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.