too hard, on very straight forward runnable sections. We expect a large number of runners to stop after 3, 2 or even just 1 loop. The excuses will as usual run the full range. Most of those who stop will simply be beaten psychologically. Probably having gone too quickly. Don't come to us and complain that the course was too tough to finish. You have 16 hours to get this done should you require them. That is an average pace of 3.13mph. MUCH OF THE COURSE IS GOOD RUNNING which means that even if you take a large amount of time to make your way up the few very steep (and short) climbs - as long as you keep moving, focus on an even effort and don't waste time in check points, there is an extremely good chance you will finish.
- A good hiking technique. Practice during training. 9500ft of climb is not excessive in the world of MUT Running. Relatively, UTMB has the equivalent of 16500ft of climbing per 50 miles for example. However it is substantial and requires runners to be efficient in switching between running and hiking. If you want to bring poles, bring poles.
- Condition your quads. Descents, even shallow ones offering relatively good running, turn to painful plods later on if you race the early downhill miles and damage your quads.
- Time Targets. We've set a 16 hour cut off at this race, rather than the usual 13 hours we allow at our other 50 mile events. The reason for this is that the course is tougher than the other three mainly in that it contains more climb and will therefore be slower going. We have a large number of 50 mile Slammers starting this final event and we want to give each of you but especially those runners every opportunity to finish this final race. Not to be beaten by a tight time target. The fact that we have added three hours to the overall cut off should tell you something about how difficult we rate the course vs the other three 50 mile events we stage. Plan for that. If you are coming in to this with a plan to run your 'flat 50 mile time plus 1 hour' we strongly suggest you offer yourself a little more slack in your pacing plan.
- Footwear: The Age Old Question, what shoes should I wear? A decent trail shoe with good grip is advised. If it's very muddy, in some places it won't matter what you've got on because you will be slipping around whatever the case. BUT if you wear something with good grip you stand a much better chance of making good time and preventing slipping and sliding around on the vast swathes of the course which will be good going no matter what the weather.
Relax, Enjoy, You Got This.
Although probably not that widely know even within this niche sport of ours, there are such things as international competitions in ultrarunning. British Athletics support teams working towards four ultra disciplines: 50km, 100km, Trail and 24 Hour. The 24 Hour is unique insomuch that it's a timed event rather than a fixed distance. The goal is simply to run as far as you can within a 24 hour period. Each country is allowed to send up to six male and six female athletes to compete as a team. The top three scoring runners from that country have their scores combined to create a total, which enables nations to be ranked at the finish. There are individual medals for the top 3 athletes overall alongside the team competition. 24 Hour running is probably never going to become an Olympic event although the total carnage in the final hours would make for some comic and compelling viewing, but it's still a chance for those looking at endurance end of the spectrum to pull on a national vest and give it their all, in our case for Queen and Country!
Back in 2014 and after 8 years of running ultras I started to improve over the longer (100 mile plus) distances, to the extent where the standard required to make the 24hr team began to come within reach. That didn't stop me making a few failed attempts, but finally in March of this year, I cleared the 240km required distance and booked the sixth and final berth on the 2016 GB Mens Team.
This years team in full. Photo c/o John Pares
After last years World Champs in Turin, where GB brought home Team Gold and Third Place Individual led by Robbie Britton, it was the turn this year of the European Champs to be held in Albi, France.
The course itself wound up to be a 1.1km loop around and outside of the Stadium in the City. To those unfamiliar with the discipline this might sound either crazy short or crazy long, but it's probably about average for a 24hr. The benefits of a short course are multiple. We are each permitted one crew person who can hand us food, water, clothing etc throughout the entire race - so on a 1.1km loop you are getting to see that person a lot and therefore have to carry absolutely nothing with you. On the other hand, the main factor is the monotony of moving around a small circuit for a long time, combined slightly with the effect of having 200 athletes on a small circuit which makes for clusters of people forcing you off of the racing line. 24 hour racing is a battle of pscyhology and physiology in equal measure.
And just to answer the other most common question, no there's no sleeping during the race. The clock doesn't stop!
My own preparation for this event was a veritable roller coaster. In early July we welcomed Georgia in to the world which co-incided nicely with the peak training block of 12 weeks which I'd usually put in for a goal event. The day job was also busy with three key races to organise within that 12 weeks, including our final 100 mile race of the year just the weekend before. I had a plan and being flexible with it was more important than ever. Some days I would have to scrap the session due to lack of sleep or poor recovery. Other days I had a low end session planned I turned in to a key one because I felt good and had a little more time. It wasn't just about me, it was about Lisa making sacrifices too to forge time in the day for me to be able to get out and/ or get the required amount of sleep. Without her and two sets of grandparents it would have been impossible. But overall I got it done. I averaged between 90 and 110 miles per week through the core 10 weeks and capped it off with a solid 38 mile flat trail event in 4:15, 19 days pre race. I then tapered down to race weekend....
Our team consisted of 6 Men, 4 Ladies, 5 Management and 10 Crew Persons. For my crew I had Drew Sheffield, probably as experienced as anybody else at both crewing ultras in general and certainly in terms of keeping me on plan.
Team meetings, dinners, a pre-race walk of the track all helped to focus us in to race mode and we kicked off 1000 on the Saturday with 24 hours stretching ahead of us.
There's an inevitability in 24 houring that at some point something will go wrong and it's really just about how you prepare from minute one to stave off that problem and then handle it when it does emerge. For perspective, 240km/ 150 miles is the GB qualifying Mens Standard. On paper, 10km an hour probably seems quite slow for international competition, and it is, initially. And therein is the challenge. You have to start significantly slow enough that you are running the same pace at the end as you are at the start. Running 10km an hour at the end takes on a whole different level of difficult. The rankings mean absolutely nothing at hour 6, hour 12, or hour 18. It's about setting yourself up for a good final 6 hours and making that count. If you are walking from half way you will be nowhere come the end.
Typically, a few guys went off of the front of this race at suicide pace. Back in March I had raced Aleksander Sorokin, a Lithuanian runner, who had at 13 hours elapsed put 20km in to me. We then teamed up for 8 hours or so both working to different goals where he would finish on 260km and I on 242km for 1st and 2nd at that event - his was a 2016 World Leading Distance coming in to Albi. He went off just as fast here and had lapped the entire field in the first hour.
For my part I started slower than Athens, averaging about 11.3kmph and hoping to still be averaging 11.3kmph in the final few hours. That meant I was down in 29th Place after 1 Hour. My feed plan, which alongside pacing is the most crucial factor, was for 300kcals per hour - and in the end I was able to hold on to this for 22 hours:
20 mins: Gu Gel + Water
40 mins: Biscuit/ Waffle + Water
60 mins: 2 x Choc Squares + 1 x Cheese + Water
Sporadically: Tomato (stomach settler), S! Caps Salt Replacement, Pringles, Coke.
For 24 hours, Drew didn't miss a single lap or hand off of food/ water. Often times crewing like that is harder than running the race. I know which I'd rather be doing.
Of our team, it was clear early on that Robbie was looking to repeat his podium placing from last year, forging out ahead. Dan Lawson and Marco Consani are two of the most talented runners we've had in the past decade in the UK and sat somewhere between Robbie and I, playing the patient game. Pat Robbins and Steve Holyoak our other two super experienced rock solid runners were on the same lap as I for much of the early hours.
The ladies all looked strong and relaxed. Debs Martin-Consani, Sharon Law and Izzy Wykes all experienced previous medal winners together with Ali Young new on the team. Steady away and all of our ten athletes looked great.
Mens Team L to R: Dan Lawson, Marco Consani, Pat Robbins, Steve Holyoak, James Elson, Robbie Britton. Photo c/o John Pares
Much of the first 14 hours or so is a blur. I was just focused on even pacing and doing the job. My own splits were right on plan with 7 hour 50 mile and 8:50 100km. However around that point Robbie was the first to suffer a major issue and was eventually forced to stop. It was a massive blow. I felt my head physically drop as I considered the impact on the team, that one of our best and a good friend had pulled up injured. The reality set in then, that I was in third place for the team and needed to focus more than ever to stay consistent as mine could be a score that ended up counting to our total. Steve was suffering with nausea behind and Pat had warned me he wasn't having his best day so the pressure mounted.
Passing the 100 mile mark in 14:42 was another milestone. I felt good and the key now was just to focus on banking 10km an hour or just a little more to pull myself up to the 250km mark, my goal coming in. I'd moved up every hour in to a peak of 6th place at hour 14.
However, fairly soon after hour 15 my quads started to really pack up. Usually a strong feature they were the one achilles heel I seemed to have as each lap became more and more of a grind. There were some very low moments indeed during the early hours of the morning, between 17 and 22 hours where I had to keep pushing to count for the team - Pat and Steve by this point having dropped back too far to be able to surpass my distance and count instead. Physical and Mental pain featured heavily. My old man had made it down to the track at 0400 for the last six hours or so and it was a shame not to be able to run better and pretend that 24 hour running is at least partially enjoyable.
The total joy of hour 20 in a 24. Video c/o Edwina Sutton.
Lap times began to tumble. We were at one point just ahead of the French team but with four of their runners eventually going on to 250km+ they turned out to be the strongest on the day. Fending off Denmark and Germany from behind was not a foregone conclusion. But thankfully one of our boys was able to go on to a performance we won't forget in a hurry. Dan Lawson, patiently pacing evenly from the start stormed through the entire field to take the lead from Aleksander who had by this point blown completely to pieces. With 3 hours to go Dan moved in to first and held on for 261.8km to win the race. Absolutely sensational to watch. Marco had a bad patch but came back out to finish in trademark fashion with 8th with 250km. In the end I ground on to 231km and 22nd place but it was enough at least to secure us the team silver, with Pat and Steve both securing brave finishes in fourth and fifth for the team.
The final few yards. Photo c/o John Pares
Of our ladies, unfortunately our own Debbie Martin-Consani suffered major stomach issues and spent some time off track, alongside Izzy Wykes and Sharon Law. Debs and Izzy were able to make it back on track despite all issues and continue to bank distance all the way to the line. Ali Young went on to finish with 215km to lead the ladies home and to 10th overall in the teams event. It goes to show how hard 24 houring is when with a team of our calibre we had only two runners eventually make the Qualifying Standard we'd all achieved coming in to it.
Easily the most fulfilling experience of my running career to date. Being part of a team is something I've never experienced in what is a traditionally solitary sport. What's most important is the morale in Team GB where we have a really quite exceptional bunch of people. Between Runners, Crew and Management, everyone pulled together and supported one another to the best we could achieve on the day. In what is an incredibly hard format in an already incredibly difficult sport, that support is the difference between winning and losing, but also enjoying it and it being a really hard days work.
Thanks to all for the support. Until the next time!
The Autumn 100 with it's series of four out and back legs is a favourite for both runners and volunteers as everybody gets to interact out on course numerous times. It makes for a fascinating race at the sharp end too, because out front each runner gets a chance to see exactly how far ahead or behind of each other they are, at the turn around of each loop.
Traditionally we see some excessively fast splits coming in off of Loop 1, and then a gradual disintegration of the race after that. The course is very runnable throughout and favours those who keep some running in their legs for the second half of the race. This year we have what are set up to be, on paper, close races for both the men and womens fields.
John Stocker: John leads our Grand Slam standings for this year by some way and if he can run better than a 16:22, will break the overall record for the combined time across the four events. He has also run the 50 Mile Slam and has been steadily improving throughout both. 6th at the TP100, 6th at the SDW100 and 3rd at the NDW100 in August and again at the CW50 last month, could he be set for yet another Top 10/ Podium here, or perhaps go all the way this time....
David Pryce: David has recorded some fine performances over recent years, particularly at the longer stuff and if he can re-create his 2014 Thames Path 100 form could well go all the way here. That year he ran a 16:56 for 2nd behind Ed Catmur but closed out the race brilliantly running very strong over the final quarter - a facet that generally serves runners in good stead on the A100 course. This year he comes in off of the back of a second win at the Chiltern 214km, once again the only finisher of that longer event. He has run two 18 hour 100s already this year with us at both the TP and SDW.
Mark Denby: Mark is an experienced long distance racer with wins at events like T184 and the EveshamUltra in recent years. He comes in to the Autumn 100 following a drop here after just one leg in 2015, a race cut short due to injury. Earlier this summer he led the Lakeland 100 for 40 miles after a blistering start, and although fading through the second half managed to hang on to a top ten spot. Look out for him to be out front from the gun - his modus operandi tends to be go hard and try to hang on!
Andy Jordan: Andy has had a very good 2016 with a win at the GUCR in May and a 2nd place at the Ridgeway Challenge at the end of August. He then raced Tooting Bec 24hr in September and had another good run there with 220km. Andy likes a fast start and the question may be whether he is fresh enough from a busy race schedule to hold it throughout but he will very likely be in the mix from early on.
Other possible podium contenders include Alex Whearity: has had a couple of good results recently including a win at the T100 in a time of 20:38 and a solid 7:32 for 5th at the Chiltern Wonderland 50 this past month. Jez Isaac: Previous two time top 3 finisher at the NDW100 and an 18:47 for 15th in 2015. Dudley Desborough: Winner Grim Reaper 40 this year as well as 7:33 for 6th at this years CW50.
Cat Simpson: Cat gets a serious nod after a superb second at this years SDW100. She ran a very well paced and consistent race there, eventually crossing the line in 19:08. Almost all of her other ultras over the past few years have been top 10 finishes, with a number of those wins. She will certainly be a contender here.
Jess Gray: Jess has had some excellent results in recent years with but sprinkled amongst those a few drops due to injury. She burst on to the centurion race scene with a second place overall at the 2015 NDW50 and started 2016 with a bang by winning the SDW50. She followed with DNFs at the NDW50 and the SDW100 and wisely withdrew from the Chiltern Wonderland to prepare more fully for the Autumn 100. She is still hunting that first 100 mile finish and she will surely be hungry for a good result at the start of this one. It will be exciting to see what she can do on this course.
Susie Chesher: Susie has a good few years of ultras now and some fine results to show for 2016's campaign with two wins including the Thames Trot in Feb and the Saffron Trail in July, and a fine second to Sam Amend at the Country to Capital back in January - crucially perhaps one place ahead of Jess above. This looks to be her first 100 and it will be fascinating to see what she can deliver here.
Wendy Shaw: Wendy's long and fine Centurion career continues. If she can finish here she will record her third Centurion Grand Slam and her 16th 100 mile finish. Her best of all time was her 18:54 here last year for 4th, and this time follows a 3rd at the NDW100 in August.
The inaugural Chiltern Wonderland 50 is our first new event since the launch of the SDW50 in 2013. A field of 200 runners will line up at this third 50 of the year. Held over some truly stunning ground, this challenging course is set up to offer a fascinating race.
The event also marks a departure from our other courses. All of our other events, with the exception of this and our other new 50 this November to be held in Wendover Woods, are held on National Trails. This race takes runners on the best of the Chilterns. It was great for us as organisers to have a wider brief in terms of course design, adding sections we were most fond of and removing sections we didn't want, keeping the aesthetics of a single 50 mile loop in mind the whole time.
What we've come up with, we hope, will wow runners. Most of the course feels really remote without ever being too far from a great number of big metropolitan areas. It truly is an exceptional corner of the English Countryside.
The field for this one is competitive, especially for a first time event. Without further ado here is a run down of some of the leading guys and girls.
Neil Kirby: In 2016 Neil has won both the previous 50s, as well as the SDW100 and NDW100 - making it 4 out of 4 in events entered (he didn't race the TP100). If he's recovered well from the NDW 6 weeks ago, clearly he is the man to beat here.
Ian Hammett: Ian ran a close second to Neil at this years SDW100. With a sub 2:40 marathon behind him he has a good deal of raw speed and he is now turning that to ultra distances, enjoying success also this summer at the SVP100km where he walked away with the win.
Jon Ellis: Jon's ability over shorter ultras is well founded. He has a marathon PR similar to Ian's, but over 50 miles probably edges it on experience. Last year he was 3rd in a sub 7 hour time at the SDW50. In 2016 he's finished 2nd at Country To Capital (43 Miles) and 3rd at Race to the Stones and the Northants Ultra (35). He will surely be looking for the win here.
Whilst it looks likely the overall win will be contested by those three runners the field also features a host of podim contendors including: John Stocker (Running both the 50 and 100 mile Grand Slams this year with a most recent 3rd at the NDW100), Warwick Gooch (3rd in the 50 Slam Standings to date and multiple time Top 10 finisher at our events) Nick Greene (Multiple Time Top 10 runner at our events and 4th behind Neil, Warwick and John in the 50 Slam standings) and Luke Ashton (Previous 2nd at TP100 and SDW100 and winner of Viking Way)
Edwina Sutton: It's always great to see one of our Centurion Ultra Team Runners toeing the line at one of our events, especially Eddie who is also an integral part of our coaching team. After back to back wins from Eddie's team mate Debbie Martin-Consani at this years SDW100 and NDW100, Eddie has a tough act to follow! But Second is never good enough for our Eddie. She is returning from the birth of her third child and wowed everyone apart from perhaps herself with 2nd at this years ACP British 100km Champs. She still holds the ladies course record for the SDW50 and will surely be looking to own another one here. After her move to the Alps earlier this summer, the hills will perhaps feel a little more manageable....
Melissa Arkinstall: Melissa recently became the 2016 Ridgeway Champion. 3rd at last years Autumn 100 and with a long string of other race finishes, podiums and wins behind her, it will all be about how she has recovered from that fine effort just three weeks ago.
Christine Howard: Christine has gone from strength to strength in recent years, picking up a few wins and podiums at shorter ultras like Downslink and Peddars Way. She will certainly be looking to achieve the same here.