Our first 100 miler of the season is upon us. The 7th edition of the Thames Path 100 and an anticipated starting field of 300 will once again join us in Richmond Upon Thames with the dream of making it to Oxford within the 28 hour total cut off.
We usually see a high attrition rate at this event. As an almost entirely flat course, on paper it seems to be as easy aproposition as for a 100 mile trail race. But the flat can cause many issues later in the race to those who haven't prepared for that specifically and most notably to those who go off too fast - which is incredibly tempting on the literally pan flat paved path out of London in the early miles. We have seen some epic blow ups over the years and the classic picture of runners pacing is the old 'reverse progression run' ! It can also get very cold by the river at night and add to the slow down.
However to those with patience and strength this course represents an opportunity to run super fast times. Craig Holgate set a new Mens Course Record last year of 14:09 despite a significant detour with just 5 miles to go. On a good day it is clear that both the Mens and Womens course records could be significantly lowered and it is simply a matter of time until we see that happen.
This year, the potential for that is within the womens race which looks set to be a cracker.
Sam Amend: Returning after a year off from the race is existing course record holder Sam Amend. Sam's CV makes for quite the reading. She's run literally dozens of fast road marathons and has a best of 2:42. As a member of the Team GB 50km squad at the World Champs in Doha in 2016, she placed 7th overall. Twice a winner of the ACP 100km she has this year already been crowned British 100km Champion with a new course record. She's also picked up a win at the Gloucester 50km (3:30) and those followed her late 2017 season win and Course Record at Wendover Woods 50. It's quite clear that her own course record of 16 hours flat could be significantly bettered if she has a good race and the proposition of her winning the race overall is very real.
Therese Falk: Therese made herself known on the UK scene last year as she ran home winner of the Tooting Bec 24hr with a total of 236.8km and a 100 mile split of 15:19. Those are world class performances and came after an incredibly prolific race schedule. This year she has already bagged wins at the Bergen 100km and Undheim 100km races so she comes in with great form.
Cat Simpson: Our Ultra Team runner Cat has scored some superb results in recent years and continues to get better and better with time and experience. Last year she ran off with a breakthrough victory and a new course record at GUCR before ending the year in the same fashion at Wendover Woods, where she was just 5 minutes off of Sam's CR. This year she has already clocked a strong 2nd at Country To Capital and ran 3:03 at Brighton Marathon a few weeks ago.
Mari Mauland: This will be Mari's third outing at this race. In 2016 she was second to Sam, before last year going on to the win in 16:55. She also went on to win the NDW100 and A100 on route to setting a new Womens Grand Slam record. Following that she went on to Bislett 24hr and recorded a solid 218km total.
Leanne Rive: Leanne is an ever present at the SDW100 where she has scored a handful of top 5 finishes. She's also finished TDG and a host of other ultras and always turns in a solid performance. This year she's picked up a 2nd at the Thames Trot already so it's clear she can do it on the flat too, and this will not doubt be another solid performance from her.
Rachel Fawcett: Rachel picked up the win at last years Chiltern Wonderland 50, which followed a podium finish at the South Downs Way 100 where she notably ran home one place ahead of Mari. She'll be looking for another strong finish at what looks to be just her second ever 100 miler.
Laura Swanton: Laura took home 3rd at least years NDW100 before bagging 4th at Wendover Woods 50. This year she has already taken home top honours at CTS South Devon Ultra so again looks to be coming in on good form.
Rebecca Lane: Rebecca ran home 8th at last years SDW100 and has twice won the St Peters Way 45 mile over in Essex.
By contrast, the mens field for this race looks completely wide open. Whilst there are some solid runners amongst the bunch it's hard to see anyone getting anywhere near record pace and as such it could make for a very exciting race. As usual it's likely this course will reward early patience...
Barry Miller: Barry has been getting better and better as years go on and he could be set for a breakthrough result here. In previous years he's finished both our Grand Slam, the US Grand Slam and has other huge finishes at races such as Viking Way (win), GUCR (2nd) and Spartathlon. In amongst it all, his road marathon time has been coming down and he's recently picked up an excellent early season win at Country to Capital. His 100 mile PB of 17:14 is due for a shattering at some point and this could be it.
Sean Brosnan: Sean joins us from Ireland for this race and over the last couple of years has some albeit shorter, significant performances to his name. Last year he won the Mourne Way Ultra (50 mile) in 8:02 as well as the Connermara International Marathon (63km in 4:22), a race that he also went on to win already this year in 4:33. With that kind of speed he has the potential to go very well here, it'll be about whether he can hold endurance wise in the second half.
Kristian Morgan: 3rd at last years NDW100 it looks like Kristian has been racing a lot, with subsequent finishes at TDG, 20th at the ROUT 100 and already a 2nd place this year at the TNF Thailand 100km. If he can come in rested he is a clear contender for top honours here.
Peter Windross: Peter looks good for a strong finish here and could well challenge overall, after an incredibly solid 2017 during which he finished the Slam, putting in 3 x 18 hour performances in the first three 100s before setting a significant 100 mile PB in the Autumn 100 of 16:29.
Keith Burrows: 6th at last years SDW100 in his first 100 came after solid early season performances at the SDW50 and NDW50 where he cracked the top ten. With a win at the Humanity Direct Amersham 50km already this season he will be looking for more of the same here no doubt.
Alex Whearity: This years Thames Trot winner has a string of solid finishes behind him including what looks to be a 100 mile PB sub 18 hours at the A100 a couple of years ago. I would bet that he can better that significantly here with his increased speed and experience.
Alistair Watson: Alistair's consistency is his biggest asset. In recent years he's had a 2nd at the NDW100 and last year came home 6th in the Autumn 100 in a time of 17:17.
Ed Catmur: Notable mention for Ed who still wrestling with injury will toe the line again here. Past champion and still NDW100 course record holder we hope he can rekindle some of his magic.
Race start is 1000 Saturday 5th May and you can follow the race live on the day via the Live Link that will appear on the home page. Good luck to all of our runners and huge thanks to our 100+ volunteers out on course.
The 2018 season gets underway on Saturday April 7th with the sixth edition of the South Downs Way 50. 400 runners are expected to line up , each with the goal of making it to the track in Eastbourne for their glory lap to finish within the 13 hour maximum cut off.
On paper, this is our fastest 50. With course records that have held firm for a number of years now. Victor Mounds astonishing 5:53 in which he led from the gun in time trial fashion has been seemingly untouchable since. During 2016 and 2017, nobody came within 30 minutes of his course record. For the ladies, our Centurion Ultra Team star Edwina Sutton still holds the course best of 7:09 from back in 2014. If ever there was a starting field capable of threatening such seemingly rock solid records, it could perhaps be this however.
As usual, here is a quick spin through of the likely favourites for the mens and womenes races. Starting with the womens race:
Sarah Morwood: Sarah holds the second fastest time on this course, with a 7:19 back in 2014. Between 2013 and 2015 she also won a whole host of other events. Some of her accolades include wins at SDW100, Cotswold Way Century, Autumn 100, Thames Path 100, Race to the Stones, 24 heures de Pleuren and many others. Subsequent to that she has endured a rollercoaster ride, having had a major bike accident in early 2016 she quite literally had to start again. In 2017 she came back stronger than ever, winning the SDW100 for a second time and picking up victories at Eco Trail Oslo 80km and Dartmoor 50 before going on to a top ten finish at Spartathlon and then the icing on the cake, re-selection for the GB Trail Team where she will represent her country in Portugal in May. Already in 2018 she has turned in a 7th place at the Hong Kong 100km against a world class field. Whilst this is a stepping stone event on to the Champs, she will certainly want to stamp her mark here. For more info on Sarah's story, here is a link to the British Ultrarunning Podcast Episode featuring an interview with her.
Sarah on her way to victory at the 2017 SDW100
Kim Cavill: It is great to see Kim making it down to race one of our events. Those who are familiar with the Hardmoors and Lakeland scenes further north will recognise Kim's name. In recent years she has won the Hardmoors 55 and last year took 2nd in the Lakeland 50 in a superb time of 8:57.
Annabelle Stearns: Annabelle is a super experienced ultrarunner with a really impressive level of consistency that spans the last decade. Past winner of races such as London to Brighton (Trail), Al Andalus, Druids Challenge and our North Downs Way 50, she has actually improved signifcantly at the longer stuff in recent years. She has a best on this course of 7:46 for 4th in 2014 which puts her 7th on the all time list and two 2nd place finishes in the SDW100 from the last three years. She obviously loves this trail!
Charley Jennings: Charley is our reigning 50 mile Slam record holder with a cumulative time of 37:30 for the four events set last year, where she took 12th, 3rd, 2nd and 7th in each of the four races. It will be great to see her try to step it up again in 2018.
Charley at the 2017 NDW50
Alex Coomber: 2nd here in 2015 with a 7:53 and a 3rd place at the NDW50 a year later put Alex well in contention for a top ten finish here.
Mandy Regenass: Mandy took home 2nd place here last year in a time of 7:54, winning her Age Category in the process. She recorded a string of top 5 finishes in ultras ranging from 50km to 50 miles in 2015 and it's clear she could well be in contention again here albeit against what on paper looks to be a deeper field than the 2017 event.
Christine Howard: Whilst Christine may not have the raw speed to challenge for top honours she will be pushing for a top 10 here. With a best of 6th in this event back in 2013, the inaugural race, she has gone on to win the Downslink Ultra as well as second at the 2016 Chiltern Wonderland 50 and 4th at the Stour Valley Path 100km.
Tom Evans: If ever there seemed to be a clear favourite coming in to an event, it would be here. Tom Evans burst on to the scene in late 2016 and in 2017 established himself as a world class athlete. With a 3rd in the MDS, a 4th at the Eiger 101 and then a 4th at CCC in August, Tom immediately put UK mens ultrarunning back on the international map. With seemingly little experience at the long stuff, he has seemed to just step in to the role. Recently signing to Hoka One One and becoming a full time athlete will hopefully allow Tom to go on to take things to an even higher level in the future. This race, much as in the case of Sarah in the womens, is a stepping stone to his first outing in a GB national vest at the Trail World Champs in May. But after his win at the The Coastal Challenge in February where he bested CCC 2017 Champion Hayden Hawks by a scant four minutes, it's clear that there is no such thing as a training race for Tom. He will want to run his best on what is truly his home turf, having grown up in Eastbourne. It will be truly exciting to see what he can deliver here. For more info on Toms story, here is a link to the British Ultrarunning Podcast Episode featuring an interview with him.
Ian Hammett: Ian came on to the scene a few years ago and has built up a solid and consistent resume since. A fast road marathon has meant he has brought a good pace to his trail running and amongst his best results was a 3rd at this event last year in 6:49. Along the way he's also run home 2nd in a sub 16 hour time at the SDW100 and taken home victories in the Wall and the SVP100km. Last year he also completed Spartathlon in 28:36 proving he can go in to the super long too.
Warwick Gooch: In 2016, Warwick set a new 50 Slam record with 9th, 4th, 4th and 6th in the four events. 9th at the SDW50 in a time of 7:24 is hopefully something he can improve on this time. His year so far contained an excellent 9th placed finish at the 100 mile Arc of Attrition so we will see how his recovery has gone here.
Nick Greene: Nick has an incredibly consistent record on this course which he will be looking to continue here with 4th, 5th, 6th and 7th places in years gone by. With a best of 7:03 he will surely be looking to crack the 7 hour barrier this time out.
Alistair Palmer: 8th here last year before going on to 7th place at the NDW50 and WW50 it will be interesting to see if he can step it up here to compete for a top 5 against the bigger starting field.
Tommasso Migliu: Tommasso looks to be somewhat of a wild card, simply because this race falls on the lower end of the difficulty spectrum and the higher end of the pace spectrum that what he seems to be used to. His resume includes some extremely impressive results such as 5th at the V3K, 6th at Lakes Sky Ultra and 2nd at the Brecon Beacons 10 Peaks short, so hopefully he can turn his rugged mountain pace in to some flatter faster pace to challenge here.
Follow the race online at the website here on race day.
Cat Simpson joined the Centurion Running Ultra Team this year. Team mate Debbie Martin-Consani talks to Cat about her debut in the yellow shirt, win at WW50 and plans for 2018.
1) Your WW50 win was a great end to a great year! What first got you started running?
Thank you! I think it was quite a boring reason like wanting to stay fit for free, without using gyms, and running a few miles to do so, then entering 10ks which became half marathons which became marathons, then it spiralled out of control a bit. The fact that my husband and Dad are also runners probably fuelled the flames too. I also love travelling and running has always been an excuse to explore the UK's trails and national parks, and see some European cities. I now run with local club Fulham RC but must admit I'm a bit of a lone wolf for the majority my training - I love running with friends but also quite like my own company and don't mind being out for hours on my own. Hopefully I don't sound like a complete weirdo saying that, but I think that's been quite beneficial in long ultras because I can hold great conversations with myself.
2) What have been your top five running highlights?
Beating my husband's marathon PB by one second - the funniest bit wasn't beating him, but the fact he genuinely though it'd intentionally gone out to beat him by such a small margin.
The finish line of GUCR - there were a lot of tears, I needed two people to carry me to the car, then when I got home I went straight to bed and didn't move for about three days.
Running Autumn 100 last year, disappearing to the toilet straight afterwards because I felt rough, then coming out to overhear my Dad telling someone I was planning to do GUCR next, which was the last thing on my mind at the time.
Telling James after the first lap of WW50 that I didn't think the hills were that bad, then getting my arse spanked by them on the final two laps.
Joining the Centurion yellow jersey gang. True story.
Cat on her way to 2nd place at the 2016 South Downs Way 100
3) Your GUCR win could be seen a game charger for you, do you think that has made you mentally stronger?
For me, it's more about wanting something a lot than having a lot of mental strength - that's why I I don't race a lot because it stresses me out - the training, the tapering, the prep, the recovery. I'd rather target a couple of significant races a year than do 10 smaller ones. I spent 7 months in the lead up to GUCR just solely focussing on that and I really enjoyed getting stuck into the training and doing stuff like recceing bits of the course. I know a lot of people will do 50 or 100 mile races in training for something like GUCR but that just would never have worked for me. I also had a good base from doing SDW100 and A100 in 2016, so had a few weeks off after A100 then got stuck into GUCR training. I went into the race with a sub-30 hour plan, but wondered if the CR was achievable - having never run over 100 miles before though I wasn't sure how my legs would fare. I was hoping to clear the 100 mile point in about 19 hours, but made it in around 17.5 and once I realised the CR might be within reach, it was just a race against myself to get to Little Venice (with the help of my wonderful pacers who were incredibly accommodating of the fact I didn't really want much chat and kept stopping to be sick). With about six miles to go, I was completely broken and realised I could walk it in (well, it was more of a ridiculous looking hobble) and still make it in under 28 hours. The result was definitely a bit of a surprise but I think the course is one that's eminently runnable and potentially fast if you can just keep moving forwards and not focus too much on the fact it's an EFFING long way.
Cat post GUCR - Photo c/o Susie Marsden
4) You’ve have a good few marathons times this year, do you think marathon training helps with ultra-running?
Yes, absolutely - to be honest I think they're one and the same in a lot of ways - ultra-training is really just marathon training with a few long back-to-back weekends thrown in. I think it can be easy to make the mistake of assuming for ultras you have to do all your training at one pace (ie slowly) but I think it's good to do a bit of speedwork, even if it's just for variety and you're not training for a fast marathon. Breaking the three hour mark for a marathon has been a long standing goal of mine but it's always felt way out of reach, so it was nice to get a little bit closer to that this year. The big mileage weeks I was running for GUCR training (80-100 miles) meant I could hold the required marathon pace without dying on my arse for the last 5 miles, as tends to happen.
(NB: Cat’s too modest to mention her 3:06 marathon PB)
5) Any favourite sessions or cross-training tips?
The only sessions that give me the fear are long tempo runs - otherwise I like it all - roads, hills, speedwork (well, sometimes), easy runs... it's all about variety. Particularly, I've grown to really like hills sessions, as it's kind of cheating at speedwork and you're using different muscle groups so in a way it counts as cross training, which gets me off the hook for doing zero strength and conditioning work too. Living down south means what I class as a hill might be different to northerners, but there are some good continuous 1k stretches on the North Downs Way which do the job, and fortunately most other Londoners haven't discovered them yet so my Strava CRs are safe for the time being.
6) WW50 is gaining the reputation of being a fairly tough course. How would you describe it? And what was your approach to racing it?
It was tough, but ultimately it's a really runnable course. It's really similar to the North Downs Way - soft under foot, woody, and the laps never really felt like laps. It was definitely out of my comfort zone which was why I chose it, but the ascents are all short and sharp and there are plenty of gradual ascents and descents. It's definitely not asking to be made into a 10-lap 100 miler though...
Cat descending during her 2017 Wendover Woods 50 Win
7) Your Dad is a bit of a legend. Do you inspire each other? Who eats the most on Christmas Day? And who would win in a beer-off?
He is a legend, and he can out-drink me too, despite being shorter than me these days 😉. He's great on the crew side of things and always pushes me a bit but never in an annoying way - he just has 'the look' that only a Dad can have that you know means you need to get your arse in gear and stop faffing around. He's a brilliant runner and I'm really looking forward to reciprocating by crewing him for his first 100 next year (although I can't drive so we've still got the finer detail to work out for that one).
8) What’s your usual racing nutrition plan (and the reality)
The plan and the reality are definitely different for this one - I'm rubbish at eating and just don't enjoy force-feeding myself on long races. I'm supported by Mountain Fuel and rely on their Extreme Energy Fuel which is basically calories/sugar and electrolytes in a drink. I also use their recovery drinks (like choc milk) during races to get some protein and fat in, and baby food in squeezy pouches tends to form the bulk of my race nutrition too, plus fruit and mars bars. During GUCR I survived on caramel stroopwaffels (your 10 for £1.50 supermarket variety) which were great race fuel.
9) What are you plans for 2018?
The S word! I may have told a few people after GUCR that I though 145 miles was further than humans were really designed to run, but hopefully that's all been forgotten about because I'm planning to do Spartathlon. I'll also be doing the very fine TP100. I've had my eye on a 24 hour race for many years now so if one fits in the diary with Sparta plans then that'll be in there, but I may hold out for Tooting 24 another year.
10) If you could only ever race one more race, which one would you choose?
I would say something really lofty here to make myself look good but my Dad will read this and expect me to do it, so I need to be realistic. If I could never run again then it'd have to be a multi-dayer to make the most of the experience. Maybe something like Dragon's Back. Otherwise, Western States 100 is definitely a race I'd like to do one day.
The 2017 Wendover Woods 50 gets underway this Saturday 25th November at 0800. Runners have 15 hours to complete the 5 x 10 mile looped course which features 10,000ft of climb. Although that seems like a large number, the majority of the course is quick with some screaming fast descents. The ascents on the other hand are mostly short and very sharp. The below map which we commissioned artist Owen Delaney to create for the event, brilliantly captures the flow of the course as well as the individual segments that define the key sections. These are on strava as well as being sign posted for the runners on the day.
The usual focus on the front runners here makes for exciting competition in both the mens and womens fields.
Jon Ellis: Jon comes in to the fourth and final race of the Slam, having won all three previous 50 milers in 2017. He stands on the brink of becoming the first person to complete a clean sweep of victories in a Grand Slam of either 50s or 100s with us and of annhialating the 50 mile Slam overall record. In amongst that he also turned in a classy performance at Davos 80km in July. At this event in 2016, however, he dropped, having led early on. Whether that will be on his mind or purely fire him up even further is another question.
Jon running home in a new Course Record time at this years NDW50
UPDATE 21/11 Paul Maskell: Paul comes in as Autumn 100 Champion and having been missed in the scan of the entrants list! His 14:34 there put him in the Top 5 all time finish times for our 100 mile events, and followed a second at the NDW100 back in August. Paul is also the Arc of Attrition 100 mile record holder and ran home winner at this years classic quarter. His marathon time of 2:40 shows he's got speed and endurance for all distances. He will be one to watch here for sure.
Neil Kirby: Neil capped off an incredible 2016 with a 2nd place at this event, losing out only to Jeff Pyrah and then only by 3 minutes, coming home in 7:42. He has struggled with health issues in 2017 and has been forced to drop from a few of his key events due to chronic cramping. However. He finally tipped the balance back in his favour a few weeks ago at the Beachy Head Marathon, showing a return to his 2016 form with a 4th in 3:08. Everyone hopes we get to see Neil back on top form here and pushing all the way as he did in 2016.
Neil and Jeff chasing hard at the 2016 event, a superb race where the top 2 were separated by only 3 minutes at the end.
Ry Webb: Ry has a 2nd at the SDW50, a 3rd at the NDW50 and a 3rd at the CW50 behind him so far this year. He's now pushing for his fourth and final podium in this years Slam, which would be a truly incredible feat. Of course, it should be noted that if Jon's race does not go to plan, he needs to finish 1 hour 45 mins ahead of Jon to take the overall Slam title.
Paul Russhard: Paul comes in off a 7th a 5th and a 5th in our three 50 milers so far in 2017. Superb consistency. Between the CW50 and this event he also posted a second both days (and overall) in the Pony Express New Forest Ultra. Can he run himself on to the podium in the final race of this years Slam.
Alistair Palmer: Another man with some stirling 2017 performances at our 50s to his name. 8th at the SDW50, 6th at the NDW50 clearly he can be competitive again here. Having finished 7th at the CW50 last year this is the only one of the 50s with us that he's yet to complete.
Jonny Suckling: Jonni has a range of ultras behind him across a wide variety of terrains and distances. He is unlikely to compete for top honours here but looks a good bet for a solid top ten finish. Pick of his past results a win at the New Forest 75km last year as well as 2nd at Hardmoors 110, and third at both the Ridgeway Challenge and Cotswold Century in 2015.
UPDATE 21/11 Stuart Leaney: We have Dan Afshar at xempo to thank for the heads up on Stuart. New to ultras with this seemingly being perhaps his first, he has a 2:27 marathon PB and according to his profile he set a 50km Treadmill World Record last year though we are not sure of the time.
Francis Bowen: Up until a week ago, there were two Kenyan runners on the startling list who had times for the marathon of under 2:10 to their names. Duncan Kibet has sadly withdrawn but as it stands we may still yet see Francis Bowen on the starting line for this years event, subject to obtaining a visa. We have been working with Adharanand Finn to try to get this to happen but it is still a 50/50 call. If we do see a sub 2:10 hour marathoner toe the line here it will clearly be fascinating to watch!
Gemma Carter: Gemma comes in with vast experience and a superb year behind her. This years SDW50 champ has also run home with top honours at Boddington 50km, Winschoten 50km and a 4th at Stort 30. Although this will prove a different type of challenge, she's shown she has the speed and endurance to go all the way this year.
Gemma collects her trophy after winning the 2017 SDW50
Cat Simpson: This years Grand Union Canal Race Champ and new course record holder has proven this year that she can handle a wide variety of distances and terrain types whilst improving across the board. Things took off for her in 2016, when she ran home 2nd at the SDW100 and then ran a huge 100 mile PB of 17:24 at the Autumn 100 for 3rd. Following on from her breakthrough victory at GUCR, Cat has lowered her half marathon and marathon times as well as securing a solid 5th at the Beachy Head Marathon a few weeks ago in training for this event. She will be running her first ultra in the famous yellow shirt of the Centurion Ultra Team!
Cat on her way to the podum at last years SDW100
Charley Jennings; Charley ran home 2nd in Septembers CW50 just a second behind first in what was the third race in her quest for the 2017 50 mile slam. That followed at 12th at the SDW50 and a 3rd at the NDW50. As long as she finishes, and does so over 90 minutes ahead of Sarah Cooke who sits second in the Slam table, she will set a new Slam record and go home this years Slam champion.
Leanne Rive: Leanne finished 6th at this years SDW100 which followed a superb 2016 where she took home 3rd at the SDW50 before going on to finish the mighty TDG. Clearly distance and elevation change are not an issue for her - she could do very well indeed here.
Big thanks as always to our pertner sponsors for their support. Ultimate Direction, Injinji, La Sportiva, Petzl, Hydrapak, Tailwind Nutrition, Gu Energy, Beta Climbing and Lyon Equipment.
Follow from 0800 Sat 25th November at www.centurionrunning.com/live
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.
Remember that whether you have recce'd or not, this course will be marked, re marked and checked constantly throughout the race with the intention that navigation never be an issue for you on course. Nevertheless you must concentrate throughout the race because of the number of turns/ markings you will see. It will be very easy to wander past a marking or a turn if you are in a daydream.
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.
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.
Last year the winners came home in an average of 9 min miling. If it were unrunnable bushwhacking, those kind of times would simply not be possible.
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 15 hours to get this done should you require them. 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. 10000ft 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 15 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 two 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.
- 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.
Here we are at the final 100 mile race of the 2017 Season. This is such a deep field that it's a bit of a long post....
On paper the Autumn 100 seems to line up a certain way. We are fortunate enough to welcome one of the truly outstanding ultra distance runners in the UK to one of our events for the first time, James Stewart. James had a steady career in the sport before catapulting himself in to the international standings over the last 12 months, first with 258km and a then course record at Tooting 24hr, before winning Rocky Raccoon 100 back in February of this year in 13:39. Having run both Rocky and this event myself, I believe this course is significantly faster and therefore it remains to be seen if James can become the first person to go sub 14 at one of our events. It's well within his capabilities.
Without meaning to sound like it's a one man race, it does look to be James' to lose. But and it's a big but. Any slip up from him and there is an enormous number of very solid 100 mile runners behind him. Many of the guys below now have significant experience and will be looking to post fast times here. A quick spin through the likely key candidates for those fast times:
Dan Masters: Leads the 2017 Grand Slam and looks set for a new overall record though it will be tight - he requires a 17:24 or better. 2nd at the TP100 in a PR 15:30. 6th at the SDW100 and NDW100. He's also run a 7th at the Ridgeway in between then and now.
Dan looks set for a new GS100s record
Nick Marriage: Just 1 hour 40 behind Dan Masters in the 2017 Slam Standings. Consistent all year with a 9th at the TP100, 4th at SDW100 and 5th at NDW100.
Ed Knudsen: Probably the fastest marathoner on paper. Has a 2:33 PR. 10th at this years SDW100 and winner of the Marlborough Downs 33.
Paul Maskell: Course Record at this years Arc of Attrition. 2nd at the NDW100 in August. Can he do justice to his ability on the hills, on this flat course.
Paul Beechey: Has raced a lot this year but to a very impressive level. 2017 winner of the Oner, 2nd at GUCR, winner K&A Canal Race, Winner (joint) of LL Canal Race and recent finisher of Spartathlon. This is perhaps a deeper field however than he has faced at the other events listed, with the exception of Sparta of course. The question is will he be recovered from such an epic season.
Jez Isaac: 3rd at this years TP100 in 16:25. 8th at the NDW100 in August.Has run 17:11 on this course before.
Neil Martin: A step up in distance for this years Thames Trot winner. 4th at the CW50 last month.
Mark Grenyer: 3rd at last years TP100 in 17:11 but 62nd at this years event some 5 hours behind that time.
Dave Ross: Dave is the journeyman. He's had a crack at almost everything and usually meets with great success. He has had many podiums at our events including a 3rd at this race, amonst his 100+ ultra finishes. His best was a 15:59 at the SDW100 back in 2014. I would love to see him re-create that kind of form here, but I think it's more likely we'll see a strong top ten from him than a podium contention.
Barry Miller: Barry either volunteers or runs this event every year. His best is a 17:14 for third back when this was the Winter 100. Since then he's run the US grand slam. Our own Grand Slam. Has finished races like Sparta and Grand Union and this year won the Viking Way. It would be really good to see him run a big 100 mile PR here.
Tim Landon: 3rd at the TP100 in 2014. 8th at the SDW100 in 2016.
Mari Mauland: With respect to the ladies field it does look like Mari's to lose, much as per James in the Mens field. She has been the consistent feature all season. She won the TP100 in 16:55 finishing 5th overall. Had some issues during the SDW100 but still rescued 4th female before going on to win the NDW100. She is on the hunt for the overall Grand Slam Womens record but needs to run 16:51 here to do it. It will be fascinating to watch!
Mari winning the 2017 NDW100
Wendy Shaw: Wendy has a win at the Ultrafest 24hr with 193km and a 2nd at GUCR behind her this year. In the past she has run 17:54 on this course and that will be enough to put her right up the field again here. She has a grand total of 16 100 mile finishes at our events including 3 Grand Slams. Experience is on her side!!!
Wendy Shaw on this very course in 2014
Linn Sahlstrohm: Previous winner of Trans Scania, Linn has a win at the Sussex CTS and a 2nd at the South Devon CTS on her resume this year. She has won some lower key shorter events in the past but stopped here in 2014. It will be interesting to see if she can push through and get a strong result here this time.
The 2017 Chiltern Wonderland is just the second edition of this event. Both as a stand alone event and Round 3 out of 4 in the 2017 Grand Slam of 50s, there is some seriously hot competition.
Jon Ellis: Last years champ and hence course record has already won both the SDW50 and NDW50 in 2017, the latter in a new course record in what was the 7th year of that event. His summer finish of 4th at the Davos 80km has seen him step things up on to the international stage. Undoubtedly after some fine results in recent years, Jon has moved to a new level in 2017 and it will be his to lose coming in. With his sights on the 2017 Slam he will want to keep the dream of a clean sweep in winning all four 50s in one calendar year, alive.
Jon striding out before going on to win at this years SDW50
Neil Kirby: Neil is the fly in the ointment for Jon here. Neil also ran the CW50 in 2017 and was neck and neck with Jon until Ibstone and the marathon mark, but faded shortly afterwards and eventually stopped. He came in to that event having already won in 2016, the SDW50, NDW50, SDW100 and NDW100. He would be the first to admit it was fatigue from that schedule that got to him last September. He came back with a bang, taking second at the inaugural Wendover Woods 50 in November 2016, a race at which Jon started but didn't finish. This year, Neil has been rebuilding and will want a strong performance here. It certainly looks to be a fascinating encounter between two runners that have gone head to head many times before.
Neil reflects immediately after his win at the 2016 NDW100
Ry Webb: Ry has also stepped his game up in 2017. He is also running the Slam and has so far come home in 2nd in the SDW50 and 3rd in the NDW50, both times breaking the 7 hour mark. Whilst it seems unlikely he could out stretch the two above if they have their best days, his consistency is telling and it's simply a matter of time before he catches someones fall and takes home one of our trophies.
Paul Russhard: Paul is the tall brooding guy at the front with the guts to go all out from the start and really take it to the field. He makes races exhilirating to watch as his do or die approaches shake up the entire field. Whilst he has yet to execute right through to the finish at one of our events, he's gotten much closer recently. Also running the slam against Ry and Jon, Paul was 7th at the SDW50, 5th at the NDW50 and has won the New Forest 50km in 2017. He will want this one badly and brings a dangerous mix to the other front runners!
The womens field looks wide open for this event with no stand alone favourite.
Svenja Espenhahn: Svenja's ultra career looks only to have begun this year, but she started with a bang coming home 2nd in this years NDW50. She's subsequently gone on to a 3rd place at the Monschau Ultra over 56km.
Charley Jennings: 12th at this years SDW50 before coming back with 3rd at this years NDW50, a race which she led to half way, Charley is leading the 2017 Slam standings for the ladies and will want to hold on to that position here.
Charley leading in the early stages of this years NDW50
Sarah Cooke: Also running the Slam and second to Charley in the standings, Sarah has so far finished 10th at the SDW50 and 6th at the NDW50.
Janette Cross: For many years I have threatened to put Janette in a preview. She is so consistent, repeatedly in the top 10 over a range of distances from 50 - 100 miles. This year that's more true than ever with a 5th at the NDW50 and a 7th at the SDW100. Whilst she was 20th at this event last year, that wasn't her best day and with the seemingly open womens race I fancy she might make her first podium this time out.
Tune in to the Live page over race weekend for updates from every check point!
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.