#313 South Downs Way 50 Race Report

SDW 50 done! Very pleased with 9:31 which was pretty much the plan but feared rather worse as legs not been terribly happy of late. Pushed fairly hard for the first 25 then eased back a bit for the second half. Shared some miles with some very pleasant folks and amazing how much straightforward some hills are with 40 miles on your legs rather than 90! All in all a nice day out, Centurion events always very well organized, weather pretty good, what's not to like! Oddly a 50 mile PB, not that hard though as despite owning a few buckles this was my first 50! Lol best of luck to everyone running marathons tomorrow!


This one had always been on the radar as soon as I figured out that I wasn't going to be in USA at this time of year as had been the plan at one stage to do a 100 or two in Utah perhaps. The Centurion events are always excellent and rather than doing one of the big road marathons that are prelevant at this time of year a small ultra seemed a far better plan! Having said that this was Centurion's biggest ever field of 400 and have to say was really looking forward to it, just occurredto me of late that I've just done too many lapped marathons this so a bit of the "epic" would do me good. This is the same course as the back of the SDW100 so would be a good recce for June and a nice way to see the painful end of the 2012 SDW100 experience!


The compulsory kit at Centurion events, whilst I do understand the need for it, is a pain. I was carrying far too much for my liking and in fact had it not been for the required gear I probably wouldn't have carried a thing for a 50 miler these days aside from my water bottle and running belt, but it did at least give an excuse for some preparation time which is usually very much lacking in marathons. Tried to pare down the weight to a minimum but did feel like I was carrying a koala bear on my back for the race! Now of course if I'd fallen over or gotten lost or something daft would have been glad of it, but wish in the UK we could follow the American model of carry what you see fit and don't be an idiot. And if you are, you signed a waiver!

Got there nice and early to sort everything out and had a chat with a few folk and found out that James is doing TABY 100 next week too so that's nice to be able to see the back of a familiar runner up in the far north of the world and gave some encouraging reports on the state of the course there. I also volunteered my services to be the first in the starting "pens" as everyone seemed to be very reluctant to get in them!

But we were soon off and I was probably a little bit forwards of where I wanted to be but the first mile or so is on decent wide paths so didn't take long for everyone to sort themselves out and we soon started the first of many long drags up on to the South Downs Way proper. Had a nice chat with David Thompson and Paul Ali until the duly left me behind and I started thinking that I seriously need to do more hill work!

I was wearing the compulsory base layer with a long sleeve shirt and for the first few miles was thinking I was over dressed as it was fairly warm when the sun was out so rolled the sleeves up and generally though was about the right choice as was fairly chilly up on the tops of the downs, nothing much, but must have been mile 46 before I rolled them down again.

But anyway, the first aid station was at mile 12 so was a little careful with water, especially as I managed to spill half of the soft flask thing I had for extra supplies by squeezing it at the wrong time! But my plan initially was to try and run as much as I could to the first aid station, which I did, aside from some fairly steep inclines and managed about 10:00 pace to there. My overall goal was to finish before dark, so less than ten hours. Wasn't wholly confident of that as my legs hadn't been great, some training runs in the week had been utterly appalling, but I figured if I could do the first 25 in say 4:30 then that would give me a nice buffer for the second half.

The aid stations were uniformly excellent, in fact the best of any of the Centurion events I'd done and I treated this very much like a 100 mile run, feet were semi taped up, ate early and ate plenty, made sure I took on 200/300/400+ calories at each aid station and dribbled in a few calories between aid stations too when there was a decent distance between them.

It was very interesting the different experience of tackling the various ascents and descents on good legs compared to them on the SDW100 of 2012. I'd had a dreadful night there, I think something like 14 miles in 6 or 7 hours! Somehow the hills didn't seem so steep, nor so far, and the descents weren't so knee jarring either!

So off I went, trotting along, basically running as much as I could and gradually the ups I was walking up were getting a bit shallower but making decent progress. For once in fact I actually felt I was enjoying the run, 50 miles is far enough that its a bit of an adventure, but short enough so that you're thinking that you should be running as much as you possibly could. (I need to train on hills more! lol) and up on the downs you were in the cloud base and I like running in clouds, just that little bit of sense of epic that you're up in the sky!

The part from the Clayton Windmills to Housedean which on the SDW100 had seemed an eternal nightmare of confusing paths, endless hills and just went on FOREVER, somehow took about an hour in the light and involved some lovely runnable down hills and those confusing paths? Seemed to have vanished a bit!

Got to Housdean in 4:40 or so for 26.6 miles so well over half way and did start to ease up a little bit, the 2 mile ascent after that helped in that regard, but was in and out of aid stations very quickly, I reckon at several I overtook 10 runners at a stroke.

After Housedean and that huge long ascent I think I discovered where the navigation mistake was, I went straight and should have slanted right and just missed the tape... so much easier when you're not half asleep! Hooked up with Kirsty Reede for a good few miles and she rather dragged me a long a bit as we chatted about SDW100/UTMB etc I did manage then to get myself lost out of the Southease aid station, they'd moved it since the SDW100 but was only 100 yards out of my way before someone gave me a shout.

Was a bit of a struggle the last 15 miles or so, but really nothing much to worry about, i wasn't over pushing, the hills I was walking up were getting nearer to level, but otherwise jogging along where I should have been, in the low 40s I probably would have taken some more ibuprofen had it been a 100 as legs were beginning to jar somewhat and not feel terribly happy. Wore Brooks Cascadia's rather than Hokas, as much as anything to just get some miles in non Hokas for a while and think that was probably the cause of that. Chatted to several runners for a while as we leapfrogged one another...

Oddly the final ascent just seemed totally the most different this time around on 48 mile legs rather than 98 mile! Seemed a nice runnable downhill this time, before it was a knee jarring "I don't know how I stayed upright" exercise. Even odder was that the final mile or two wasn't uphill at all like it seemed, but a nice gentle jog around as the rain started to fall.

Was pleased with 9:31 in the end for sure, bang on the upper end of my expectations. A really nice day out!

Things I Learnt

home | about me | wise words? | race reports | contact Copyright © Traviss Willcox. All rights reserved