After long months of lockdown and numerous race cancellations, it appears that the North Downs 100 is actually going to happen in just a few short weeks. The organisers Centurion have done an excellent job in keeping everyone updated (showing themselves to be better organised and better communicators than the UK government), and with a few adjustments to the usual race day routine, the race looks like it’ll be on.
To mitigate Covid infection risk, there’ll be no on-the-day registration or mass start. Instead runners will have a rolling start between 5 and 7am, with race packs being posted out in advance. Aid stations will look a little different, but generally it’s going to be very much the same race as we all signed up for the best part of year ago, well before the world went crazy.
If you’re not familiar with the NDW100, t’s a 103ish mile trail race from Farnham in Surrey, to Ashford in Kent, taking in around 3000m of ascent along the way. The total ascent is less than South Downs Way, but don’t let that lull you into any false sense of security. NDW is considered to be the toughest of the Centurion bunch (barring the infrequent WW100, which is a whole different kettle of fish). The hills on NDW (though generally smaller than SDW) are shorter, sharper, and nastier. This trail is not the smooth rolling hills of SDW, and is a different, tougher beast. The race is in August, so the chance of a hot day is stronger, still not a given in in the English summer, but a warm day could easily add at least a couple of hours to my finish time.
This will be the hardest 100 I’ve attempted to date, having only done 2 before. With both the SDW100 and the Robin Hood 100 I had a good idea of what to expect for most of the race, having run the SDW50 before, and being very familiar with the RH100 route as its where I train most weeks. I’ve reccied a few sections of the NDW, so I know the horror of the hill that starts the infamous Detling stretch, and having volunteered at the Detling aid station before, I’ve seen the 1000 yard stare of the people who make it that far.
In my favour, I’m better trained than ever before. I actually lost a little weight throughout lockdown, and have been fairly consistently hitting 240+ miles per month. I recently smashed PBs from everything to 5k to 50k in training in the last few months, and have been doing weekly hill sessions, so I’m going to give a sub 24 hour finish a good shot. Now this may be incredibly naive of me, I know that 2 sub 24s so far are absolutely no guarantee of a third, especially on this course, and if it’s a warm day I’m going to have to adjust my plans from the off. But maybe, just maybe, it can be done…