#320 North Downs Way 50 Race Report

Ultra #49 NDW50 done! Long hot day out on the North Downs remembering how tough a route it is! Enjoyable day though and as ever the Centurion Running event crew and volunteers are an amazing bunch of folk who set the standard for UK ultra runs. Had the pleasure of the company of Mark for the last 26 or so miles and he kindly slowed down to pull me around as we put the world to rights and tried to stay on course! Special thanks to Rachel for her crewing/taxi/volunteering services.... again!


I'd volunteered at the 2013 version of the event whilst Rachel ran this so this year we did the reverse as I had the free place and she volunteered. It's not ideal timing as just two weeks after the Thames Path 100 so knew the legs probably wouldn't be up to the steep hills but was still optimistic of a semi decent effort and at least beat my first half of the NDW100 from 2012 (13:00) or so, I was kind of hoping for about 10:30. Ho, ho, ho! We got to the start nice and early and snagged a decent parking spot, always a bit tricky for this one as there is no parking on site at all and as the Centurion events grow it will probably become a bit more of a struggle in future years, not that its a big worry mind you!


For this one as it's just 50 miles and mild the list of mandatory kit was less than usual, glad we didn't have to lug a waterproof jacket anyway as the forecast was to be pretty warm. Decided to try out my new Ultimate Direction AK vest for this one, which worked just fine. I don't tend to worry too much about testing out gear in advance! lol

Spent the hour pre race chatting to various folk which is always nice before the walk down to the start, it's pretty narrow so I got a fair way forward before the off, 0800 arrives and as always with Centurion events we were off on the dot. For the first couple of miles I was a bit hemmed in as hadn't gotten myself far enough forward for my usual fast start, now standard advice would be that's good, slow down at the start and you'll benefit later. Sorry standard advice, you just don't work for me! Didn't help at all I think...

In fact it was probably 4 or 5 miles before I was really out on my own, but headphones on and the day was lovely, trotting along and all was well with the world. My basic plan for the NDW anything is get to the bottom of Box Hill as quickly as possible and then struggle. Rather optimistically in retrospect I set a vague goal of 4:15 to get to Box Hill and long before that I began to remember why the NDW is so tough!

I'd averaged around 10:00 pace for the first 10 miles and then you hit the first of the big climbs, after some little ones, its only 500' or so I suspect tops in total but enough to tire the legs out and by this point I was amazed at how few people had gaitors on, there is a fair bit of sandy stuff in the first dozen miles or so and without gaitors you're just bound to get some sand in your feet. Anyone reading this thinking about NDW50 or 100? Gaitors! I use the Dirty Girl ones from Ultra Marathon Running Store.

By now I was already behind my schedule and the legs I discovered were not terribly keen on going up hill. A slightly problematic issue on the NDW which is a bit up and down and full of sharp short ascents and descents.

I was carrying a few bits of food just to keep me going and was having 200-250 calories at each aid station of whatever I fancied, task for today was not to pig out overly. Whilst I wasn't trying to do this "hungry" just didn't want to over do it as trying to cut a bit of weight off and my carb loading for the event had been an extra two Weetabix. Seriously!

I arrived at the Box Hill aid station about 4:35 I think it was, so a bit behind schedule but by now it was really pretty warm, I was pretty worn out and that was the easy bit done!

I hooked up with Mark Johnson at the famous stepping stones where there was a bit of a traffic jam with a family or two crossing and we were to spend the rest of the race together. Mark had a bit of a knee issue, I had a bit of a I don't fancy these hills issue so between us we pulled each other along a bit, I think Mark helped me more though!

The Box Hill to Reigate Hill bit is just horrible, lots of steps, steep ups, steep downs, just nasty stuff in the hottest part of the day and it was a struggle, pace tailed off dreadfully and it was about now this turned in to a recce for the summer NDW100!

The rest of the way really was just chatting, navigating, walking the ups, some of the flats and jogging down the runnable downs. Some of the trail is fairly gnarly and i was in a "not going to turn my ankle over" mood so tip toed along some bits, we got a bit confused with the navigation a couple of times, but I had the Garmin trace on which proved invaluable in one case where we otherwise would have missed a turn and even more so when we encountered a gang of 8 or so others in a field all rather wondering where we should be going! I'm still not convinced we went the right way as had to climb over a locked gate, but I was right on the line of the trace. I must check that before the NDW100 as don't recall an issue there in 2012.

That was is really, was a nice day out, not a fantastic run, but enjoyable I think overall. I'm not a fan of the NDW, it just seems very "bitty" to me in so many places and I think it highlights my weaknesses as a runner. But the sun shone, the event was well organised and 12:20 was better than in 2012!

Things I Learnt

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