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.