The first race of our 2014 season kicks off Saturday April 5th and without a shadow of a doubt, this is our most competitive starting field to date. A long list of runners will be heading in to race day with a chance of a Top 10 finish, but the few below will have aspirations of going much better than that. Expect both the mens and womens records to come down significantly, especially if the trail is dry and weather is kind. Above all else it's fantastic to see the level of competition in UK ultras rising.
Stuart Mills: Undisputed king of the South Downs circuit in recent years, Stuart Mills is something of a legend in the sport. Wins and course records on South Downs events are his speciality including the Steyning Stinger, Beachy Head Marathon,2:09 South Downs Marathon and Three Forts. Last year possibly the biggest result of his recent career came as he won the Lakeland 100 in signature style, going out as hard as possible and hanging tough for as long as he can. It's a race approach which has left many dumb founded, but is often supported by one simple fact, he often wins! He'll be looking to do a few things: Overcome his early season disappoinment in not finishing the Steyning Stinger due to a fall, set himself up nicely for his assault on the SDW100 in June and take home a win in the process. As Stuart gets a little older he'll want to continue to run for overall wins for as long as he can, but are we going to see the young guard and increasing depth of talent finally start to give him a race.
Textbook Millsy start at the 2014 Steyning Stinger, out of shot before the rest of us have time to look up! Photo c/o Sussex Sport Photography.com
Paul Navesey: Without wishing to sound biased given that Paul is both a Centurion Ultra Team Runner and a good friend, this boy is the most talented 50 mile trail runner we have in the South East. The downs are his back yard and he knows every blade of grass on the course. With flat marathon speed (2013 2:41 Amsterdam) and previous 50 mile Course Records behing him (Caesars Camp) he has enjoyed a consistent period of training whilst resisting the urge to over race, a mistake made by so many. With over a dozen wins behind him, and a low 6s 50 on very little effort, he will be wanting to PR, CR and take home the crown if it's his day.
Paul Navesey flying in textbook fashion.
Marty Rea: 3rd at the SDW50 in 2013, Marty is an Irish National 100km runner with a PB of 7:21 and is working towards his main focus of 2014, the SDW100. A 2:37 marathoner and winner of the UltraRace Cardiff 50, London 50km and Himalayan 100 mile stage race in the past he has the speed and endurance.
Paul Sargent: Winner of the 2013 Three Forts ahead of notably, SDW50 champ Mark Perkins, Paul has a number of other local trail marathon/ ultra wins behind him and will no doubt figure at the sharp end.
Mark Perkins: Returning champ and Course Record holder with a 6:55 in 2013 in poor conditions for the second half. He undoubtedly has the ability to go quicker this year. Early season he raced the shortened Thames Trot finishing 3rd and will want to go better than that this time out.
Richard Ashton: Rick is one of the most mentally tough runners out there. He also has the running talent to go with it. With a 2nd at the Lakeland 50 in 2013, a 3rd at his first ever 100 (TP100 2013) and an early season win at the St Peters Way Ultra (45 miles), Centurion Ultra Teams biggest fan will be looking to upset the apple cart and take home his first Centurion trophy.
Paul Radford: Paul ran a 2nd place at the Ridgeway 85 mile in 2013, with a super time of 15:30 and has a list of other top finishes to his name including multiple wins at UK trail marathons.
Amongst those with previous ultra/ trail marathon wins behind them who will likely feature in top 10 standings includes: Paul Bennett (Steyning Stinger, VO2 SDW), Martin Bacon (TP100), Nick Greene (Peddars Way), Doug Murray (NDW50 2nd),
Helen Taranowski: Helen's long distance pedigree is well known and she is undoubtedly a force to be reckoned with. She was the 2012 IAU 50km World Trophy - gold medal winner in a time of 3:30, the Al Andalus Ultra Trail 2010 winner and is the current 6 hour track - UK record holder with 78.776km.
Edwina Sutton: Expect this to be the name you see topping international ultra fields in years to come. Eddie came in to ultra running from a career in Iron distance triathlon where she enjoyed tremendous Age Group Success. In 2013, new to the sport, she picked up wins at Salisbury 50km (CR), Three Forts Marathon (CR) and Steyning Stinger, and then stamped her mark speed wise with a 4:49 and 3rd overall (1st lady & CR) at the 38 mile Downslink ultra. This year she joined the Centurion Ultra Team and has subsequently raced just once in January, where she obliterated the 44 mile Country to Capital course record, again for 3rd overall and 1st lady.
Eddie on route to winning the 2013 Three Forts Marathon. Photo c/o Sussex Sport Phtography.com
Susie Casebourne: Susie led the 2013 event until the final turn where, in terrible conditions, she made a wrong turn which cost her the eventual win. She went on to make amends later in the year with a 4th at the South Downs 100 in 20hrs and a fine course record run at Caesars Camp 50 looking in control throughout. This is all a transition from years as a top level GB triathlete. Expect her to be there or thereabouts come track time.
Kirsty Reade: Kirsty has a long line of trail marathon podiums and wins behind her over recent years and notably ran 190km in the Basel 24hr in 2013 proving she has the endurance as well as the speed.
Sarah Perkins: Joint winner of the shortened 2014 Thames Trot and 5th overall, most notably a result she shared with Emily Canvin who won both our 50 mile events in 2013. Sarah will be looking to emulate husband Mark and possibly take a pair of trophies home with them :)
There are sure to be a number of top level contenders missing from the above so please comment away below and add others to the mix!