The Piece of String Fun Run made a come back this year after a 5 year hiatus whilst the twin RDs recovered from having children. After 3 editions and 9 total finishers it was time to give runners a break and make this one really easy to finish.
The race format echoed previous years. Runners had a start time and location but that was all. No indicators of the route or how far they would need to run in order to finish. In many ways this could be the purest running race format of all. Runners must simply switch off to the constant pressures of the garmin/ suunto argument. Distance being something to be forgotten, not fixated upon.
As in previous years we limited the field size to 10 select individuals. Applications were received from far and wide. The first test is passing the application process and many fell short at the first hurdle in failing to apply in the correct way. Their submissions were filed directly into the trash receptacle, both electronic and material, without further exploration.
We then whittled down those who had applied using the correct procedure to those we felt had a very solid chance of lasting at least several hours of torment. This was without doubt the highest calibre field we have yet had start a Piece of String. The reigning champion David Pryce was joined by Grand Slammers, Double Grand Slammers and finishers of multiple high level ultras. Our one female starter Allie Bailey was our only Upper Class starter having sent us by far the most spectacular entry yet received, complete with numerous wax seals and eloquent prose.
All seemed prepared for a very long outing, the day would unfold as it would unfold....
Race started at 0853 prompt and runners were sent out on a reverse of our Chiltern Wonderland 50 course beginning in Streatley on Thames. The pack hit the high street in Goring after half a mile, as one, and were immediately diverted to the train station where they were supplied with tickets for the 0919 to Reading, Thames Path maps and the instruction to make it back to Goring by 1230 on foot by any route of their choosing. Having supplied each of them with trackers, but having hidden the link so only we could see it, it was somewhat amusing to see Ivor Hewitt 'drop the hammer' and proceed to come back north of the river via Caversham on the most direct route possible.
Ivor won the initial race back to Goring by quite a margin! He came home with 10.5 miles on his watch and at least a 20 minute lead! Superb! But then he found out that meant he simply had a longer wait during which to get quite cold, whilst the others straggled in to re-congregrate in time for their next train.
This time the runners were on the midday service to Maidenhead! And were joined in the carriage by the two RDs. This seemed to perturb some of the 9 more than others, who were convinced more diversionary tactics were imminent.
Alas they were disappointed as said RDs departed at Reading to enjoy a casual leisure jog back up the river. The runners got off at Maidenhead and began a southerly run via the Thames Path once again. As far as Runnymede, the field began to spread out with certain runners looking to gain a 'lead' over rivals.
This turned out to be less futile this time as the next stage was unfurled, a marathon down to Kew Green. At this point having been out until darkness, runners had in fact only covered 50 miles or so, due to the substantial time spent on trains or waiting for trains.
Matthew Duckett arrived into Kew first and seemed in fairly high spirits. He was handed the next section, a continuation on the Thames Path past Battersea Park around 8 miles away. He remarked at that point that he was going to be going within just 2km of his house! Little did he know he would actually be going a lot closer than that....
As Matthew continued on with now a circa 30 minute lead over all rivals, runners came and went via Kew in varying degrees of joy and misery. Some were taking things in their stride, expecting the course to have them out most of the weekend. Others complained of issues but bravely soldiered on. Only one runner decided to call it quits there, original Grand Slammer Tremayne Cowdry having had enough for 2019. We were getting some trouble ourselves.
“What are you doing?” – A common question asked by concerned passers-by when you have parked a couple of cars in a dark riverside carpark while shining torches randomly. The first couple conversations tend to be like “we are doing a race, no one knows how far it is. Yes we do but they don’t. Yes we still tell them which way to go. I have no idea how they trained for it. I don’t know when or where they will sleep. Yes I’m sure they have stopped for a wee. Yes they have torches. No they don’t know when they will finish….” Then we got annoyed and instead say “we are dogging. OK?”
Matthew continued apace and was diverted at Battersea Park on a route which led to Balham station, around 5 miles away. He could NOT believe it. We were literally going to have him run down the road parrallel to his flat! On arriving at that point, he was met and diverted down his ACTUAL STREET!!!! due to the road 'being closed up ahead'. Upon arriving at his front gate he found a feather flag cable tied to it (miraculously still there having survived any drunk interest). And promptly became the first finisher of the 2019 Piece of String Fun Run. The course was the shortest ever at 100km exactly. An extremely generous year.
Other runners continued and were seemingly quite happy to continue to Balham, mainly in groups where they were also diverted to finish at Matthew's house. Ivor Hewitt, Andrew Melbourne and John Lovegrove finished second equal, together and promptly joined Matthew in the pub just in time for closing. Fifth placed Nigel Cowan was allowed to finish at the pub itself given that his tracker went black at the last possible minute and he subsequently walked past the amassed finishers in the pub window. Sixth equal went to David Pryce, now the only two time finisher of this event who arrived with Paul Mcleery. First and last place female runner Allie Bailey was at Matthews front door by 0115 Saturday bringing to a close the most successful finisher totals at this race ever. 8 out of 9 starters made it to the end.
What was clear was that this year everyone came prepared for a very long weekend. Each had thought carefully about the format, had given it respect and come ready for what is a huge mental and physical challenge. Many threaten to return for the next edition....
Long live the Piece of String.
When we looked over the entry list for this years Autumn 100 it was clear it was going to be a particularly poignant weekend. It was a vertible who's who of the community of our events. From world class athletes through to those battling to complete epic year long journeys. There are simply too many incredible stories to do justice to, but this will be a slightly longer report than most in an attempt to highlight just some of the ones that stand out and made it an incredibly inspiring weekend for all involved.
The weather for this eighth edition was classically autumnal, as we come to expect for this weekend in the calendar. But as opposed to cold, windy and wet of recent years, we simply had wet. It rained on and off for the duration of the race, making the course muddy in all the usual places and making things pretty miserable at times for those battling on. That being said, however muddy the course gets each time, there is still an awful lot of good running and we saw some absolutely spectacular racing at the front end in times better than we've ever seen before.
We've had some exciting races and some record performances in the mens events so far this year and this was a continuation of that. Conditions whilst not ideal with the mud at times, did not hamper the front of the field and with temperatures in the mid teens, the rain if anything made things pretty close to ideal if it weren't for the rain. Geoff Cheshire previous Chiltern Wonderland 50 champion led out on leg one with authority establishing a gap of a few minutes in the first 10km over second place Henrik Westerlin the Danish international and 100 mile record holder. The group behind were hot on their heels and packed full of solid runners including previous champ here Ed Catmur, Grand Slam leader John Melbourne, Paul Russhard, Gary House and Stephen Marks - all of whom would go on to strong finishes.
On leg 2, Geoff maintained his roughly 5 minute lead over Henrik, both seemed to be comfortable and the gap seemed to be staying the same. Henriks transitions were quicker however and he left just 3 minutes behind Geoff, a margin which he had turned into a lead by the 100km mark up at Chain Hill. Both ran hard back to Goring mile 75, Geoff making a slight detour at East Hendred before quickly realising his error. Henrik arrived first a few seconds under 10 hours and it looked likely he could run home a course record if he could maintain on leg four. Geoff arrived 17 minutes back and it seemed a big gap to close with Henrik looking so strong. Indeed positions remained the same and it became a simple matter of what of the major targets, Henrik could add to the win: Course record of 14:07? An all time Centurion 100 mile best of sub 14:03? Or breaking the magic 14 hour barrier that we have yet to see at one of our trail 100s? In the end it was the first two marks but not the third as he came home in 14:02:19. A sensational run in conditions that at times did not make for fast running.
2019 A100 Mens Champion Henrik Westerlin striding out on leg two
Geoff came back inbound on leg four with tremendous strength having been somewhat scared into running hard to maintain second by an, as usual, charging John Melbourne - reminiscent of the finish of this years SDW100 where John passed Geoff with just 7 miles to go. Geoff came home in 14:31 for the third fastest all time effort on this course. Third place was held by John who just missed out on a third sub 15 hour 100 of the season, his 15:01 rounding out an incredible Grand Slam year. More on that below.
In the mens Age Group awards, the main news is that Ken Fancett is back and has stepped up into the V70 age group. After nearly a year out from running long due to a knee operation, he made his return to 100s here and in doing so racked up his 27th 100 mile finish with us, his time of 22:11 shattering the previous best V70 time we've seen by over an hour. It looks likely that Ken will now go on to re-write the record books once again as he enters this new category as he has continued to do over the past ten years with us.
The MV60 award went to Rui Pedras in 23:50, the MV50 award to Robert Shulman in 19:38 and the MV40 award and new record to Henrik Westerlin the Mens overall race winner.
The race began with last years champion Laura Swanton and 2018 Wendover Woods 50 Champion Amy Sarkies running together, followed closely by Eddie Sutton in third and Caroline Abid in fourth.
2018 A100 Champion Laura Swanton (right) running with Amy Sarkies 7 miles into the race
On the way out to Swyncombe at mile 37.5, Amy opened a substantial gap on the field, arriving 12 minutes ahead of Laura who maintaned a small margin over Eddie and Caroline. That situation remained the same back through the half way point, but both Caroline and Laura were suffering with back issues and lost some pace on Leg three as Centurion Ultra Team runner Eddie moved into second. Amy's gap at the 100km mark was now 22 minutes and she looked comfortable enough to maintain her push. Out onto leg four, positions remained the same but Laura returned to HQ with her injury just too much to push through.
The gaps really opened up on the final leg, Amy stretching away on to come home the winner in 18:30 elapsed, a superb debut 100 for her. Eddie maintained her second position also in another strong debut 100 and came home in 19:48 and Caroline Abid managed to hold on to third despite her back issues in 20:48.
Amy Sarkies with her winners trophy
Eddie Sutton took second place and her first 100 mile finish
In the age group awards, Amy Sarkies' win was also enough to net her the FV40 age group award whilst first FV50 went to Nora Holford in 23:36:22, a new record by just 3 minutes.
The Autumn 100 is the culmination of our 100 mile season and therefeore the final event in the Grand Slam, awarded to those that finish all four races within a calendar year. 35 runners had made it to the start of this race and of course their stories run deeper than most as they have worked hard over such a long period of time just to be fit to start all four, let alone finish. There were some truly remarkable, happy and sad stories from this incredible group.
At the head of the mens leaderboard, John Melbourne came in hoping to put together the most consistent year we'd yet seen since we set up the slam. After finishing 2nd at the TP100 and the SDW100 and 5th at the NDW100, he finished this fourth and final race back on the podium once again in 15:01. His eventual overall time of 61:38:17 is a cumulative tally that could stand for a very long time.
John Melbourne came home in 15:01 to cap an incredible season
In the womens standings, just seven minutes separated Rebecca Lane and Karen Doak coming into the final race. Rebecca was to triumph in the end with a 23:13 finish, exactly an hour ahead of Karen and therefore took the crown as this years champion. Her cumulative time was 94:13:09.
Rebecca Lane took the Womens 100 mile Grand Slam title
At the other end of the field, the final three Grand Slammers out on course left the 75 mile check point on to their final part of their 400 mile journey with determination but without a lot of time to spare.
Sharon Dickson has volunteered at and run in practically all of our events for the past several years. The Grand Slam meant the world to her and she was understandably nervous coming into each event. She finished the first 3 races, with just 20 minutes to spare at the NDW100. 75 miles into the A100, struggling to get in and out of wet clothing she wasn't sure she could do it but she left with 100% commitment to the last part of her journey. She missed the cut off at Reading. Instead of complaining, she removed her number and officially out of the race, walked back to HQ anyway and finished the distance, having thanked everybody out there for their efforts.
Gareth Allen also DNFd his slam at Reading, came back to HQ, smiled and said he was looking forward to trying again next year.
Stephen Crafford ran the original Winter 100 version of this event in our first year 2012, in conditions that made this years look excellent, and didn't make it. Since then he has completed many 100s and was again in the Grand Slam. He made it one check point further than Sharon, and missed the cut off at Whitchurch inbound, with just over 4 miles to go of his 400 mile journey. As upset as he understandably was, he came back to HQ, thanked us for organising a great race and sat down to enjoy his bacon sandwich.
For these runners, the journey is not over. Because they love the sport and are running these races for the right reasons, failure is just part of the process.
The final 100 Mile Grand Slam table can be found here.
Other Performances of Note
Markus Flick from Germany continued his streak of finishing every edition of this race, this being his 8th in a row. He is also the only person to finish all 8 editions of the Thames Path 100. A streak he is set to continue to build on.
Sandra Brown was bidding to become our first FV70 finisher in any event. She ran 26 hours here a few years ago but also dropped with cold at Chain Hill the following year. Unfortunately Sandra found herself off course on Leg 2 and again on Leg 3 and those errors cost her a margin which eventually ended in her dropping at Whitchurch mile 79. We are crossing everything that she tries again - as multiple world record holder and finisher of over 200 x 100 mile events, she has the ability not just to finish here again but to do so comfortably under the cut off.
True Legends of the sport. Ken Fancett and Sandra Brown - with almost 300 x 100 mile finishes between them
Finally, a huge thank you to our 80 volunteers out on course. Some of them spending 15+ hours in the rain and dark to allow runners the chance to fulfil their dreams. 153 made it home under the cut off, with the last being Lorna Muirhead who with 27:55 on the clock crossed the line to complete the Grand Slam. A fitting end to the race. The finisher rate of 65% was in fact bang on the average across all of our events, with most perservering despite the weather.
Lorna was our final finisher and the final Grand Slammer to make it home under the cut off
We move on to our final two events of the season, the Piece of String Fun Run and finally the Wendover Woods 50 where four runners will go on to try and complete the double slam.
Thanks again to everyone involved in making this such an inspiring weekend.
A stunning day on a beautiful course greeted this years participants in the fourth edition of our Chiltern Wonderland 50.
Starting and finishing in the village of Goring which really is a second home for us, the 50 mile loop takes in around 6000ft of climbing and is called the Wonderland for good reason. The trail goes through some of the most picturesque English countryside scenery, anywhere.
Both the mens and womens races looked competitive on paper, without one stand out front runner and we were looking forward to two exciting races.
As it turned out, both Ed Knudsen and Rachel Fawcett would eventually triumph having led from start to finish, but both favoured quite different approaches to the same end goal.
In the mens race, Ed went out so hard that he had a three minute gap by the 5km mark as runners came to the end of the short opening stretch on the Thames Path. His strategy was a bold one and on a warm day with temperatures topping out at 23 degrees, perhaps even bolder than it might have been. By Bix at CP2, Ed had maintained his lead over Mark Innocenti in second and Pete Vale in third. He stretched out to Ibstone and was well under course record pace there, making it through the check point which marks roughly the half way point, in 3:07, he was now around 6 minutes up on course record pace (3:13).
Ed Knudsen ran away from the field right from the gun
But closing hard behind him was Neil Kirby, arriving just inside course record pace in second with Mark Innocenti within a minute behind him. Pete Vale in fourth was also in sight as second and third made it to the check point.
But from there on in it was all change. Ed made it through Swyncombe and Grims Ditch, the final check point with 9 miles to go having slowed a little but having been granted a little respite as both Neil and Mark dropped from the race. Wendover Woods 50km winner Rahil Sachak-Patwa however seemed to have the most consistent pacing strategy of the day and from the half way mark began to close the hardest. At Grims Ditch, mile 41, he had moved into second just nine minutes back of Ed. To add to the drama, Ed began suffering severe cramp with 7 miles to go and it seemed possible that Rahil could close the shrinking gap. So much so that we weren't sure who would emerge first back into Goring and the finish straight.
Rahil moved up to second in the third quarter of the race
In the end, Ed rallied and did in fact bring it home in 6:34 for the second fastest time we've seen on this course. Rahil had also eventually sucumbed to some cramping and came in second, in 6:47. Third place went to Pete Vale in 6:51.
In the womens race, Rachel led from the start and was closely followed by the two other leading contenders, Charley Jennings and Amelia Watts. Rachel was pushing for her second win here, and to extend her Grand Slam 50 mile lead and looked focused from the outset.
Her lead through Bix CP2 was just two minutes however, over Amelia and Charley who arrived within a further 60 seconds of one another, Charley marginally ahead at that point.
Amelia Watts and Charley Jennings
Between CP2 and CP3, Amelia passed Charley and arrived 5 minutes behind of Rachel who still led. The positions would remain the same throughout the remainder of the day as all three leading ladies ran consistent races, passing as usual, many of the leading men who had gone out harder earlier on. The only real question was whether Rachel could just dip under the existing course record from Amy White last year, of 7:55.
As the minutes ebbed away, the course reecord slipped just out of reach and Rachel crossed the line for her second win here in 7:59:51. This was a huge 42 minute improvement over her last win here, and puts her third on the all time list for this event. Amelia went on to take second in 8:15 and Charley hung on to third in a time of 8:45.
Rachel and Ed our 2019 Champions
With the final few minutes ticking down, our final runner out on course was Claudia Fedoroff who has volunteered literally dozens of times for us. She also happens to be running the Grand Slam and needed the finish to keep her going on to the fourth and final event at Wendover. We were all willing her home and with just under 4 minutes to the cut off she made it over the line and became the 215th finisher of our 233 starters.
This was a record finisher rate and record total number of finishers at this race.
Claudia Fedoroff was pretty pleased to make it home in time!
Age Group Awards were awarded as follows. A special mention to John Fanshawe who ran home in 10:18:17, at age 73 set a new V70 50 mile record across all of our events and also came in ahead of all starters in the MV60 category too. John is a world class athlete within his age group, his 3:35 at Tokyo marathon last year ranking him 6th in the UK for the distance.
Rachel's winning time was a FV40 win also as well as a new age group record.
FV50 went to Laura Hales in 9:39:25
Pete Vale was first MV40 in 6:51:34
Andy Jones first MV50 in 8:54:57
Nick Thompson first MV60 in 12:35:46.
In the Grand Slam, the current leaders solidified their standings at the top of the table. Rachel Fawcett extended her lead over Charley Jennings to 1 hour 40 minutes and looks set to substantially lower the overall Slam record. Neil Martin ran home in fourth place here, following a sixth and a fourth at the previous two events. He now leads the overall standings by 1 hour and 50 minutes.
The table as it is can be found here with one event to go. 51 runners remain in the fight for the Grand Slam award.
All Photos Courtesy of Jack Atkinson Photography
The first edition of the Track 100 brought a small, elite field of ultra distance athletes together to compete against each other and the clock under the optimal racing conditions.
Over the past year we have compiled the most comprehensive list of GB 100 mile records ever collated (see here for further details) and are still adding to it. Historical performances have been unearthed thanks to statisticians, particular thanks to Andy Milroy and Adrian Stott.
Our aim was to bring a 100 mile track race back to the calendar with the specific intention of getting together the highest calibre field possible, to go after some of the all time records and re-establish this format as a championship event.
Small factors go a long way in allowing runners to make the marginal gains. The race took place at the Julie Rose Stadium in Ashford, a superb facility largely protected from the wind. The race took place in lanes 1,2 and 3 with the crew and official aid station all in lane 4 to minimise any additional distance runners had to travel to receive support.
We had chosen September to give us a chance of optimal conditions on the day and it is fair to summise that they were close to perfect. 10 degrees at the start, rising to a high of 17 but with a cooling light breeze at times and one or two brief passing showers, we had our dream day.
Eight runners came together on race morning for the 0600 start, the final cut off being set at 17 hours or 2300 that evening. Amongst them were six men and two women, all of whom had met the stringent qualifying criteria we put in place.
Splits were taken at each of the ultra distance marks on route to the final 100 mile distance. 50km, 40 mile, 50 mile, 100km, 150km, 6 hour and 12 hour.
Out front right from the gun was Thomas Payn. With a marathon PB of 2:17 and national level performances at every distance from 800 metres through to 100km over the past decade, he was on paper the highest calibre runner in the field. Whilst this was a significant step up in distance on the flat for him, he has had finishes at tough mountain 100 milers in recent years including 100 miles Sud De France and UTMB. The question was whether he could combine all of his experience and run a well executed race. Something that is so elusive in long distance track events.
Tom cruising during the early miles
His pace over the early stages was metronomic. Right around the 7 to 7:15 minute mile mark putting him in the realms of the British Record holder Don Ritchie's 11:30 set back in 1977. Through the 50km barrier in 3:44 before speeding up towards the 40 mile barrier which he reached in 4:46. He slowed a little over the next couple of hours, crossing the 50 mile point in 6:00:41 before suffering his first and only significant issues of the race. His knee was bothering him a little and he seemed to have a minor low patch as he ran through 100km in 7:35. But this is perhaps making too much of something which he overcame with total authority. He continued to smile and greet everyone with polite nods and thank you's lap after lap after lap. Through 150km in 11:32, there seemed to be less and less time for any possible issues to arise and it became clear that we were going to be lucky enough to witness one of the truly great all time GB 100 mile performances. His finish time of 12:25:30 was the 8th fastest time run by a Briton, and the second fatest time of the last 35 years behind only Mark Perkins.
Above: Tom crosses the line for the win. Below: Greeted by his wife Rachel who crewed him throughout the race.
In the womens race, Jess Gray and Debbie Martin-Consani both started with 5 hours of patient, consistent and dead even paced running. With only the two in the race, this was far more about achieving personal goals. Debbie still holds the Scottish 100 mile record of 15:48 and Jess has her PB of 16:42 from our Autumn 100, both were looking to lower their marks.
Unfortunately, Jess ran into stomach issues just prior to the six hour mark. And after battling back and forth and trying to grit through it, her day sadly ended shortly after as she was unable to get any fuel on board.
That left Debs out there to battle the track and the mental and physical demons that this format brings. A previous winner of all of our 100 mile races with the exception only of the Autumn 100 (2nd in 2014), Debs is one of the most consistent 100 mile and 24 hour runners of the past decade. But it was not all plain sailing on the day and she battled the roller coaster ups and downs, especially through the middle portion of the race when the finish goals seem to be so far away.
Through each low point she rallied and found her groove again and began to reel the finish in. With just a few hours to go it was clear she was looking at a time in the vicinity of her 100 mile best. Although she slowed a little in the final stages it was all running through to the final lap, and she crossed the line in 16:21:03 for the win and a second best 100 mile time for her.
Debs with yet another Centurion Winners Trophy
Behind Thomas there were a string of fine performances in the mens race. Ry Webb and Matt Dickinson went off together and seemed to have similar goal paces in mind from the outset. Ry had an extremely good day with only one fairly substantial wobble around the start of the final third of the race where his stomach and then his calves caused some issues. But he toughed through that and eventually crossed the line for second place in 13:24:59. A superb result for him.
Ry Webb on route to second place in the mens race
Fairly early on in the race, Matt began to suffer stomach issues but fought with grit and determination to both handle things as best as he could, whilst ignoring what he couldn't. It was a truly gutsy run from the start. He ended up being forced to stop as many as 28 times for toilet breaks and yet emerged each time focusing in on what was left to achieve. With 20 or so miles to go it was clear that he could still break the 14 hour barrier despite all adversity and he wound the race in lap by lap to achieve that mark with nine minutes to spare, a final time of 13:51:09.
Matt Dickinson crossing the line at the end of a hard fought battle
Behind Matt, Andy Jordan came into the race focused on a MV55 record, certainly on a UK level and with an eye on a world best mark. He stayed consistent all day and like Matt, wound the race in lap by lap, focused in on his dream target of 15 hours. With a PB of 15:29 previously, he eventually crossed the line to better that mark by 31 minutes with a finish time of 14:57:38. In doing so it seems likely that he has set a new World best mark by beating the mark of Dave Cooper from 1990, of 15:14:35. We will be looking to ratify this mark over the coming weeks.
Andy Jordan in action
Our fifth finisher in the mens race, Mark Bissell also shattered his 100 mile PB in running 15:15:12. His previous best coming on route to a 24hr finish at Tooting Bec.
Mark Bissell with his finishers medal
To have six finish from eight was a tremendous result and it was a wonderful day for all involved. Next years event takes place on April 18th 2020 back at the Julie Rose Stadium in Ashford and we welcome applications from all qualified runners. The website with full details is available here.
The North Downs Way 100. Our fourth 100 miler and seventh event of the 2019 season and the ninth edition of what was our very first race, back in 2011.
A record field of 283 starters and incredible conditions for August. Gone was the storm of 2017 and the excessive heat of 2018. We were left with a warm, but overcast day with light breeze dropping to an almost perfect overnight temperature of 13 degrees. The runners took advantage of this and much as per the SDW100 in June, the race saw not only highest starter number but also several other records. Highest number of finishers, highest finish percentage and our mens course record all fell.
The mens course record has stood since 2013 and it's holder, Ed Catmur went off just behind the early group of front runners. It was this years NDW50 champion, Rob Payne, who set the course alight in the first half. His splits through Newlands mile 14.5, 1:45 and Box Hill, 3:00 flat were miles up on course record splits. In fact, they were within a couple of minutes of his splits at the NDW50 in May. Rob didn't slow down, he simply kept his foot on the gas and he emerged into Knockholt Pound mile 50 in 6:49 elapsed, just a minute down on his winning time from the 50 and over 20 minutes under course record pace. He looked slightly concerned but in control and took his time in the check point to ensure he had what he needed.
Rob Payne built a big lead early on
Meanwhile, Mark Darbyshire in second, had maintained a gap behind Rob of 15 minutes across much of the first half. He came in to the check point at mile 50, 15 minutes back but passed straight through and made up five minutes on Rob in one fell swoop. He looked focused and fast.
Closing the gap over the coming miles, Mark eventually caught Rob just after Bluebell Hill where running together for a short stretch, the two missed a turn and added a few minutes to their respective journeys. Quickly realising their mistake they backtracked and continued on, at which point Mark began to stretch away. His splits over the final marathon were absolutely exceptional as this first time 100 mile runner seemed to execute the dream race which eludes so many at this distance. He ran over the line in 15:18:41 elapsed to set a new course record by a huge 26 minutes.
Mark Darbyshire running strong early on, during one of the exceptional all time performances at our events
How good a run was this? Given how long Ed Catmurs' time has stood, the calibre runners that have had a go at it and the difficulty and length of this course I think it's fair to put Mark's run up there amongst the handful of very best performances we have seen over the 9 years not just of this event, but all of our events.
Behind Mark, Rob although slowing, ran home for a superb 15:46:19, just two minutes outside of the previous CR and good enough for third on the all time list. This was also his longest race to date. To have two guys coming through and racing to this level with relatively little experience behind them makes for a really exciting future.
Third place went to George Darvell in 16:34, another younger runner who had a solid day creeping up through the rankings across the full distance. He passed John Melbourne in the third quarter of the race. John eventually ran home in 17:07 to continue making huge gains on the overall Grand Slam record.
In the womens event, with Susie Chesher our all time fastest 100 mile finisher sadly not making the start line, the race was cast wide open. At Newlands Corner 14 miles in, Karen Hacker and Rebecca Lane arrived almost together, Karen exiting around a minute ahead. They both seemed somewhat shocked to be told they were in first and second but excited too and both looked comfortable. This was Karen's first 100 but after a podium finish at the WW50 last November where she looked strong, it seemed to be a real possibility from early on that she could run away with the win. She increased her lead over the rest of the field with each passing check point eventually making knockholt mile 50 in 8:51, with Rebecca slipping back during her third 100 of this season so far, and Linsdsay Hamilton and Kelsey Price coming through to second and third at the 50 mile point, 21 and 44 minutes back respectively.
Through the 100km mark, Karens lead was over half an hour and from there she closed out to come home almost an hour ahead of the field and with the win in 20:40:38. Lindsay and Kelsey stayed in 2nd and 3rd respectively right through the second half also. Lindsay crossing the line in 21:37:19 and Kelsey coming home in 22:59:52.
Karen Hacker took the win in her debut 100 miler
In the age groups, Mark Darbyshire was MV40 winner to go with his overall victory. The MV50 award went to Andy Jones in 21:18 and Simon Bennett was lead MV60 in 27:53.
The FV40 prize went to Ema Nakajima, over from Japan for this race, in 24:20:09. FV50 went to Jeanette Rogers in 27:21:11.
188 runners crossed the line, 58 inside the 24 hour barrier to earn their one day buckles and an overall finish rate of 66% - all were new records.
Our thanks as always to the over 100 volunteers who made this race the success that it was. We will be back in early August of 2020 with the 10th anniversary of this event.
Our first ever 50km event was an absolute blast. Starting at 11pm on Friday night, this night race which was supported by Petzl gave runners from a variety of backgrounds to experience running woodland trails at night. We had it all from first time ultrarunners through to regular Centurion runners, Grand Slammers and even a European Champion on the start line.
The first lap, the racing up front was fast and frenetic in the mens race as a group of eight to ten extremely capable guys ran as an extended pack through the early miles. On the climb up to Go Ape at mile 5, things were fragmenting a little as the front two ran the climb and others backed off a little to keep their effort levels in check. The crowd at the top of the climb offered great encouragement in an otherwise silent woods. This was brilliant fun to behold.
Around the back half of the loop the front two continued to run the entire course and pull out a gap on others behind.
Rahil Sachak-Patwa was first in off of lap one, trailed by Dan Lawson in second, nearly three minutes back before five others all within 90 seconds of Dan, including the brothers Kevin and Mark Shannon off of a recent successful Bob Graham Round.
Dan Lawson coming in off lap one in second place
The second lap we were interested to see if Stuart Leaneys overall lap record of 1:21 would get taken down but in the end, nobody came near. Rahil was first in off loop 2 with a 1:28 lap split for 2:58 elapsed. Dan sat in second, now ten minutes back, and the Shannon brothers held a four minute gap over the rest of the field, running in 3rd/4th. Things stayed the same over the final loop as Rahil came bursting over the line for a win at the inaugural edition of this event in 4:34. Dan Lawson picked up second in 4:47 and the Shannon brothers holding on for 3rd/4th in 4:57.
Rahil with his winners trophy
In the womens race the lead was held from the gun by Ewelina Wojtala who ran an incredibly consistent race with time splits at the end of each loop of 1:54, 3:54 and 5:59 for the win. She was marked closely throughout the entire race by Kat Barrett in second who sat five minutes back at end of loop two and closed the gap slightly to four minutes at the finish, coming home in a time of 6:03 elapsed. Third place went to Rebecca Paiser in 6:59.
Ewinlina in her debut Centurion win
In the age categories, Dan Lawson won the MV40 prize, Paul Radford won the MV50 in 5:07, MV60 went to Peter Colwill in 7:31 and MV70 to John Fanshawe in a superb 7:34.
The FV40 prize went to third place Rebecca Paiser and FV50 to Debra Bourne in 7:10.
Thank you to all of our volunteers who stayed out all night to get this one off of the ground. Great fun was had by all!!
The first and quite possibly only outing for a Wendover Woods 100. An opportunity for runners to attempt 10 laps of our Wendover Woods loop, making it one of the tougher 100 mile races out there and certainly a true test of endurance. We gave runners 32 hours to complete the course. With the looped format offering 20 aid stations and access to crew and drop bags every 10 miles, there was a chance for us as staff and volunteers to watch the race unfold as spectators, as well as offer the runners as much support as possible. This was all about making it just about the physical and mental challenge of staying out there when it was so easy to stop.
In the mens race, the king of Wendover Woods was attempting to finish his first 100 miler. Stuart Leaney has twice been Wendover Woods 50 champion and last November lowered his own course record to a phenomenal 7:17. He still holds the single fastest loop time of 1:21 set on his second lap of that event - a record that nobody in the 50km got anywhere near this year either which certainly says something.
He began comfortably, holding right back, spending much of the loop chatting to Ian Hammett who after a win at the TP100 and a third place at the SDW100 already this year, was looking to add this one off event to complete our full calendar of 100s in 2019.
During the second lap, Stuart pulled away gradually and from there it was only ever a race between himself and the clock. Stuart shares the love we have for this course and it was the reason he was back. His form never really faded and he didn't seem to face the demons that make themselves known to most on 100 mile outings. His smile was ever present at the end of each loop and his transitions extremely efficient, wasting almost no time in check points. The gap over the rest of the field grew lap after lap and his 8:21 split for the 50 was extremely solid in its own right. As he wound in the final few laps he slowed but seemed to relish in the grind. It was simply a joy to watch someone execute a tough race the way he did. He crossed the line for the win in 18:56. The king simply staking an all time claim to the crown.
Stuart Leaney now has four of these
Ian Hammett ran strong through the first few laps but seemed to fade behind Stuart at an increasing rate over laps 5-8, suffering with a foot issue. That eventually ruled him out, half way around lap 9 and at 85 miles he sadly had to call it a day. He looks ahead to the NDW100 in three weeks time for his continued assault on the grand slam crown and the overall slam record.
In the womens race, Mari Mauland our 2017 Grand Slam champion, led early on and retained a slender lead over Anna Troup during laps one and two, before the positions were reversed on lap three. Anna ran a strong race in from that point and much like Stuart, seemed to smile throughout. The attitude of both the eventual champions was exemplary. Although Anna looked comfortable for one of the coveted 100 Miles - One Day buckles, it wasn't a formality as the pace ineveitably slowed late on, but she eventually crossed the line in a superb time of 23:15 for the win. She also finished second overall.
Anna emerging into the dawn before going on to take the win
From the end of lap three Mari fought a long battle with stomach issues and with incredible determination stuck out the race to the bitter end, crossing the line for second lady in 26:15 elapsed.
Multiple past 100 mile champion Mari battled on to an inspiring finish
Third place was taken by Mel Horley in 30:49. Perhaps more than anyone all day, Mel looked like she had what it took to finish. She is another 100 mile slammer looking to add this fifth race to her achievements for this year. Her run was inspiring in its own way as she looked totally focused on the job at hand from beginning to end.
Second in the mens race went to James Mclaughlin in 23:38, another super run and another who looked strong throughout. Mike Lang took third place in in 24:17, at fourth overall the first runner to miss out on the Sub 24hr prize.
20 runners finished the race. Not our lowest ever finish percentage at a 100. That honour is still held by the 2012 Winter 100. But by far the lowest number of sub 24 buckles we have ever presented.
What was great about the race is that with such a small group we got to spend a lot of time with each runner as an individual and became more and more invested in their own journeys. With the 50km taking place in the middle of the 100, it was surreal on Saturday morning to see the car park clear out and watch these warriors who had been going since the previous morning, continuing their battle long after most had worked a day, raced an ultra and gone home again. One observation of the final 10 or so finishers was that none were at the end of their tether. If they had needed to continue on, I truly believe any one of them could have. They had managed themselves well across the board and simply had that fight and determination to finish. It made it such a special race to watch.
It won't be back next year, we are sticking with this as a 'one off'. But given the final sentiment it may be that we can be pushed into staging this one again somewhere further down the line.
Our thanks as always to a hardy band of volunteers who pulled some mega shifts to allow a very small group of people the chance to achieve something very special indeed.
The eighth edition of the South Downs Way 100 saw many of our all time records shattered as well as some wider scale records of note. For this year we moved our starting location to the incredible Matterley Bowl, just east of the true start of the South Downs Way. Runners met across Friday night and Saturday morning, most in driving rain, wondering if the forecast was going to change for race morning and afford them better running conditions for the race itself.
It did much more than that. Temperatures were close to ideal not getting too warm in the day or too cold during the evening. Some were a little chilly on the ridge early on as the 40+mph south westerly winds cut through, but most managed to make the most of the golden opportunity that the following wind afforded. We welcomed home an astonishing 305 finishers, a finish rate of 81%, far eclipsing anything that we have seen before at one of our 100 milers. It was PB central down at Eastbourne at the end as runners came home absolutely over the moon with times and performances. For us it was such a pleasure to watch. Of course there is no such thing as an easy 100 miler and every one of those out on course still had to ride the incredible roller coaster that is racing over such a distance. We believe that 305 finishers in a 100 mile trail race is a record for the UK. Certainly LDWA 100s have eclipsed that total as walking events but as a running event this could be a record and we are very proud of that.
We also saw some absolutely spectacular racing. It's probably fair to say that the mens race this time, was the most exciting 100 we have ever witnessed at the sharp end of any race. The lead changed hands multiple times, with runners going back and forth, driving each other to new levels right from the gun. It came down to two protagonists at the end, duking it out on the final section of the course down through the town, less than a minute separating the two, both on the final 400m circuit of the track at the same time, coming home with the second and third fastest times we've seen on this course. To those who say that ultra distance events aren't exciting, this was all the proof ever needed against that.
We also welcomed home a female champion for the third time, picking up her eighth Centurion trophy in the process, once again making a truly miraculous return. Since winning the event in 2014, twice she has been in an ICU after major car/ bike accidents and made it back to better her previous effort each time.
The Mens Race
376 starters made the new initial 3.7 mile route around the estate, before hitting the South Downs Way itself. The good thing about the new start is that supporters get a chance to see the runners in action three separate times before they get underway on the SDW proper and despite the early start and grey conditions we had a great atmosphere.
Immediately, some of the key contenders in the mens race were at the fore. Jon Ellis, our Grand Slam 50 record holder, GB internationals Marcus Scotney and Paul Maskell, Irish long distance champion Peter Cromie and reigning CW50 champion Geoff Cheshire all forging ahead early on. John Melbourne and Ian Hammett, first and second at the TP100 last month and looking for solid results in leg two of their grand slam assaults stayed further back seemingly comfortable to stick to their own race plans.
We always look to Mark Perkins' splits at times like this, his 14:03 being still comfortably the best mens 100 mile performance we've seen, indeed it is still the fastest ever time for one of our 100s. The front runners seemed to be right on pace, but of course, Mark didn't slow down in the second half....
The lead group fragmented a little over the section to QECP mile 22 and the first major crew location. Paul Maskell and Marcus Scotney led the way, Paul's split into there was just 2:51.
Over coming miles Paul stretched away on his own and Marcus unfortunately called it a day prior to the fourth check point at Cocking.
Conditions late morning swung from blazing sunshine and pouring rain, but each burst seemed to last just a few minutes and didn't seem to slow anybody down whatsoever.
Sun then rain then back again
Paul looked strong making it through Cocking mile 35 in just 4:34, now trailed by Geoff Cheshire just 8 minutes back in second, the other initial lead group dropping back. With the exception of Ian and John the two Grand Slam hopefuls holding steady at 4:51 and 5:00 elapsed.
Views abound over the South Downs National Park
Over the more remote sections to Bignor Hill (mile 44), Kithurst Hill (mile 50) and down to the major 'half-way' check point at Washington, Paul ran ahead by himself, but Geoff stuck right on his heels, a gap which fluctuated between just 3 and 10 minutes at any given point. Behind Paul and Geoff, Jon Ellis unfortunately called it a day and Ian and John stepped into third and fourth, with John seeming to be holding the better pace of the two.
Geoff crept within sight of Paul at regular intervals and it was on the way to Housedean Farm at mile 76 that the two finally merged and ran into the check point together. At the same time, John forged past Ian with authority to move up into third place, all the while closing on the front two. Things were evolving and the race was on.
Geoff was able to drop Paul and take the lead on the long gradual climb out of Housedean, Paul having a self-admitted low patch, but he is a true fighter and certainly wasn't done. He came back to Geoff and left Southease mile 83, just ahead of him. The gap stayed the same all the way to Alfriston at mile 91, where on the steeper climb over the top of the Long Man, the wheels finally came off for Geoff and with an almost complete engine failure as well as quad issues he was forced to a dramatic slow down. He eventually came to a full stop at Jevington with just 4 miles to go where he sadly dropped from the race.
It wasn't a coast to the win for Paul at that point however, as the hard charging John Melbourne went on to deliver us the finest of finishes. He hammered his way through the second half of the course, taking vast chunks out of Paul and Geoff and then just Paul. 8 minutes better between Housedean and Southease. 5 minutes better between Southease and Alfriston, the gap of 11 minutes with just 9 miles to go seemed within his grasp.
Paul hit the road in Eastbourne with 2.5 miles to go first, John emerged just 40 seconds later, both of them running low 7 minute mile pace on the flat and fast finish. Jolted into reality from Neil Kirby, past champ who was cheering from the start of the road section, Paul seemed to be able to find that gear he needed and hit the track with a lead of just 60 seconds. John was so close, half way down the back straight as Paul crossed the line for a win in 14:28:53 over Johns' 14:29:57. The closest one two we have ever had.
After Geoff dropped so late, it was Ian Hammett who picked up his second podium in two 100s with third in 15:17:52.
Paul Maskell wins his second Centurion 100, adding to his Autumn 100 crown
The Womens Race
On paper, the womens field was almost as deep as the mens, with a simlar 5-6 possible contenders lining up on race morning. Much like the mens it took a brave person to call what the final outcome was likely to be.
From the first lap of the bowl, last years NDW100 champion, Norwegian Ingrid Lid ran from the front, with Sarah Morwood sitting back in second, shadowed by Michelle Maxwell. 2013 SDW50 champ Eddie Sutton in fourth, taking things out at her own pace.
Ingrid Lid led the way in the first third of the race
Ingrid led the way through QECP mile 22 in 3:24 a really strong start and looked comfortable. Behind her Sarah ran through in 3:29, Michelle close by in 3:32. Eddie Sutton coming in with a niggling foot injury back in fourth at this point was then forced to drop shortly after leaving those three to duke things out over the next 40 miles.
By Cocking mile 35 the gaps had all but disappeared, things were shaping up just the way we had hoped with superb racing from our front three. Ingrid led the way in 5:39, Sarah a minute back and Michelle just 2 minutes further behind. But, there was a long way to go and things would shake up considerably from there.
If you want to look to one of the toughest competitors out there, one need look no further than Sarah Morwood. Her consistency is incredible. For the past several years as she has gone on to represent her country on the trails, she has taken things to the next level and maintains performance race after race. Her splits through the aid stations this year were within 2 or 3 minutes of her run from 2017 where she came home in 17:30. Which was six minutes faster overall than her 2014 win in 17:36. She knows where to gauge her effort and there's never any doubt that she'll hold it during the second half of the race. By Mile 44 she had edged ahead of Ingrid and quite simply ran away from everyone at that point. When Ingrid sadly had to drop at the 100km mark, it left Sarah with a gap already half an hour over the rest of the field. By the finish in Eastbourne she had extended that to over two hours, coming home in 17:29. A class performance and a confidence boost for her as she goes on to the 24 hour World Champioships in October. This was Sarah's 8th Centurion trophy and in typical Sarah fashion she gave her prize straight back to us to give out to the final female finisher as she has done in the past with some of her trophies.
Sarah Morwood, three time SDW100 champion
Behind Sarah, Michelle Maxwell running in her first 100 came home with a solid second place in 19:31:52, never challenged from those behind. And after some changing of hands between Rebecca Lane and Samantha Lloyd, it was Samantha who took home third in 21:24:40.
In the womens race, Michelle Maxwells second place was also good enough for the FV40 win. Tracy Owen won the FV50 award in a superb 22:59.
In the mens, Paul Maskells' win was also a MV40 record. Rick Curtis took fourth overall and just missed out on the MV50 record, in 15:59. Bob Empson's 23:18 was good enough for the V60 win and Keith Simpson was our first and only MV70 finisher in 26:21.
Keith Simpson, MV70 winner with daughter and pacer Cat
One final mention, Ian Cullingworth one of our Grand Slammers in 2013 returned to racing after an absence of six years, during which he fought an aggressive form of skin cancer which left him unable to run. He not only made it back to the start line via a 50 mile qualifier earlier this year, but made it to the finish in a time of 22:33. It was one of the highlights of the weekend for sure.
Final words for our 112 volunteers out on course. Nothing is ever too much trouble for any one of them. They are the lifeblood of our support and the sense of community at this race was higher than ever, which says a lot considering the increased starting field.
Thanks so much to all of them for making this another safe and successful race.
Near perfect conditions greeted 252 runners for the 9th edition of the North Downs Way 50. This course is such a favourite with returning runners. The fast first half with a minimal amount of climb deliver the majority of runners to the foot of Box Hill at mile 24, in super fast times at the front and with a significant buffer over the cut offs at the back. Then the real work begins. After Box Hill, runners ascend Reigate Hill before the check point at Wray Lane at the 50km mark. And the final 19 miles in from there feature many short sharp ascents and of course the more remote fields and trails of the final 5km. Flat, but never ending!
Both the men and women gave us superb racing to watch, right from the gun.
In the mens, returning champion Stuart Leaney seemed to be a clear favourite coming in, but had elected to take this as part of a peak training week for his assault on the upcoming Wendover Woods 100, so he wasn't sure how he would hold out later in the day. Rob Payne fresh off some solid results in 2018 looked like he meant business right from the off. Paul Russhard who has tried every tactical approach there is to try to win this race, went off the front again as usual but held back much more than he typically has. These were three strong, powerful runners with the ability to go fast. Indeed the overall positions featured these three from the gun.
Paul Russhard and Rob Payne running together just after CP1
They arrived at CP1 just 10km in together, but Rob stepped ahead with Paul having gone straight through and edging away over the next section, Rob didn't look back from there. He seemed to be working hard early on but it was clearly a sustainable level for him as he simply gapped the field increasingly across the entire race. By Box Hill CP3 he was 6 minutes up on Stuart and Paul who were running within a few seconds of each other. By Caterham Mile 38 it was 13 minutes to the same two behind. at Botley, 17 minutes before he eventually crossed the line in 6:47:57 for the win. Rob went 5th fastest all time on this course. Paul ran by far the best race he has had with us to finish 2nd in 7:01. His strategy of holding back a little in the early stages, running within himself and then pusihing hard at the end had paid off and that earned him a thoroughly deserved podium place. 3rd place went to Stuart who admittedly struggled to find top gear but still ran home in 7:06. Neil Martin, leading the Grand Slam standings took 4th just a few minutes back.
Rob Payne with his winners trophy
In the womens race, the lead changed hands numerous times early on. Rachel Fawcett led things through CP1 at 10km in 54 minutes flat, with Charley Jennings who led at this point a couple of years ago hot on her heels. GB International Beth Pascall was just a minute behind seemingly more relaxed and comfortable. By Newlands, Beth had edged into the lead with Rachel, Charley and now Gill Bland all close behind. These were the four women we had expected in the lead up, to challenge for the overall positions. The next ten miles of the course across to the base of Box Hill are predominantly flat or descending and it was on this section that fast marathoner Gill forged into the lead arriving with Beth, Rachel just 20 seconds back. But Beths class on the hills shone through from this point as she ran the fastest second half of this event that we have seen in the womens race.
Beth Pascall running in third place early on
She closed the race in from Box Hill in 3:59, good enough for 7:19 and a winning margin of 33 minutes. At the end, Beth had clearly run well within herself, with this a part of her training for Western States. A case of a job well done as she went off to a hen do in Somerset straight from the finish!
Rachel Fawcett earned a truly deserved 2nd place behind beth in a superb time of 7:52, becoming only the 4th woman to break 8 hours on this course. She really buried herself over the second half and finally, after five consecutive 4th places at our events, ran her way onto the second step of the podium. We were all delighted for her and the hard work paying off. Third place went to Gill Bland in her first 50 miler, just over a minute behind of Rachel in 7:53, another superb run.
Rachel Fawcett went on to finish 2nd
Eventually, 236 finishers crossed the line under the 13 hour cut off from 252 starters, which made for a 94% finish rate. All records for this event - our highest ever finish rate in 9 years which spoke of how good conditions were.
The Age Group Awards went to Stuart Leaney (MV40), Eduard Egelie/ Vladimir Zalesskiy (MV50 Joint) and Nigel Stevens (MV60). In the womens race Rachel Fawcett took the FV40 award setting a substantial improvement in that mark with her second place finish, with Debra Bourne the 2012 Champion taing the FV50 prize. Carol Murphy ran home the FV60 winner in 12:40.
Eduard and Vladimir finish joint first in the MV50 category
As per the South Downs Way 50, it was Cat Marriot who left the real fireworks until the very end. With 45 minutes to go in the race, there were still 47 people out on course. People arrived home in groups and singles seemingly non stop all the way to 12:57 elapsed which left just Cat out on course. Cat finished the SDW50 last month, after 26 straight DNFs at our events. It was a truly emotional time for all involved. This time, with a view across the final field from our finish position giving us eyes on the final mile, Cat was nowhere in sight therefore we knew it sadly wasn't to be this time. Having left the final check point with 10 minutes to spare it was going to be a herculean effort for her to make this one. Yet with 13:00:10 on the clock she suddenly emerged into the final road and crossed the line in 13:00:42. But. She had performed what will sadly be known as a Gary Robbins at this point, having taken the shorter NDW100 route into the finish by accident, as well as just missing the alloted time. It was with a knowing smile that she lay on the ground breathing hard - she had as at the SDW50 given it her all, all day but had this time come up just short. The satisfaction of having given everything was clearly there and it was still great to see.
61 Grand Slammers completed the race and the table as it stands is available here. Both Neil Martin and Rachel Fawcett have commanding leads in the respective mens and womens overall standings.
We move on now to the South Downs Way 100 which will be our biggest ever 100 mile starting field. We love the race so much and we look forward to some more stellar racing over the weekend of the 8th and 9th of June.
Final thanks as always to the 62 volunteers that made the race yet again the safe and enjoyable one that it was.
A superb weekend of racing was had at this years Thames Path 100. Many records were broken as we watched some incredible stories and racing from up and down the field.
The day dawned cold but bright. The 309 starters eventually faced some cold showers through the early afternoon, mixed in with some sunny spells. Before a freezing night set in. Luckily with no rain or wind through the hours of darkness, most were able to cope with the cold on its own and of the 309 starters, 225 finished the event for 73% completion rate. By far the highest ever finisher ratio we have had at the TP100.
Both the mens and womens events turned out to be extremely close, hard fought races with some incredible back and forth along the way.
Up front in the mens race, the early lead was held by course record holder and GB international Craig Holgate. Behind him, previous champion Ed Catmur ran just a couple of minutes back and there was much excitement about a possible return to top form for Ed. After the front two a group of four had formed early and stayed together through the early miles, that group including both Ian Hammett and Paul Beechey.
The 2019 TP100 gets underway from Richmond Upon Thames
Bright sunshine was interspersed with rain showers throughout the early hours
Within a few hours it was all change however, as Craig pulled over just after the marathon mark with an ankle problem he had suffered from in one of his final training sessions just a week earlier. Ed faded back a little and that left Ian Hammett on his own out front having stretched away from the rest of the bunch. Over the next 70 miles, Ian ran from the front in a confident manner and paced the race very well. But it was far from an easy ride, with John Melbourne running strong through the field from 16th at CP1 to 7th at CP3 and by the half way point at Henley aid station in 3rd, he was 21 minutes back from Ian. He looked strong and over the next 35 miles, closed the gap on Ian to just 9 minutes. The two were certainly both aware of the diminishing margin and both pushed as hard as possible to make it over the line first. Both of them produced pacing masterclasses, and it was only in the final nine miles where John lost a little power, and Ian found a finishing kick to run sub 8 minute mile pace over the last 10km, that the gap opened back out again. Ian ran home for a second fastest all time on this course of 14:36 and his first Centurion win. John crossed the line in 14:58 for second - the first time we've had two sub 15 hour runs at the same race. Third place was taken by Paul Beechey who also ran strong throughout and came home in 15:48.
The Grand Slam for 2019 already looks like a fascinating encounter, with Ian and John both looking to the overall series as well as the individual events. If both can continue to stay in form through 2019 it looks like we are in for some spectacular racing, and results.
Ian Hammett collecting his winners trophy
If it's possible, the womens race was even more exciting than the mens. At check point 1 mile 12, Wendy Whearity going for her 19th Centurion 100 mile finish had the lead, with a group of 7 other women all within 7 minutes of her. At Dorney and the 50km mark, it was all change, as last years NDW100 champion Ingrid Lid had made her way through to head the field in 4:47.Centurion Ultra Team runner Debbie Martin-Consani was now just two minutes back and Wendy had briefly slipped to 5th place. Between Mile 30 and 44, the lead went back and forth between Ingrid and Debbie, but by Henley, mile 51, coming in in 8:11 elapsed, Debbie had a commanding 13 minute lead this time over Leanne Rive in 8:24 and Kelly Pepper and Ingrid both in 8:26.
Debbie Martin-Consani running in Centurion Ultra Team colours
Ingrid Lid traded the lead back and forth with Debbie across the first half of the race
By Streatley at Mile 70, Debbie held a similar lead of 13 minutes but this time over Ingrid who was seemingly back from the dead and closing fast. Also coming good again, Wendy sat just two minutes back of Ingrid. What would happen from here was anyones guess. Ingrid closed the gap to 6 minutes by Wallingford mile 77 and after Debbie missed the bridge at Benson for a short detour, Ingrid briefly took over the lead again with just over 20 miles to go. Arriving at Clifton Hampden mile 85 together, it was Debbie who exited the aid station first and turned on the gas to run home the victor in 17:40 elapsed. Her fourth win at a Centurion 100 mile event and her second on the Thames Path following victory on the flood course in 2013. Ingrid ran home second just 8 minutes later, with Wendy holding on for 3rd in 18:26. Truly superb racing on all counts.
Of the 225 finishers, 123 of those came in under 24 hours to take home the 100 MILES - ONE DAY buckle, with Ben Coleman sprinting home over the line with under half a minute to spare in what was one of the best moments of the weekend.
Age group awards went to Debbie Martin-Consani (FV40) and Ian Hammett (MV40) - Ian setting a new record time. MV50 to Paul Radford in 18:01 and FV50 to Mel Horley in 25:08. And MV60 to Simon Bennett in 21:45.
The 2019 season started with a bang this past Saturday with a classic April day on the South Downs Way. Dry weather, a cooling breeze and stunning views over the surrounding countryside. Whilst there are a myriad of stories as ever, within a finishing field of 354 runners, the two stand out results came from the womens race.
At the sharp end of the field, Julia Davis ran off the front from the gun and produced an exceptional performance in what was her longest race to date. One of the fastest female marathoners ever to toe the line at one of our events with a 2:39 to her name, Julia was stepping up in her new ultrarunning career following solid results at two shorter events in 2018. This as we know, is a runners course. Last year we had seen Tom Evans and Sarah Morwood both take home Course Records. The slight headwind this year, unusual on this course, was a factor and we did wonder if it might cause a slow down for some later on, but not for Julia. Her splits were fast through every check point, as she began under course record pace and continued to increase her margin under that mark until the fourth aid station - arriving there 11 minutes under Sarah's 2018 split. It was enough, as she held on to be the first to break the 7 hour barrier in any of our events, coming home in a new best of 6:54:26. Julia hit the track with 3rd and 4th men still making the final circuit which made for an exciting finale! Simply outstanding running and Julia is clearly a real talent to watch for the future.
At the polar opposite end of the field, Catherine Marriot was beginning her 29th event with us. Having finished the SDW50 back in 2014, Cat had started and failed to complete a total of 26 events in the interim period, coming in to this race. It takes a tremendous amount of determination to keep trying at what can be a very punishing sport. Throughout 2018 she improved, and it looked likely she would get a finish at the 2018 NDW50, before taking a detour close to the end and missing the final check point cut off with 7 miles to go. This time, Cat came in well trained, focused and ready. Whilst there were some 'serious yet encouraging' words had at check points between Cat and Staff in order to maximise aid station efficiency, Cat clearly wanted it and it became clear that she was doing enough to make it happen. With 8 minutes to go, she crossed the line to complete her third lifetime finish with us. A result and performance that sums up all that this sport is about and makes them such a special place to be whether it's welcoming home first, or last place.
The rest of the womens race was equally exciting. Running second place all day was Amy Sarkies, our 2018 WW50 champ and she held on to finish in 7:22 which puts her at sixth on the all time fastest finishes for this event and gave her a new FV40 record. Behind Amy there was a great battle for the final podium spot. Consistent performer Rachel Fawcett went out strong and forged a small gap over fourth place Charmaine Horsfall who has had some great results on the Hardmoors scene. As the race unfolded Charmaine looked the most consistent of any runner, male or female and impressed everyone by powering through from 32nd overall at CP1 to 10th overall at the finish, taking third place in the womens race in 7:27. Rachel took another fourth place in 7:47. Another podium surely beckons for her soon.
Much as in the womens race, the eventual mens winner, also a superb marathon runner led from the gun and produced a consistent display. Ben Parkes came into this race with his ultra career to date, not quite matching the calibre he has shown over the shorter road races - a 2:25 marathoner it was clear if he kept working at the long stuff it would finally click. The mens field was competitive and it was clear that Mark Innocenti who was second at last years NDW50, was not going to give up without a fight, sticking close to Ben throughout. But the gap grew by just a minute or two at each check point and with time running out, Ben was able to finish strong on the flat road section through Eastbourne, to cross the line in 6:35:49. Mark took second in 6:48:21 and Steve Hobbs was able to hold off a closing Ben Osborn by just 32 seconds to take third in 6:53 and scored a new MV40 record in the process.
Age group awards went to Steve Hobbs (MV40), Rick Curtis (MV50) - Rick improved his own MV50 record here and now holds the top three fastest times in his category - David Prince-Iles (MV60) and in the womens race Amy Sarkies (FV40), Rose Williams (FV50) and Heidi Grant (FV60).
Congratulations to all of our 354 finishers. Our thanks as always to the 70 volunteers that made this another safe and successful event. We are excited to get the 100 mile season going in just under four weeks time at the Thames Path 100. As always, follow along on the day at the Live Link that will appear on the homepage from 0930 Saturday May 4th.