The weather gods treated the volunteers of the 5th North Downs Way 100 to a beautiful weekend of sunshine, warm temperatures and clear skies. For the runners that meant some stunning views from the ridge but some difficult conditions to contend with during the first and for some, second days.
218 runners started out from Farnham at 0600, all with the dream of making it to Wye in Kent by noon the following, 103 miles to the east.
Through the early stages of the race, course record holder and 2013 champion Ed Catmur blazed away from the rest of the field and got himself to the 50 mile check point 30 minutes ahead of second place. Ed has raced with us many times in the past and has a number of trademarks that are easy to spot. The typical pattern might be fast start, solid middle, dodgy stomach, big slow down and a concession of time in the latter stages. The reality is however, that however hard he goes and however much he tails off, Ed really can suffer with the best of them. He pushes himself all the way and regularly requires ‘some time’ at the finish. This event went exactly to script and as he emerged in to Detling, with a 45 minute plus lead, he spent 20 minutes in the check point tending to various issues. He left determined and in the end faded just little enough that he held off the closing of Ally Watson. Ally had a very impressive debut 100 mile coming in just 9 minutes behind of Ed’s 18:02 winning time. Ed’s raised eyebrows when Ally walked in to the hall at the end said a lot. Jeremy Isaac ran close to Ally for large portions of the race and held on for third overall in 18:56.
The ladies race wasn’t entirely as predicted but yielded yet another incredible run from now triple Centurion 2015 100 mile champion, Sally Ford. Sally started in and around the top ten as in her previous two wins of this year, moving up through the places and reaching half way in good shape. Behind her, she gave Mari Mauland only five minutes however, and got on with the job after Knockholt of closing out the race. That she did in emphatic style. She looked relaxed and comfortable all the way and stormed home to a 19:20 winning time, taking 49 minutes off of the previous course record. That was a 9hr PB on the course for Sally. Mari faded during the final stages and in the end was just overhauled by Maryann Devally who took second in 21:17:56. Mari’s time was 21:24:37 for third.
The overall picture was one of struggle for many, with the conditions of the day presenting hot, humid weather. Fueling issues were rife. As the day wore in to night, conditions turned in to close to ideal however with low wind, no rain and temperatures around 13 degrees. That allowed 53 people to come in under the 24hr mark to earn their 100 MILE - ONE DAY buckles, the final of those being Donna Mitchell who made it with just 12 seconds to spare.
As the Grand Slam moves on to the 4th and final event of the year, Sally Ford has the overall lead on Peter Kaminsky (SDW100 overall champion) by 25 minutes, but is a way off of Dave Ross’s Grand Slam record.
In the end a total of 137 finished this 5th edition of the race for a percentage of 62%. One of the lowest finisher rates we have seen at a Centurion 100 miler.
A massive thanks to all the volunteers, crews, medics and staff that looked after runners flawlessly from beginning to end.