This is the ninth edition of the North Downs Way 100 and our biggest ever field is set to give this tough 100 their best.
In terms of the front runners, we have one notable absentee. After struggling through much of Wendover Woods 100 with injury, Ian Hammett has unfortunately had to abort his Grand Slam attempt for this year. Second in the standings behind John Melbourne and well under overall record splits it is a real shame and leaves John to try to carry the effort forward to a new Slam overall record.
John Melbourne - Two sub 15 hour 100s already this year and two second place finishes at the TP100 and SDW100, the latter by under 2 minutes. He has taken things to a new level this year and he will want to continue that run, but also be itching for that first win too.
Rob Payne - A superb year for Rob so far, with a win at the NDW50 in May and then a second place at the West Highland Way Race in June. These follow a string of podiums, top tens and a handful of wins at various ultras in 2018 including Dukeries 40, Hardwolds 80 and Country to Capital.
Rich Riopel - A star on the US scene this looks to be Rich's first UK race. This year he has already run some world class performances on road and trail. A 260km distance and win at the Dusk to Dawn 24hr ultra, second at the Old Dominion 100 in June and at least four other wins at various shorter distances all since January. He is a member of the US 24hr team and has plenty of experience with the 100 mile distance, with what looks to be a 15:14 PB from Desert Solstice (100 mile split) a few years back.
Barry Miller - Barry is a vastly experienced ultrarunner and particularly at the longer stuff. He cut his teeth with some shorter ultras before moving to our Grand Slam and then the following year, he completed the US Grand Slam. He has since gone on to finish classics such as Spartathlon and GUCR with some superb results along the way including second at GUCR and a win at the Viking Way. He can certainly do something special here if he is in good shape.
Ed Catmur - Still the course record holder with his mighty 15:44 back in 2013. Ed still hasn't fully returned to the rich vein of form of those days but is increasingly returning to fitness and was briefly in the top three at the TP100 earlier this year. The fire still burns!!!
Ed Catmur gliding to a course record in 2013, which still stands today
Ed Knudsen - Ed came within a whisker of winning the NDW50 last year, eventually missing out to Stuart Leaney by just a few minutes. He has been 9th at the SDW100, 4th at the Ridgeway Challenge and this year was disappointed to finish 6th at the NDW50. He knows the trail and can go long too.
Alfie Pearce Higgins - Alfie had a great 2018 with 4th at Mt Gaoligong 100 in China and 5th at Oman by UTMB - two tough 80-100 milers. Previously second at Ultra trail Gobi to boot, Alfie can also do it on the UK trails with top 10 finishes at SDW50 and SDW100 over the years.
Mark Shannon & Kevin Shannon - There are three Shannon brothers running this race and they are all quick! Mark and Kevin often run together and the two were 3rd and 4th at last months Wendover Woods 50km and recently ran a strong Bob Graham Round. In 2013 the two ran together at this event and finished 12th and 13th in a respectable 20:34.
Mark Darbyshire - Mark has shown his pace over shorter and/ or more mountainous routes than this but this looks to be his first 100. He was an impressive 39th at Transvulcania this year and has previously run home winner of the Brecon to Cardiff Ultraand finished second at the Beacons Ultra.
Susie Chesher - Susie holds the record as our fastest ever female 100 miler. Her 15:22 at the 2016 Autumn 100 is 49 minutes better than the next closest time. She's won events at a mix of distances over the years, mostly on UK trails and whilst she had a dnf at the Fling in April we hope she will be back on top form for this one.
Susie on her way to a massive record at the 2016 A100
Rebecca Lane - Rebecca has finished 5th at the TP100 and 4th at the SDW100 already this season and is on her way to a Grand Slam title, leading the way in the womens overall positions by a big margin. With the field looking less deep here she will certainly be one to watch as her consistency is superb. Her TP and SDW times were just 2 minutes different from one another.
Karen Hacker - Karen finished second at last years Wendover Woods 50 and took home third at the Race to the King in 2017.
Lindsay Hamilton - Lindsay has a string of podium finishes to her name at shorter ultras but this looks to be her first 100. She has finished in the top three at Gritstone Grind, Norfolk 100km and the Jurrassic Quarter over the last year.
Karen Doak - Karen lies second in the Grand Slam table with 2 x Sub 24hr runs under her belt, 22:44 good enough for 8th at the TP100.
Follow the race live via the link here, updates begin at Newlands Corner mile 14, race start is 0600 Saturday 3rd August.
Starting at 0800 this Friday, a hardy band of pioneers will embark on a once in a lifetime opportunity to go down in history. To become legends. In their attempt to complete 100 miles of woodland hills and trails in the unique and wonderful Wendover Woods.
With 20,000ft of climb and descent, a 32 hour time limit and 10 laps in front of them, this will be a tough race to finish. We anticipate our average finish rate at 100 milers of 65% across the past 9 years, to drop below 50% this time. But that will simply make the achievement of finishing that much greater.
The weather looks warm, possibly wet at times, but the trails are currently in peak condition - fast, groomed and ready for some stellar performances.
For a small starting field, the race has attracted some top runners to race and it will be a true test of their mettle to see who can not only survive the course but to race it too.
Leading contenders are as follows.
Stuart Leaney: The king of Wendover Woods 50. Stuart won the last two editions of that race both in course record times. On route to a 7:16 winning time in 2018, his second lap was a blistering 1:21, the fastest lap we have seen around that course by over 30 seconds per mile. He's been focused on this one and comes into it off an NDW50 (a race he won in 2018 also) which was not his best effort but came at the end of a big training week. It is however, his first 100 miler. Can the king double the distance and perform at the same level.
Stuart Leaney striding to victory at WW50 in 2017
Ian Hammett: This years TP100 champion, Ian also finished third at the SDW100 last month. He is running all five of our 100s this year, and looking at adding Spartathlon in to boot. Is he recovered? If he is he can add yet another crown to his roster.
Warwick Gooch: The previous Grand Slam record holder is back to run a 10 x 10 mile loop tough 100. The last time he did, he walked off with victory at Caesars Camp 100 before that race ceased to be held. How well he did that day will still be a fond memory for him and certainly he knows how to execute the tough races well.
Nick Greene: Nick has become one of the more experienced runners on the scene in recent years and has run consistently at a high level for a number of years. His best results have been a second at the TP100 and a 4th at the NDW50. He has finished the SDW50 seven times, all of them in the top 10 mens positions including this year. He knows the course like the back of his hand as a regular marker for us here. It will be great to see him go long.
Just seven women line up to take on the 100. So we'll preview all of them!
Mari Mauland: Mari was our 2017 Grand Slam of 100s champion, winning three of the races in the process. She went on to finish second at last years NDW100. In 2019 she has already finished second at a 24hr event in Finland, clocking a 17:14 100 miler on route.
Mari taking top honours at the 2017 NDW100
Anna Troup: Anna has a range of super results behind her. In 2019 she has already finished second at the Arc of Attrition 100 and first at the Oner. In the past she also has podiums at the Thames Trot (1st), Ultra Trail Snowdonia 50 (2nd) and CTS Sussex (2nd). She is also a previous finisher of UTMB.
Alexandra Duesbury: Alexandra has twice finished the Wendover Woods 50 and loves it enough to consider the ten lap version. This won't be her first 100 having finished the Autumn 100 just last October.
Zoe Norman: Zoe volunteers at almost all of our events, certainly the ones she isn't running. She's finished almost all of our events in the past, including last year running the 50 mile Grand Slam.
Tracey Watson: Tracey holds some incredible records with us. She has finished 29 Centurion events to date and has finished the double slam each of the last three years in a row.
Mel Horley: Mel is running the 2019 100 mile Grand Slam and wanted to add the other 100 to make it a full house of five with us this year. Last year she finished the 50 mile slam and was consistent all year. Her best result to date was a 22:59 for fifth at the TP100 in 2017.
Sheila Rose: Sheila finished our 100 mile Grand Slam last year and has a couple of other 100s to her name, both at Robin Hood 100 in Nottinghamshire, amongst many other ultras at a range of distances.
Starting 15 hours after the 100 mile has begun, at 2300 on Friday evening, a group of night owls will begin their first of 3 laps around the Wendover route. They need to be done by 0830 on Saturday morning to make the cut off. This is a new format and a new distance for us, but it has attracted a lot of familiar names.
Dan Lawson: The Centurion Ultra Team runner, Dan is the co-host of the best podcast available anywhere, See link here for further details. He also happens to be one of the most decorated ultra runners of our generation and arguably the best long distance runner we have seen in the UK for a long time. His accolades are too long to mention but top of the pops include being European 24hr Champion. Course Record holder at GUCR, The Ridgeway, RAT - The Plague, Ultrabalaton, Ultra Trail Gobi, Steenbergen 12hr, Downslink - the list goes on. He has also been 2nd at Spartathlon and 3rd at Badwater. In 2019 he has already set a British 6 day road record, with 920km. Yes this is just a training run for him but Dan will still want a win on route to his main focus this year, the World 24hr champs.
Dan in action on route to 2nd at Spartathlon. Photo c/o Shooting Therapy
Neil Martin: Neil is one of the rare few who has actually beaten Dan at an event, when he took home first to Dans second at the Arc of Attrition 50 this past February. But the author of this post may be accused of having slowed Dan down a little in the first half. Neil is running the 50 mile slam this year and is off to a tremendous start, leading the rankings by a large margin after the first two, solid top ten finishes.
Paul Russhard: Paul stepped up his game recently with a superb run at this years NDW50 for 2nd. He is fast over shorter stuff and likes the hills so this will suit him. I think we will see him go out hard here.
Tomasso Migliulo: Tomasso took home a strong third at the Wendover Woods 50 last November. He has also podiumed at the SDW50 and the Eiger Ultra Trail 85km. With top ten finishes at the V3k and Lakes Sky ultra this is flatter than he is used to and that could play in his favour.
Paul Radford: Paul is local to the area and has some great results in recent years and some more echoing back further. Most notably he ran 224km at Barcelona 24hr in December last year. He's also won the Wendover Challenge with 67k in 6 hours around a flatter route in the woods. Lots of top ten finishes at other events preceed those including a best of 2nd place (twice) at the Ridgeway Challenge including 2018.
Kevin Shannon: 6th at the WW50 last November followed a strong 32 hour UTMB in 2016.
Mark Shannon: 11th at WW50 last November, finished UTMB alongside Kevin above in 2016.
Christine Howard: Christine has had a lot of strong performances at a range of different ultras spanning back 7 years but last year was her strongest. Her best results from 2018 included podium finishes at the SDW50 and Chiltern Wonderland 50 in alongisde a win at the SVP100km.
Melanie Frazier: Melanie picked up third at the SDW50 in 2017 and has also finished on the podium at Salisbury 50km and the Mendip Marauder 50.
Christine on route to 2nd at the 2018 Chiltern Wonderland 50