The eighth running of the Chiltern Wonderland 50 took place this last weekend. The 50 mile loop which starts and finishes in Goring on Thames takes our runners through some stunning, quintessentially English countryside. With great views across the rolling hills and valleys, it really is one of our most beautiful routes.
218 runners congregated on the banks of the Thames for the 0830 start. Amongst them were 35 Grand Slam 50 mile hopefuls on the last leg of their four race journey.
At the sharp end, the womens race looked deep and competitive, whilst the mens looked relatively wide open and in fact the entire field was led over the first 10km by Samantha Amend, arguably the strongest athlete across both races. A huge pack followed within a minute or so and that included last years CW50 womens champion Sophie Biggs.
Over the ensuing miles, a calf strain that Sam was carrying worsened and she was forced to call it a day around 20 miles in, which left Sophie out in front. But it was no walk in the park from there. As the sun rose together with the high humidity, conditions were tough through the early afternoon and during that middle third, Stacey Sangster began to close Sophie down, getting as close as six minutes by CP4 at Swyncombe - mile 33. Sophie however found enough of a kick over that final section to extend her lead back out and crossed the line 16 minutes ahead of Stacey. Unfortunately, the 2022 champion was missing mandatory kit at the finish and much like the situation we had at the SDW100 earlier this year, the one hour time penalty had to be applied, which took her down to fourth place. As harsh as this may seem, the rules are there for a reason and every runner must carry all of the kit from start to finish, whether they are first or last on course. To Sophie's immense credit she took it in extremely good grace. That left Stacey as this years champion in a finishing time of 8:21.
Second place went to Laura McGill in 8:44, a mere two seconds ahead of Tamsin Neale as the two raced through the village at the end with Tamsin admitting she just didn't quite have the legs to fend off the surging Laura at the last. Fantastic racing all round.
In the mens race, the huge early pack held steady for most of the first section to Tokers Green, the first check point, with Tom Hedges reaching there first. Then as things split up, Ash Varley forged ahead in a move that wouldn't ever be countered as he ran steady throughout the remainder of the course to hold on to his first Centurion win in a time of 7:29.
Tom held on for second in 7:35, having hovered just around 5 minutes back from Ashley for most of the last hour or so making for a tense finish for those dot watching. Third place went to Allan Clarke in 7:55, his second podium with us this year after finishing third at the SDW100 in June.
In the age categories, awards went to the following:
FV40 to the overall womens winner Stacey Sangster. FV50 to Laura Mcgill.
MV40 went to Rob Feline in 8:04. MV50 to David Stevenson in 9:36. MV60 to Vladimir Valesskiy in 9:46. MV70 to Kenneth Fancett in 11:05.
For possibly the only time ever, this was the final result in the 50 mile Grand Slam, with Wendover Woods 50 reverting back to its normal position in the calendar for 2024 (November). 35 athletes started the race with the dream of finishing all four and 34 of them made it home within the cut off to crown a superb achievement. As many commented, it's not just the four events, it's getting to each of the start lines healthy and prepared and for none was this truer than for Amy Sole, the 2023 womens slam champion who carried a cold all week, but felt well enough to start and persevered to get the job done, albeit it took a huge toll on already depleted energy reserves.
Gatsby Fitzgerald took the 2023 crown for the men after an incredibly consistent year with top tens at every event.
Congratulations to all that took part and completed the class of 2023 - the final table can be found here.
A huge thank you to the volunteer team as ever, for making this a wonderful day for everyone out on the trails.