The Centurion South Downs Way 50 was my first race of the year (2018), and the first of the 4 Centurion Grand Slam 50 milers I have planned for the year.
The race starts in Worthing, following the South Downs Way National Trail for about 50 miles to Eastbourne where it finishes after a lap on the Eastbourne College athletics track.
Training had gone pretty well. Most weekend days are tied up with kids football training/matches, and we’d just move home so I’d been busy on that front. That meant most of my running was Mon-Fri. However, I had a decent block of a long run commutes home from Reading to Thatcham (~16 miles) and another 12-14 miler each week. I’d also manage a recce of the latter half of the course one rare Saturday when kids footie was cancelled.
I found the recce most useful – both in terms of a decent longer run with a good bit of ascent, and in terms of getting to know the course. On the day in question I got up around 5am, drove down to Eastbourne and parked next to the Hampden Park Station (free parking), then took the train (about £9) to Falmer – about 20 mins. After little navigational error (ahem…), I got on the SDW and it was a really nice run to Eastbourne. Would definitely recommend it.
Anyway for the race itself I thought I’d do something similar – leave my car at the finish – but I didn’t want to get up at 3am, so I took Friday off work, did some chores in the morning then took a leisurely drive down to Eastbourne and parked in the College car park, which is right by the finish.
I jumped on a train at Hampdem Park and headed to Worthing (about 1hr 20m) where I had booked into the Grand Victorian. It was inexpensive and directly opposite the train station.
To be honest I was a little worried when I got there – there was a band playing and a lot of pissed up folks. When I managed to get checked in I found I had the room directly above the outside smoking area so there was a fair bit of noise from below.
I’d seen a bunch of other folks while checking in, so met them downstairs and we all headed to a local Wetherspoons for some food. I had a beer and some lasagne which was typical Wetherspoons fayre and pretty much as expected. Lots of running chat over dinner, races folks had done, training plans, bucket list races etc.
It was probably 10 by the time we got back. I spent some time packing kit and getting morning stuff sorted out. Was also pleased that the bar downstairs wrapped things up pretty quickly at 11pm, so things were quiet by around 11:15.
In the morning I had some porridge (made in the room with the kettle), got myself sorted and headed out. As I walked over to the taxi rank I met another chap (Akif) and we shared a taxi to the start which was only about 5 mins away. Went through the usual process of kit check, registration, bag drop, loo queue etc.
Race briefing and the starter horn had us on our way at 8:30. It pretty much heads uphill right away so the first couple of miles were 12 minuters, then there’s a couple of runnable miles before another couple of hilly miles. I met the guy I’d shared the taxi with around here (and found his name was Akif) and we ran together chatting for the next 5 miles or so down to the first aid station.
Some coke, some biscuits and I headed off (Akif stayed there a little longer and I never saw him again) – there’s a pretty big hill right after this aid station (as with all aid stations in this race) so I power walked up this then took advantage of the next 4 or so miles of runnable terrain. This was the order of the day – powerwalk the hills and try to keep a reasonable pace for the top and the downhills. It worked pretty well, and I was pleased how I was moving late on in the race over the flat and downhill sections.
I was also actually pleased with the powerwalking uphills – I seemed to pass a few people each time.
I was pleased when I got onto familiar terrain (the advantage of a recce). The route-finding was easy enough, but I always prefer to know where I am and what’s ahead. I will still pushing it on the uphills – and started to get cramp in ever step so backed off a little until it went before pushing harder again. Even though I’d run this part before there was a whole section I had simply forgotten about – I remembered it when I got there, but essentially I thought I was one set of hills closer to the end… :-/
I remembered on the recce being surprised how soon I came across the Trig Point on the final hill -and the same happened on the race. From there I put a bit of speed in and pushed on down the gulley, thinking it wasn’t too far to the end. When I got to the residential streets I kept pushing hard – I could see 3 people in front of me (a long way) and I didn’t think I had a chance of catching them. However I kept up the blisteringly fast 9 minute mile pace and kept gaining on them. These roads seem to go on forever and the pace was killing me, but I kept it up as I was reeling them in. I passed one guy who was shuffle-limping and then on the footpath heading to the College past another two guys. Entering the College I was about ready to collapse, but there was still 400m on the track to do. I spotted someone at the 200m point as I hit the track – pushed even harder, but there was no way I was catching him…
I finished with an official time of 9:47:57 – 169th out of 354 finishers, so just in the top half of the field. About an hour longer than the Thames Trot (8:45), but 6000ft more ascent.
So, all in all I was very happy with the performance, I loved the race and the terrain. As usual the Centurion team and volunteers did a fantastic job, with amazing aid stations and people that simply couldn’t help you enough. So grateful for all the help, encouragement and commitment from them all.
Strava Activity : https://www.strava.com/activities/1494973909