North Downs Way 50 race day usually dawns bright and sunny, giving a chance for runners to head out and truly enjoy some of the best mixed trails to be found in the South East. This edition delivered exactly that for our intrepid band of runners who arrived in Farnham early on Saturday morning to start their 50 mile adventure, east to Knockholt Pound along the North Downs Way.
279 made this our second largest of eleven editions and at the front of the race, both the womens and mens overall places were hotly contested battles, right through to the finish.
The womens race kicked off with a fast early start from previous SDW50 champion Sarah Hill. She led the pace through to the half way mark, followed closely by Amy-Jo Clarke, Jennifer Sangster, Sophie Biggs and Nicola Soraghan. In the end, all five were still duking out for the overall positions through to the final miles. Sarah slowed after the climb up Box Hill and was passed by Jennifer and then Amy-Jo. Less than a minute separated those two through Reigate Hill at 50km and through Caterham mile 38. It was only entering the final 10 miles that Amy-Jo was finally able to pull clear, but that she did and finished in style, gapping the rest of the field in the process to come home in 8:06 for the win.
Jennifer faded in the final stages, not assissted by a small detour just a few miles from the finish which left Nicola Soraghan, who finished in very strong fashion, to run her way into second in a time of 8:20. Third place went to Sophie Biggs just six minutes further back.
The mens race was equally as close. Despite the 2022 SDW50 champion Luke Davies also lining up to race here, it was Ed Knudsen who came in as the pre-race favourite.
Ed is a really conistent performer over this distance and has previously run home winner of the Chiltern Wonderland 50. Through the early part of the race he ran out in front, with Sam Harper running in his first 50 miler, leapfrogging or alongside. The two were together on the climb up Box Hill before Ed pulled out a small margin over the following miles. Sam dropped back a little and was replaced in second by Daniel Weller who then began to close on Ed. Ed admitted that, out in front, he tried to enjoy the day a little more and relaxed, taking things a bit easier than perhaps he should have. Coming into Botley Hill aid station at mile 43, Daniel was less than a minute behind and Ed needed to get his game together. That he did and he ran home for the win in 6:55. Daniel held on for a very strong second in 7:00 and third went to Sam Harper who had a fantastic first 50 overall, finishing in 7:13.
In the age groups, the FV40 category was won by Jennifer Sangster in 8:35. First FV50 went to Sophie Biggs who was third overall in new age category record of 8:28 - a substantial achievement, taking 20 minutes off of the previous best. First FV60 went to to Claudie Combelas in 12:28. That's two consecutive races with FV60 finishers. Long may that continue.
First MV40 was Rob Feline in 7:38. First MV50 was Mark Thomas in 8:54. First MV60 was Chris Finill in 9:12, Chris is one of the 7 ever-presents at the London Marathon having run every edition of that race. First MV70 was Ken Fancett in 10:25 who was extremely disappointed in his performance, but became the first MV70 to finish this event. Behind him, David Rootes also finished in the same age category - fantastic to see.
Debra Bourne also deserves a mention for finishing her 100th ultra here. The more remarkable part however, is that she has a 100% finish record in that 100 events. Not many people can lay claim to that kind of consistency.
70 volunteers made the day the special one it was. We always get a good turn out on the trail for this one and as our first ever event it remains a very special one to us.
Stuart March Photography
Stuart March Photography
A beautiful weekend to be out on the river, the eleventh edition of the TP100 was a far cry weather wise, from the rain soaked 2021 race. Kicking off the report, here's a quick snapshot of the weekend from our man with the camera, Steve Ashworth.
There is always something to cause that little bit of last minute stress with a 100 miler and instead of the weather this time, it was an enforced diversion just after the half way mark. The Environment Agency had closed the footbridge between Henley and Shiplake on the Friday afternoon, with no warning. So a 2.5 mile diversion was added at the last minute. However, it cut 1 mile of the regular TP off and we were able to shave another 0.5 miles on the entry to Home Park in Windsor with the re-opening of a previously blocked path. Reducing the extra mileage to just over 1 in total. Most shrugged and laughed, some were very concerned of course. But this is the essence of trail racing. One must finish the course and not the distance. It is never EVER 100.00 miles. Except maybe once. The extra mile is of course, free of charge (the course is usually 101 miles anyway).
At 0930, the runners lined up on a sunny riverside scene in Richmond and it was wonderful to have a mass start back together at this race, it is a great occassion.
The womens race provided amazing entertainment from start to finish. At the front were Zoe Murphy - previous Autumn 100 champion and Ingrid Lid, who had finished second here previously and has subsequently gone on to lower her 100 mile PB to 15:10 as she has steadily improved.
Both were in amongst the lead group of half a dozen runners from the start, setting a blistering pace. Ingrid Led the early miles before Zoe put in a big effort between Wraysbury at mile 22 and Dorney the 50km mark to run into the lead. The gap between them remainded under 10 minutes all the way to Henley and the 'half way' point of the race where Zoe's 7:12 elapsed was good for a 12 minute lead. Both were clearly working hard in the warm afternoon conditions but seemed to be under control as the potential for a new course record (Sam Amend's 16:00) began to increase. Behind Zoe and Ingrid however, sat Ali Young, one of the UK's most consistent performers over the longer flatter distances in recent years.
Into the second half, Zoe's gap grew slightly on Ingrid to Goring/ Mile 70 but after that, her pace dropped right off as she faltered. Ingrid was slowing too but not to the same degree and at Clifton Hampden with 15 miles to go, the gap was down to just 6 minutes. That seemed to be all the impetus that Zoe required however, as she dug deep to increase her pace again and found a very strong push over the last 10km to come home in 16:16, the second fastest ever time on this course. Ingrid held her steady second half pace through to the end and came home in 16:44. Ali Young also hit some trouble in the final third but held on for third in 17:38.
The mens race was a very different affair. We always see an incredibly fast start here and this time was no different, with several guys running a low 7 minute mile pace for the first half marathon. It is flat and mainly paved and it is just too tempting for many, not to hammer those early miles. But very rarely do we see that pay dividends towards even the second half of the race. So it was again this time with one runner, Tristan Stephenson, coming through to dominate the day.
Tristan was second at the Arc of Attrition earlier this year and had a very matter of fact approach to this race. He really focused on two things - even paced effort as far as possible and a tilt at Richard Mcdowell's 13:43 course record from the year before. The diversion after Henley added a mile to the course and that was clearly a factor but Tris factored that in and took it in his stride.
Initially he ran just inside the top ten, but by the marathon mark he was through the pack who were fading already and held his steady pace, set for the day. Metronomic, he came through half way in 6:38, absolutely miles outside of Rich Mcdowell's record splits but cognisant of the fact that Rich faded in the second half. Tristan's plan was to quite simply, not do that. A slight foot issue and a stomach that wasn't as co-operative as it could have been were seemingly the only things that stood in his way. That caused him to slow slightly over the last 50km but most of his miles were still regularly under 9 minute pace and it was clear the record was going to be a close run thing. His competition by this stage were already over 10km in arrears. In the end, he crossed the line just underneath the 14 hour mark with a 13:59:38 for his efforts. With the diversion it was clear he would have been closer to Richard's time but perhaps not under it given the overall difference of a mile, What would have been incredible would have been for the two to have raced each other on the ground. Perhaps some other time!!!
Julien Cazorla went off fast and rightly so given his continual improvement to a 15:02 at the A100 last year. He held second place from CP2 all the way to the finish and whilst he did not have a dream day, his 15:56 was good enough for another podium. Third place went to Tom Kingham in 16:18 who contrary to most of the faster guys, did pace well over the duration. From 15th at CP1 to 3rd by the end.
FV40 went to Ali Young in 17:38. FV50 to Maree Jesson in 21:31 and for the first time in many years we had an FV60 finisher - Jan Payne in 27:33.
Jan Payne with Robert Treadwell
MV40 went to second placed overall, Julien Cazorla. MV50 to Will Raybould in 17:54. First MV60 was Christopher Leech in 25:32. We had two MV70 finishers which is unusual in one event. The lead home was Ken Fancett in 22:25, just outside of his own record. This was Kens tenth TP100, his 35th 100 mile finish with us and 90th all time 100 mile finish.
One other fascinating result from the day came from Stewart Dutfield. Finishing close to the cut off in 27:32, he seemed unassuming in his finish, but pleased to make it. Ultrarunning historian Andy Milroy contacted us after the race to let us know that Stewart jumped from 10th to 1st on a very special all time list with this finish, however - the longest duration of any 100 mile career on record. Stewart's first 100 mile finish came 44.93 years ago. We will endeavour to find out more about this incredible devotion to the sport!
Thanks as ever to the 100+ volunteers and staff that made this another successful, safe and well received 100 mile weekend on the Thames.
Stuart March Photography
Stuart March Photography
Stuart March Photography
Stuart March Photography
The 2022 Track 100 marked the third edition of this event and it seemed it would be close to an impossible task to better the 2021 race for athlete success. Obviously back then we were just a few weeks out of full lockdown here in the UK and the protocols that were required to keep everybody safe were substantial. But the effort was worth it as Aleksandr Sorokin blitzed through 100 miles in 11:14 setting a new World Record, before continuing on to the 12 Hour mark to set a new World Best there too. In the womens race, Sam Amend set a new British Womens 100 Mile Record of 14:34. A total of 14 new World, Continental and National Bests were achieved.
Rolling on to this year, the field had improved up a notch again and the anticipation coming into it was enormous. Aleksandr was back, this time targetting the 100km distance. As he already held every record from 100 mile through to 24 Hour, it seemed to be a huge ask for him to shoot for the World Record of 6:09. That kind of range in ultra running, 6 hour through to 24 hour has not been seen for nearly 70 years when Wally Hayward held 100km, 100 mile and 24 hour marks in 1953.
In the womens race we welcomed two world class international athletes. Camille Herron from the USA, like Aleksandr, came in holding 100 mile, 12 hour and 24 hour world records. Dominika Stelmach from Poland, the fourth fastest 100km runner of all time, with top ten all time 50km marks to her name was there to challenge over 6 and 12 hours. Would the two end up duelling it out and taking records to new heights?
The remainder of the field contained the best of British athletes including Sam Amend, back to improve on her existing record. Plus one Frenchman, Thomas Lepers focused on the 12 hour distance.
To top it all off, we welcomed Claudia Burrough to the race, aiming to become the first wheelchair athlete to set marks from 50km upwards in such a setting. Truly pioneering a new area for the sport in the process.
Camille Herron early in the race (Steve Ashworth)
Race day dawned bright, temperatures around 8 degrees rising to 15 through the day, but with a cruel wind that stayed steady at around 15mph, gusting up to double that. Out of the gusts things felt manageable but the gusts were frequent and became more so, making the runners' lives more difficult as the day wore on.
Straight out of the gate, Aleksandr dropped into running the 1:29 per lap/ 5:56 per mile pace he required to go through the 100km mark in 6:09. In fact, every lap he increased his margin over the record by a second or two ranging between a 1:25 fastest and 1:29 slowest. It was metronomic, much like his 2021 run and beyond inspiring to watch. Crewed by his brother Maksim who was certainly the most relaxed person at the track, the clock slowly wound away and Aleksandr remained on pace. His 50km mark at 3:01 was a new Lithuanian National Record. His 50 mile split of 4:53 good enough for fourth fastest all-time and just 13 seconds away from Don Ritchie's split when he set the previous World Record of 6:10, a record many of us still viewed as the one to beat. Aleksandr just didn't fade. He went through 98.496km in 6 hours which was a new World Record again taken from Don. Before he tore through the line in 6:05:41 to take four minutes off of the existing world record. He looked relatively fresh at the finish.
Aleksandr Running Through His Bell Lap (Steve Ashworth)
Never have we seen range like this and marks get broken by such margins by one man. What comes next, we can only wonder.
In the womens race it was Dominika Stelmach who led the charge. She set a blistering pace from the gun, showing her 50km pedigree. It was clear from early on that she was going to be around the 50 mile world record mark of 5:40 and the 6 hour world record mark on the same pace of 6:56 per mile. She gapped the rest of the womens field by a substantial margin, including Camille.
Dominika Stelmach (Steve Ashworth)
But the pace began to slip at around four hours in and the margin under the 50 mile and 6 hour open world record marks, slipped away. She did hold on for a new World FV40 50 mile record of 5:51:28 however, before running through to a new FV40 6 hour world record of 82.217km.
At this point Camille was just 3 kilometres behind and setting new USATF National records in the process including a new 6hr US Open record of 79.035km.
The gap between the two began to shrink at this point as Dominika slowed, seemingly having a tough time in the wind, with Camille remaining near metronomic in her pacing much like Aleksandr.
Camille passed Dominika just a few laps before the 100km mark where she set a new USATF FV40 record of 7:39. With Dominika just a minute back in 7:40. At that point, Dominika called it a day which left Camille running against only herself for the 12 hour and 100 mile marks.
Alas, it wasn't to be and on a day when she felt things never quite clicked for her energy wise, she made the decision to call it a day and save her efforts for Western States in 9 weeks time. Camille set a total of four US National Records. Dominika two World FV40 and two Polish National Open records.
Around the six to eight hour time frame, athletes began tumbling from the running. From the 15 starters, Peter Abraham, James Stewart, Cat Simpson, Jo Zakrzewksi and Ian Hammett all called time on their races early. And with Aleks, Camille and Dominika all out before the 10 hour mark, there was a gap before the best of British and our lone Frenchman would reach their 12 hour and 100 mile targets. Peter Windross also stopped prior to the 12 hour mark having gone out hard. He did manage to scoop a new MV50 British record over 6 hours of a hair over 82km however.
Alex Whearity (Steve Ashworth)
In the mens race, Alex Whearity had gone out hard and was gradually fading but fading only to what was still a phenomenal time. His 50 mile in 5:49 and 100km mark of 7:31 were solid to say the least. He never really looked in doubt to get it done. He eventually ran home the 100 mile race mens winner in 12:42:04 to post the 11th fastest ever British 100 mile time. The only other man to make it to the 100 mile mark was Mike Stocks. Back for retribution after his 2021 run ended early, Mike set a new IAU MV50 record of 13:41:19. There are two other V50 marks faster than his which are pending ratification so it won't be clear until they are processed if Mike has earned that World Best, or top three all-time. All the same a sensational run.
In the Womens race, Samantha Amend blew everyone away, just three weeks after finishing second at the British 100km Championships by running through to a 12 hour British record of 140.310km and holding on for a huge improvement in her own British 100 mile record of 14:10:51. Along the way she also improved the British womens FV40 50 mile mark to 6:36:27.
Sam Amend (Steve Ashworth)
Final finisher in the womens race was Eloise Eccles who ran one of the most conistent races of the day to finish in 15:36:31. Good enough for the 15th fastest British all-time 100 mile.
In a race all of her own, easily up there with any of the other performances of the day, was Claudia Burrough. Claudia had covered 100 miles in a chair before during the 2020 lockdown when she clocked a time of 15:20 in our virtual event. But this was the first time she had properly raced the distance. In fact from everything Claudia, ourselves and the British Wheelchair Racing Association can glean, she set new benchmarks at every distance on route. It was not all plain sailing. The strength and resilience she showed as her back began to seize up and her fingers generated enormous blisters under her gloves, was truly astonishing. At one point on the way to 100km in 8:45 she had a longer stop. But as she got past that mark, a renewed focus clearly established and she never looked back. Her 100 mile time of 14:44:13 should rightly blow everyones minds. What a privilege it was to watch somebody dig as deep on the path to pioneering a completely unknown area for the sport.
Claudia Burrough (Steve Ashworth)
Thank you's are needed in abundance for this race. It is a huge undertaking for just 15 athletes. On the day we welcomed six officials including the General Secretary of the IAU, Hilary Walker to oversee the race. 20 volunteers manned the check point and looked after the crews and runners. Seven staff. Our media team. The spectators who made it feel like the special day it was and everyone at Bedford International Stadium, we thank you.
Details for 2023 are already available here. We can't wait to see what this event holds in store next time around.
Race day for this tenth edition of the South Downs Way 50 dawned cold and crisp, with bright blue skies and the promise of a spectacular day running along this very special course.
This was the first mass start of a larger field since 2019. The first time our pop up store had been back at a race since that year. The first time we were back to the buzz and excitement of the community truly being able to interact 'normally' once again and what a relief it was. The sense of community spirit has never been stronger than this weekend and what a wonderful occasion it was.
378 runners struck out at 0830 and 80 volunteers were on hand to support their every need.
The mens race looked closer on paper than it had done in the run up as Hoka athlete Harry Jones was a late non-starter. The womens race was clearly going to be contended by a number of leading lights. Both fields delivered exciting racing down to the wire.
Unfortunately whilst the fastest out of the gate made the right turns, a group of nine went straight on a little past Cissbury Ring, rejoined the course 3.7 miles further along than they should have done and hence the race on the ground was flipped on its head. The nine were told at Check Point 1 of the error and that unforutnately they would be facing a time penalty but could continue. To their temendous credit, all took the news in good grace. Quickly they became known as the Naughty Nine and much banter was had at the check points along the way as they came through.
Gradually the top men and the leading lady on the ground, Bethan Male, ran past the nine and the true race for positions unfolded.
The womens race was a runaway for Beth. She cruised home in 7:12:25 in what was a fantastic tune up for the SDW100 in June. She must surely be hoping to take a dip at Jean Beaumonts now nine year old course record.
Bethan Male (Photo: Stuart March Photography)
2021 Champion Sarah Hill and La Sportiva athlete Anna-Marie Watson were two of the nine to take the detour, which was such a shame as they were obviously two of the likely contenders for the podium. Their 60 minute penalties meant that they were out of the running. Stacey Sangster took second in 7:48. Third place went to Dani Battersby who ran on to the track about 10 metres in front of fourth placed Claire Kanja. It was only then that they were told they were third and fourth due to time penalties ahead, it made for quite the exciting final 400 metres.
In the mens race, Luke Davis who ran a solid race here last year, took it to the next level and ran home for the win in 6:49:10. Second went to Stuart Farmer who crossed the line under 2 minutes later, having entered the track with Luke still to finish. We love to see finishes where two people are duking it out on the track at the same time. Third went to the improving Guy Hudson in 6:52. The top ten guys were spread over a period of just 22 minutes.
Luke Davis (Photo: Stuart March Photography)
In the Age Categories, MV40 went to Stuart Farmer also second overall. MV50 to the now world famous Thai Cave Rescue Diver Jon Volanthen (friend of the show) in 8:20. MV60 to Phil Hoy in 9 hours flat and MV70 to David Rootes in 11:54.
FV40 went to Stacey Sangster in second overall and FV50 to Lisa Blayden in 10:11.
In total 353 runners made it over the line out of 378 starters for a 93% finisher rate. Pretty amazing stats overall.
Thank you so much as ever to our wonderful team of volunteers who allowed this season opener to go so smoothly.
One Slam came back for 2022 as the only virtual event we retained after the 'end' of most of the covid restrictions here in the UK. All of the virtual events that we held prior to this one, were across periods of lock-down or where restrictions prevented in-person events from happening.
But one of the silver linings of the pandemic for us, was an ability to reach our community a different way, a way to involve a much broader spectrum of runners. For all sorts of reasons our events are not accesible to all. Either through geography, distance or age limits, many people simply cannot or will not ever be able to run one of our races. But they can take on something like the One Slam and be part of something special involving our community remotely.
We looked at the Slam as kind of 'pre-season training'. As runners ourselves, we got so much out of the experience of the two month long initial slam which ran February through March 2021. By extending it and adding other distance options we tried to engage an even broader audience this time and that seemed to work well.
598 runners took part in one of the five distances on offer, from 100 to 1000 miles over 100 days. What a journey it was. The Bolt On events gave us some additional focus at regular points along the way and most of the runners took part in at least one of the five challenges.
Several things make this event so fulfilling despite it's unique and almost exclusively remote set-up. People sharing how much faster and stronger they have got through the consistent running that this challenge requires. Watching people aged 4 to 84 taking part in one of our events and achieving such a tremendous long term ambition. Plus of course on the charity side, this event raised £2500 spread across NHS Charities Together and MIND. Two causes which have been the recipients of our virtual event takings on each occasion since the initial One Community event in May 2020.
We will hold this again in 2023, possibly with some minor changes and we'll be asking our 2022 runners what they would like to see in terms of the Bolt Ons and Distances on offer, so that we can continue to refine this and give people the maximum benefit from taking something unique like this on.
Thank you to all who took part and we hope you go on to your best ever athletic year after the foundation that the Slam provided!
Project Pillock: Kate Anna-Louise Jayden and Gareth Allen with Jonathan Rolinson
Bradley Joel Earwaker
Graham Carter and Zoe Norman
Gabrielle Yates and Verity Tudor
With great thanks to all of our runners for keeping the One Community Weeks going. This time, Storm Dudley and then Eunice made the going towards the end of the week, extremely tough for most people in the UK! With many having to stay indoors through Red Alerts for one or more days. But persevere we did, as a community as ever!
Funds raised were divided between MIND and NHS Charities Together. With 35 Trees planted with Trees not Tees, on behalf of runners foregoing awards.
A selection of pictures taken by runners during the week are below. Until the next time....
From: Susie Blunt
Linn Erixon Sahlstrom