The third edition of the Chiltern Wonderland 50 takes place this coming Saturday, September 15th. The start field is expected to number around 250, with sixty three, 50 mile Grand Slam hopefuls looking to make this three out of three finishes - leaving the final hurdle, Wendover Woods 50 in November, to complete their 200 mile journeys.
As of Tuesday (late), the trails are in superb shape and we are expecting fast racing conditions on the day.
Below is the usual preview of those we are expecting to see challenge for top positions in both the mens and womens races.
Oliver Thorogood: The stand out runner in this years field. Oli was 2nd here last year in 7:11, quite some way back of Jon Ellis in his course record setting run of 6:38:59. But over the past year Oli has had two notable results, a win at the inaugural UTS 50 mile and a superb win at this years Lakeland 50, one of the UKs more prestigious events and one of the largest fields. What was most notable however was that his time missed out on the course record there by just two minutes. As so many of the better runners in the UK have had a go at the event, this signals for sure a step up for him and it will be exciting to see if he can go after Jons time here.
Jack Oates: Jack obviously has a lot of speed, as seen in his winning times at Salisbury 50km - 3:22 and at the Stort 30 in 3:01. He has been struggling a little with injury and this is a step up in distance for him so how he will go is still somewhat of an unknown.
Neil Kirby: We're still waiting for Neil to nail one again, after his stellar 2016 when he cleaned up at the SDW100, NDW100 and associated 50s. Fingers crossed he is at full strength here and raring to go in his usual fashion. It would be amazing to see the old Neil come out and run at his best.
Steve Hobbs: Steve has a 3rd at this years TP100 and a 7th at this years SDW100 already to his name this year, but comes in to this one on the back of a DNF at the 100km mark of the NDW100.
Ollie Stoten: Ollie has had some superb results over the years including wins at events like Country to Capital, Serpent Trail 100km and the T60 night race. He finally got his reward at one of our events, by running home 3rd at this years NDW50 and that was backed up with a podium at RTP Sahara and 10 Peaks Brecons (Long). He wil surely be looking for more of the same here.
Ollie Stoten ran his way on to the podium at this years NDW50 after a brilliant final third of the race
Warwick Gooch: Previous Grand Slam 50 record holder, he ran a 7:31 on this course for 4th when he set the record in 2016. He is in good form this year too, as he showed with a solid 7th at the 2018 NDW50.
Robert Hayward: Leads the 2018 Grand Slam standings at the moment with a 12th and then an 8th at the SDW50 and NDW50.
Andrew Platt: Andrew was 7th here last year and winner of one of the CTS events towards the end of 2017.
Amy White: Amy has started out her ultra career with a win at the 2017 Race to the King and then a 2nd at last years Wendover Woods 50. This year she has already come home second at the Race to the Tower.
Amy White running at the 2017 Wendover Woods 50
Lisa Martin: Lisa backed up a superb 7th at this years SDW50, with a 2nd at the NDW50, even after a detour in the closing miles. She will certainly be looking for a hitch free run here and another podium.
Chris Howard; Chris brings a raft of top tens and lots of experience with her into this one. She was 2nd here in the inaugural event in 2016 and this year has already clocked a 3rd at the SDW50, alongside a more recent win at the SVP100km.
Laura Hicks: Laura was 17th here last year, but has some stronger runs to her name suggesting she can go much better. She has twice won the St. Albans Stampede 12hr, once outright and was 5th at last years Autumn 100.
Follow the race live at www.centurionrunning.com/live from 0900 Saturday, timings will update from every check point and the finish.
Here we are with event number four of our 2018 race season and our second 100 miler. We have a strong field in both the mens and womens events, let's start with the women's this time. An anticipated 300 starters will set out from Winchester at 0600 on Saturday 9th June with the hope of making it to Eastbourne inside the 30 hour cut off - noon on Sunday.
Sarah Cameron: Sarah has raced with us only once before, taking second at last years NDW100 in a little over 20 hours. Living and racing in France she has many top results to her name out there with notables including a win and a third at Templiers (100km version) and a 12th at OCC amongst many others. It looks like she has two wins from two already in 2018.
Sarah Cameron at last years NDW100
Rachel Fawcett: Third here last year in 18:59. This year she has already run home fourth at the TP100. In the past she's also won our Chiltern Wonderland 50 as well as taking home thirrd in last years Green Man Ultra.
Laura Swanton: Laura impressed at last months TP100 where she ran home second. Third at last years NDW100 and fourth at Wendover Woods 50 she has also picked up the win at CTS South Devon in 2018.
Mauland: Mari dropped from the TP100 in May after suffering in the heat and she has a Western States place later this month so we're unsure if we will see her go for this one in full on race mode, but her pedigree is without question. Last year she won our Grand Slam and took home three wins at the TP100, NDW100 and A100, with only this race eluding her - she took home fourth in 19:11. We hope she is on the start line raring to go!
Mari taking home the win at last years NDW100
Sarah Sawyer: Much like Mari, Sarah has been racing recently over in Bhutan and that followed her win at the NDW50 last month so it's not clear if she will go all out here. She was sixth here in 2016.
If Sarah and Mari both come in ready to race it will be great to watch a deep field duke it out. Otherwise it looks open for the other three ladies who are all regular strong performers.
Jon Ellis: Last years Grand Slam 50 mile winner, with overall victories at SDW50, NDW50 (Course Record) and CW50, this is Jons first step up to the distance and we are fascinated to see what he can do. He's already had a good start to the year with a third place at the Highland Fling so we are hoping for a dazzling debut 100 here.
Jon running home to the victory at the 2017 SDW50
Pete Windross: Pete won the TP100 last month by a clear margin in 15:49. He was a top 10 finisher here last year too and he does seem to be getting stronger as the races and months tick by so we hope he will be in shape and recovered enough to put pedal to the metal again here.
Pete Windross running with Ed Catmur at the TP100 before going on to the win
Stellan Fries: Stellan was the man who led the 2016 SDW100 until mile 95 where he went off course just before Jevington and spent some time in the wilderness. He's back again for his third outing looking to better his PB here of 17:25.
Alistair Palmer: Alistair took home second at this years SDW50, although his day out was overshadowed by Tom Evans annihilation of the course record. He ran in that position most of the day and finished strong. He has 5 top 10s in 5 Centurion starts so he is a consistent performer.
Stephen Hobbs: 7th at the 2017 WW50 before hopping up to take third at this years TP100 in an impressive 17:55.
Ed Catmur: Four time winner at our events, Ed is slowly coming back to strength with a 25th at the TP100 this year. Hopefully he continues his rise again here.
John Melbourne: John has a depth of ultra experience now and that culimated in a terrific run for fourth at the NDW50 last month where he finished extremely strong.
Mike Ellicock: Relatively unknown Mike has a marathon PB in the 2:30s and a recent Bob Graham round finish. The only ultra we are aware of was his strong fifth at the SDW50 last year.
Charles Harpur: 1st at the 2015 SVP100km. 2nd at last years Beacons Ultra.
Jeremy Mower: Super experienced runner from Wales who amongst other things has represented Wales at the 24hr Commonwealths and has a raft of solid 40 mile/ 100km times to his name.
Follow the race via the live link on the homepage from Saturday - first update will be from QECP Check Point 2 at 22 miles and then at the following CPs: 4, 7, 8, 10, 11, 12.
This coming Saturday 19th May 2018 we welcome 250 runners to the 8th edition of the North Downs Way 50. Here's a quick look at some of the key runners coming to race this year.
You can follow the race live on race day via this link. Live timings will be available from all check points and the finish, with the exception of Caterham (CP5).
Neil Kirby: Returning 2016 Champion, Neil also picked up the SDW50, SDW100 and NDW100 titles that year. He is off the back of a win at the CTS Sussex in March and a DNF at the Highland Fling a few weeks ago so he will be looking to make amends here.
Stuart Leaney: 2017 Wendover Woods champ in his first 50 in a blistering course record a touch over 7 and a half hours. Stuarts sub 2:30 marathon speed means he's the quickest guy in the field and he can obviously do it on the trails too.
Ollie Stoten: King of Country To Capital 2016 when he took things to a new level winning in 5:07 for the 43 mile event. Ollie has lots of other wins and top tens to his name including a first place at CTS Exmoor already this year. He hasn't quite nailed one of our events yet and he will want to do it here.
Dudley Desborough: 8th at last years Autumn 100, 6th at the inaugural Chiltern Wonderland. Notably also a great run for 2nd at the Pilgrims Challenge last February on this very trail. Dudley has the speed to run a podium here and pick up the pieces the few ahead of him could leave behind.
John Melbourne: John has a growing list of accomplishments and finishes from around the world. He was second here in 2014 in a time of 7:47 but since then looks to have gone from strength to strength. Last year he finished at least a dozen ultras with stand out performances of 16:00 flat for the Berlin 100 and 1st place at both the Fox Ultra and the Serpent Trail 50km.
Sarah Sawyer: It's great to have Sarah back racing one of our events. In 2018 so far she has clocked 205.6km at this years Crawley 24hr for the win. Previous winner of two Racing the Planet events. Podiums at a raft of ours and other races including the 2017 TP100, 2016 Berlin 100 and WW50. Her first run out at this event. She looks to be the favourite coming in.
Lisa Martin: Lisa picked up 7th at this years SDW50 in 8:32 as well as a podium finish at the CTS Sussex event in March.
Otherwise, the ladies field looks wide open so we're looking forward to seeing some suprises on the day.
Chris Fox: Chris missed the cut off by 9 (nine) seconds at the 2015 event. He is back this year and we are looking forward to welcoming him well under the cut off this time!
Many Grand Slam hopefuls move on to Stage 2 of their journey here and the 2018 Grand Slam entrants list with a table of times will be available post race.
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.