This is my third attempt at putting together a run report for the South Downs Way 50. Weeks have gone by since the race. Even the Thames Path 100 has happened, and it’s nearly time for me to run the South Downs Way 100. I think I’ve finally gathered my thoughts and feelings about it all. Before I start on the race itself, I’ve got to give praise to Centurion Running. This was my second Centurion race. I honestly cannot fault a thing. From race entry, course information, kit requirements and registration for the event. It was all so easy and simple to follow and understand. Entry fees for these events are very fair considering how well you are taken care of during the events. The volunteers during the races are some of the most magic people you can have on hand especially when you are racing long distances. They cannot do enough for you on the day. It says a lot about the supportive ultra community and Centurion Running themselves who have accumulated such a good following. Participant safety is taken very seriously and the importance put on the mandatory kit requirements is to ensure as many runners finish safely as possible. Thank you to James Elson and all the team who put on these events. Also, a huge well done to Sarah Moorwood who broke the women’s course record on the day as well as Tom Evans who broke the men’s course record. News of them finishing spread fast through the snake of runners on the Downs that day. Inspiring stuff.
This was my first 50 mile event. I’ve gone longer, but never raced this exact distance. I’ve written a fair bit about my training in previous reports and in many respects, nothing really changed too much. I have a fairly good idea of what I needed to do. I run regularly during the week at work, covering a mix of flat and hilly off road routes near Winchester. These runs make up my base fitness. On the weekend I usually go for some kind of back to back long runs, picking up the distance and hills as I move closer to the lead up to the race. I always try my best to mimic the same terrain and the time of day when the run starts. What I have been doing loads of recently, is picking up tips listening to various podcasts. There’s an absolute treasure box world out there of some incredible interviews with all sorts of runners, medical experts, nutritionists and all sorts. If you listen to podcasts anyhow, check out some of my favourites: Talk Ultra, British Ultra Running Podcast, Running for Real, Marathon Talk, Science of Ultra, NazElite and Free Weekly Timed (if you are a parkrun fan. Er, who isn’t?).
There were a few things that didn’t go well during my training block for this event. The first was time management. The second was the weather, and the third was some niggles that were still lingering. Training time was hard to nail this year. I never like to use this excuse for training because I am a believer that you need to just get it done and fit it around life. That’s what many runners just have to do. If you enter an event like this then you have to commit to the training and it’s that simple. But with the kids routines current routines social circles it made it a lot harder than it has been previously to get the running in. For a few weeks I pasted together three or four shorter runs on the Saturday which made up to about 50k in total. I’ve seen other ultra runners doing that, but for me it didn’t really work. I don’t think it prepared my body enough for that post three to four hour period on the feet. Then there was the weather. All runners know but this winter was incredibly cold, especially towards the end with the ‘beast from the east’. Some early morning runs I did were absolutely terrible. I recall one particular morning doing loops around Butser Hill for a few hours where from rep one I almost quit. The wind was so cold coming over the side of that hill. Still, we all have to battle through these things and looking back now it is certainly part of the fun. Then there was the injuries. I had a damaged achilles which was on the mend but still lingering. Each day towards the race it would get better for a bit and then get a bit sore from a longer run. A kind of two steps forward, one step back approach. It was either that, or perhaps postpone the race which I have never done to date. There were a few other issues I had through training but again, it’s all part of this game.
The night before the race we checked into an AirBnB we’d booked which was close to the start. We headed over to the registration and managed to meet James Elson and even get a quick photo with us all in it. Sweet. Jason did some retail therapy at the Centurion shop that was set up on site. Check in was fine with the volunteers being friendly and ensuring all safety measures are being adhered to. Super easy evening. We then headed to a pub which was on route back home and the ‘one’ pint turned into three. I stuck to a pint of Coca-Cola though. Such a wimp.
So the race itself. It pretty much went how I predicted it would go based on my training mentioned above. Up to marathon distance, great. Beyond that, a struggle. And that was it for my race really. Of course a lot of super cool and great things happened during the race that I have to mention. The route – absolutely fab. Very very hilly for a run-able course which makes it challenging, especially towards the end heading from the final two check points. The volunteers were amazing. Honestly, I have said it before but it is like having your own personal helpers. Super stars all of you! New friends were made along route is just beautiful and as you are running in daylight there are some lovely views. I bumped into a few people I know while running which was awesome, however for an ultra it was quite a quiet affair really. Usually I end up in deep and long discussions with people but I guess this was a 50 mile race which a lot of people had time goals for. I myself finished in still a respectable time of 09:08:06 but it was an hour over what I had really hoped for deep down. My two great friends Jason and Colin had absolutely fantastic runs. Jason passed me at near marathon distance and was just looking so strong. He pushed on ahead quickly as my legs started to seize up and finished in 27th place. Colin finished in 136th place after a very minimal training block so an extremely fantastic result for him.
I was absolutely ruined after this run. More so than the 100 miler last year. Things I learned -> Preparation is so important. Train hard, race easy (if only!). Tailwind is great and does the job, however I am starting to learn I have limits on how long I can drink it. I perhaps need to try and look at getting food in during races as well. Always stop and check people are ok. I saw a guy really throwing up badly and was glad I stopped to check he was ok. He was and I was ok to move on but it’s always good to check. So …. now ….. thoughts and plans are onto the SDW100!