This race once again set a number of records for us, particularly notable were:
At the sharp end of the race, the lead up was full of discussion about some very interesting battles that might shape up on the day. In the men’s race the head to head seemed to be between returning champ and CR holder Paul Navesey and young money, Victor Mound. At 20 years of age Victor finished 4th in 2014, however his recent training and race results told us that he was likely to go very much quicker this time out.
We felt a time around 5:50 would see the win in good conditions and the two boys were both training (sometimes together) towards that target. Alas, Paul’s calf continued to act up during the core of his training block and with a few extra weeks to the Highland Fling he made the wise decision to sit this one out and save it for Scotland. That left one man on a mission….
In the ladies race we had 4 stellar ladies looking to make a mark, however Sarah Perkins and Emily Canvin were both forced out with issues prior to the start and in the end Gemma Carter’s day ended early at Housedean, leaving one woman on a mission….
A very busy registration at our new location in Worthing College preceded race start at 0900 prompt. After 500 yards and the turn in to the trail, Victor had a 20 second lead and pursued the hill at effort. He didn’t let up all day, but for a man with such raw speed as he possesses, he also ran a remarkably smart race. At Botolphs, Saddlescombe, Ditchling Beacon and on down to Housedean and the marathon mark, his splits were within a couple of minutes, sometimes less, of Pauls’ 2014 CR splits. He looked incredibly comfortable and had such a massive lead from the start that it seemed a foregone conclusion he would literally run away with it.
In to Southease he was behind his ETA, though ahead of Paul’s time, but over the section down to Alfriston he made great going and started to show he could possibly break the 6hr mark and the finish line team were set up in good time for it.
Over the trig point with 2.8 miles to go and Victor flew down the hill at a cracking pace. In fact his last few miles were all mid-6 minute miling. He made the track with 5:51:30 on the clock and ran a 90 second split for 5:53.
How good a run was it? He nailed it. One of those times a runner trains hard for one goal, knows exactly what he is capable of on the day, runs a well paced strategic race irrespective of all other runners, and gets it as close to perfect as possible. The time says a lot, the conditions were not perfect, some sticky mud in places and a wind that switched between North and North-Easterly, but pretty good for April on the downs. Victor showed that his future potential is scarily exciting.
Behind Victor Pip (Jack) Blackburn ran a great race, despite suffering a low patch on the climb out of Southease put the gas down and broke the 6:30 barrier for second place. Third went to Jon Ellis in only his second ultra, who powered around the track just ahead of Doug Murray who continues to astound in his strength from year to year - both just under the 7hr mark. That race looked exciting but in fact Doug had let Jon push ahead after he made a nav error in the final couple of miles and re-appeared behind of him. Doug is a true sportsman.
In the ladies race, Sarah sat in and around top 10 overall all day. With 3 previous trophies to her name at our 100 mile events, and a heartbreaking nav error at the 2013 event, where she lost out on a clear win with a couple of miles to go, she was back to make amends and put a great long effort behind her before she travels to the World Trail Champs to represent Team GB in a months time. She wasn’t threatened all day and in the end came home with a time of 7:19, 8 minutes outside Eddie Sutton’s CR but 48 minutes ahead of 2nd place Alex Coomber in a super effort 7:53. 3rd place was picked up by Kate Rennie in 8:07. Both made up places throughout the day, typical of the leading ladies.
311 people eventually crossed the line. Every one of those runners goes through their own incredible story in the lead up to the race and then the day itself. The sense of community around each of the CPs where our incredible volunteers assisted every one of them as if they were rock stars, was palpable. For that and the efforts on both sides, we are incredibly grateful.
As the day wore on and the light faded, a bright and nearly full moon came out over the track at Eastbourne and the final headlamp lights could be seen descending off of the downs and into the town. We knew that Maxine Lock now at the back and just ahead of our sweeper was cutting it fine but we weren’t prepared for just how fine. With 2 and a half minutes to go to the 13hr hard cut off, she made it on the track and a crowd of people screamed at her to get shifting. She began to run stronger but on the back straight seemed to slow again and with 200 to go I was convinced she’d miss the cut by 10 seconds or so. On the final bend however she dug as deep as she could and in a truly inspirational feat, made it over the line with a whole 9 seconds to spare. Thank you to the finish line team for setting up the gantry where they did and not another 50 metres further on!
Sarah Morwood our ladies winner, decided earlier in the day that the lady who spent longest on the course was more deserving of the trophy then her, and so left it behind for Maxine who was awarded it at her finish. What a sport we have!!!
A huge thank you to all the volunteers, runners, staff, crew members and of course South Downs National Park who made this an incredible opening event to our 2015 season.