Traviss' Top Tips for the South Downs Way 100 (SDW100)

I won't wish everyone good luck for SDW100 as you don't need luck but do need grit, grind and iron will power. I'll give you some last minute thoughts for all those who are thinking 24 hrs plus...


  • Don't hang around at aid stations, they eat time. Especially Washington/Botolphs/Saddlescombe/Clayton/Housedean… whole series of lovely temptations. In out, take food to eat on the move, 5 x 400 yards walking and eating rather than standing there munching has just saved 20 minutes. Most of the aid stations are before climbs so you'll be walking anyway, eat and walk. You'll be glad at mile 99.
  • Get to Washington (54) as quick as you can, SDW doesn't need complex pace plans or run/walk strategies, basically its hike the ups, jog the flats, pound the downs. It's all runnable, the trail isn't too bad (I'm in Hokas for SDW100 if its dry, I'd suggest something with a rock plate if you're not a Hoka fan in as moving on flints at mile 80 can be a painful experience) and the downs later you can just fall down and stagger up the long drags. If you're at 54 in 13 hours then that's 17 hours for the back 46 (ish – I make the SDW100 the shortest of the Centurion 100s - pretty much on 100 “Garmin” miles) you can walk that slowly, backwards if needs be. 13/17 is a realistic split on this course. It's a short night, my plan is simply to get as far as I can in the light, march the night, fall down hills when the sun comes up and get it done in the morning. Even 14 hours in to Washington is doable, that's 16 hours for the back end – that's 21 minute miles to a buckle. Any forward progress in the night, even 30 minute miles for 6 hours still means just 34 miles in 10 hours, much of that is down or flat. i.e. basically don't quit if you are having a bad patch, SDW100 has the most generous time limit equations of the Centurion 100s, light will be in the sky at 0400.
  • The dangerous aid stations are Botolphs/Saddlescombe/Clayton/Housedean, you're not quitting at Washington because if you're worried about the first 50 you better change your mind set real quick or you signed up for the wrong event, get to 54, hack out the rest. And don't hang out at Washington too long either, in 2014 I was in and out in a minute and according to the results I leapt up 49 places before the next time point. Aid stations can be an alternative time reality, get out of them...) Time you get to Southease you're too far in to quit – so the whole game is basically to get in and out of those four aid stations when you get there you'll be tired, cold, sore and probably dreading the next drag up. You'll be colder in the night than you think you will be, if in doubt, extra layer, or two, or three in your Clayton drop bag. (if you've got a crew then zero excuse - just pack too much) Stick in a couple of “throw away” shirts, you can chuck them away at 8am when things get warmer if you can't be bothered to cart them. Get in get out, you can't quit a mile up the trail and it's too embarrassing to go back again.
  • You'll be surprised how hard those late drags are, especially if you've done SDW50, or some random run on those hills, they're four times tougher with 50+ miles on your legs, make sure you have a time buffer as they seem endless, but they're NOT steep, they're NOT long, just get your head down, 30 minutes of work and you'll conquer any climb on the SDW.
  • Any forward progress is good progress. Eat a bit more than you think you need, drink a little bit more than you want, don't forget the electrolytes. Pay attention to early hydration, that compulsory “1 litre” probably won't be all you need between 9 and 22, that's a half marathon, with the day warming up, on a hilly trail. Early dehydration is daftness for the sake of 333/500ml of fluid. Chuck in extra little bottle and trash at 22 if needs be, (you can carry it empty to 9, fill it, drink it, trash it (not litter it!) and then go back to your compulsory fluids), make sure you're getting in calories early too, a few calories at the first couple of aid stations has you over marathon distance on that, it's likely not enough, make sure you get some calories in between those early aid stations. I get some odd looks sometimes eating things at mile 2, no I'm not hungry, no I don't need it, but I'll probably be sick later, so eat a bit whenever you can.

    Don't quit in the dark. Dawn is 0446, Sunset is 21:17. So barely six hours of dark, light will be in the sky at 0400, that's 8 hours till the finish, as long as you're not timed out that's still a long time to knock out 20/30+ miles. A new day can work wonders, the climbs are daunting, but for each up there is a down and no matter how long those drags take, you can make up a bit of time on the flats and downs.
  • No whining, no bitching, no crying, 100s are where the big boys and girls come out to play, you're on your own in the wilds, take responsibility for yourself. Thank the volunteers, be grateful that they are enabling you to achieve awesome things, buy your crew and pacers beer or wine or dinner, run, walk or stagger around the track a Eastbourne with them, they've given up their time for you to be awesome. If you get timed out, disqualified, pulled off the course, DNF, it's your fault, accept it, don't you dare bitch to volunteers, thank them, it's supposed to be strict, learn from it, don't get lost, know where you are going. Don't litter, don't shout at 2am in built up areas, don't sing at 2am ever, you sound worse than you think.
  • If you have a pacer have them jag ahead of you to open gates, I'm not sure if someone was joking when they said there was 62 gates on the back end, I can believe it, can easily save you 10-20-30 seconds each gate, times that by 20 or 30… there are no stiles late in the game. (The National Trail site says they maintain 100+ gates on the route so 62 might be correct!)
  • Get it done. Pride lasts forever, buckles aren't earned easy.

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