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Elevation: Very little change < 500 metres. Benign running terrain, not technical.
Suitable for: First ultra runners completing a marathon or doing regular long distance running in the last six months.
Elevation: Increase of up to 1000 metres
Suitable for: Runners who have completed at least one ultra distance race (or similar event) or are doing long distance running (>26 miles) regularly, with elevation shown.
Elevation: Increase of up to 1500 metres
Suitable for: Runners who have completed several ultra distances or similar events, or are doing long distance running regularly, with elevation shown.
Elevation: Increase of up to 2000 metres with some challenging climatic conditions (e.g. ice, snow, humidity or heat) and or technical terrain
Suitable for: Experienced runners who have completed at least regular ultra distances in last 12 months, or are doing regular long distance running (>50 miles) with elevation and conditions shown (where possible). Admission to these races may be subject to evidence of recent qualifying race participation and recent medical examination certificate. Check with the race organiser regarding entry requirements.
Elevation: Increase of up to 2000 metres with very challenging climatic conditions (e.g. ice, snow, humidity, heat or at high altitude) and or technical terrain.
Suitable for: Very experienced long distance ultra runners (min 3 years’ experience) or are doing regular long distance running (>50 miles) with elevation and conditions shown (where possible). Admission to these races is often subject to evidence of recent qualifying race participation and recent medical examination certificate. Purchase of specialist kit is often recommended for these races.
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“Space is big. Really big. You just won’t believe how vastly, hugely, mind-bogglingly big it is. I mean, you may think it’s a long way down the road to the chemist, but that’s just peanuts to space.” Douglas Adams – The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.You could be accused of being over dramatic if you replaced the word “space” above with “Wendover Woods 50” but for those who did it, at times it felt like it. But anyway, I’m jumping ahead of myself…..The wait was over, the training was done, the miles were in the bank and there was no more time for worrying. The Wendover woods 50 mile race was here and I started brilliantly by stepping out of my car, in a cold field in Tring at 7am, into a giant poo. Undeterred, I squelched my way to the start line and looked around for the other Project Trail guys. Soon meeting up with Nic and Jon, we were a mixture of excitement, compression gear and fear. Glancing around the field I could tell this was for the big boys, with the Centurion Running Grand Slam title at stake some people were going to be flying round this.The Wendover Woods 50 is, as the name suggests, “a 50 mile foot race consisting of 5 x 10 mile loops on forest trails, entirely within Wendover Woods”. Just for fun though, nestled within those beautiful sounding woodland trail laps was 2,900m of climbing. Which, I can now tell you from experience, is a lot. The race organisers, Centurion Running, had tactfully named some of the sections; “Hell’s Road”, “The Snake” and “Boulevard of Broken Dreams” presumably to somehow keep the spirits up!Since winning a place in this race from Men’s Running and their Project Trail feature, the pressure was on. We’d been featured in the last five issues of the magazine to report on our progress and had training plans devised by Robbie Britton (Team GB Ultrarunner) to get us all ready for the day ahead. I’d trained hard, and had some great races and running experiences along the way, but nevertheless earlier in the week did have quite a flap about my ability to actually run 50 miles. By the time race day arrived, I’d decided to put those worries behind me and thought the best tactic was to just get on with it. I had a proper “plan” for this one; eat as much as I possibly can, drink as much as I possibly can, take it easy at the start and finish strong.I knew that the first couple of laps just needed ticking off, and the Project Trail guys and I had suggested we start together. This was great to take it reasonable easy, have a chat, keep the spirits up and get used to the course. During the start of the third lap I slowly peeled away and realised it was time to go this alone. The laps consisted of magnificent forest trails, some mud and numerous short(ish) sharp climbs.Somewhere around the third lap I saw Gary Dalton, an ultrarunner I’d met the previous year at the Adidas Thunder Run. He was doing a couple of laps in reverse as moral support for the runners and our exchange went something along the lines of……“Hi Dan, how you feeling?” said the self-confessed moany trail runner. I gave an honest reply saying that I was feeling pretty good.“Well why are you walking then!?” came the response. I processed this for a few moments and came to the conclusion it was a very good question, so run I did.… and so the day went on, taking each section as it came. At one point during the “Power Line” segment I emerged into a large open field. This is a brief pleasant change to the woodland trails and due to the time of day, the sun was coming down bathing the woodland surroundings in a beautiful light. I actually outstretched my arms and leant my head back, either praying to the Great Running God, or to take in as much vitamin D as I possibly could. As I crossed the field I bumped into my number-neighbour (284), a young lady who I can see from the results was Rachel Dench. We had a quick chat and I started wittering on about what a fantastic moment this was and hopefully sharing some of my current positivity. A short while later, re-entering the woods, we shared some jelly beans and and I was on my way.In a bizzare mind-game I was actually looking forward to lap four. Well past the halfway point I’d already decided this was going to be a self-indulgent lap so I put my headphones on some to blast out some of my favourite songs and really started gritting my teeth to get round. I had a couple of moments of euphoria during this lap as I knew I was well on my way to complete it, and nothing was going to stop me. I was doing my two favourite things, running in the woods and listening to some crushing metal and hip hop, I had a few moments of dancing and punching the air – sorry to anyone who saw that and thought I’d gone barking mad but in some ways I think I probably had.Finally I was at the business end of the race and strapping on a headtorch for the final lap. This one needed a bit of focus as tiredness was setting in and you really had to concentrate to stay on track through the winding woodland paths, but it has to be said the course markings by Centurion Running were excellent. I started the lap with a nice chap called Mick and we had a good chat but I soon pushed along and ended up running most of this lap alone. The field had really spread out by now so other humans were few and far between. After a final push during the viciously steep last 2km, suddenly (well, more accurately, 11 hours, 2 minutes and 15 seconds later) I was over the finish line. My friend, and top-running buddy Michelle, had come along to the end for moral support and was probably twice as cold as I was, so massive thanks for making an appearance! Immediately people were thrusting medals, t-shirts and minestrone soup at me, which was a great way to finish. The whole Project Trail experience has been fantastic, its magnificent to have completed it, but of course I’m slightly sad its over. Not one to mope, I can now enjoy a little relax and look forward to the ultras I already have booked for next year. Game on!
I ran this in its inaugural year - November 2016.This was my first Centurion event and to say I was a little apprehensive would be an understatement!The route is great...fitting in a 10 mile lap in a relatively small area is genius and is testament to Centurion Runnings commitment to their events. But it is tough! I recorded over 11000ft of ascent in about 52 miles. There are several steep climbs that could be more described as a scramble but there is a lot of runable sections too. The aid stations were excellent, as were those manning them. Everyone seemed to be looking out for you and ensuring all was ok.Laps may not be everyones cup of tea but you need to work it to your advantage. You what's coming up on subsequent laps - no nasty surprises, it's easy if you have a partner or friend at the start/finish aid station to offer support/crew for you. You can break the whole event down into each lap and just concentrate on that particular lap you're on.All in all a brutally tough but rewarding ultra. (Note that the 2017 event has been given a cut-off of 15 hours as apposed to 2016s 16 hours)
I ran this in the first year it was held (2016). It was my first Centurion race and one of the most enjoyable races I have done.5 laps of a course that was like a rollercoaster in slow motion is the best way I can describe it - the course had everything - flat road, steep vert climbs, slippery downhills, technical sections and long gentle ascents/descents.As Sarah below mentioned – it is not a beginner race and you need to be bringing spare quads with you as the going gets tough with some of the verts in the course. I started to use my poles on lap two and got a lot of envious looks by laps 4 & 5. From my basic running watch, it looks to be more than the 9,500ft quoted, In total I measured 3,276m (10,750ft) so hill work and strength work are definitely requirement for this one.I used the race to try out new food and pacing ideas, some worked, some didn’t, but one thing I noticed when analysing the results was that the top runners lost a lot less speed than the slower people lap after lap, so something I need to work on more and figure out why I just lose energy after I pass the 50km+ mark of a race.Being a lapped race the comraderies with other runners throughout the day was great, as were all the support crews along the way. Organisation and checkpoints were excellent as were the markings along the way. For race motivation, I divided a cake into 5 large slices – one to enjoy after each lap which I found to be a great help!
I ran this in its first year (2016). I had some reservations about the fact it is five laps as I have previously found laps or out and back routes to be mentally challenging. However, it is fairly local to me and the elevation profile appealed - I like hills and wanted a challenge. I also know that Centurion events are well organised and that you get your money's worth on the day.On the challenge front, I certainly wasn't disappointed. The elevation was actually even more than the 9500 ft stated on the website - it was over 11000 ft. This is more than the elevation over the whole of the North Downs Way 100. Don't enter this unless you like hills and your quads can cope. Some of the climbs involve scrambling and/or being doubled over even on lap one so you need the muscle strength to be able to pull yourself up them with 40+ miles in your legs. The bonus of the lap format is that you can easily recce the course as a 10 mile training run so you know what to expect. Other advantages are being familiar with the route by the time it gets dark and having access to your drop bag every 10 miles. You also see more of the other runners as the race goes on and people are on different lap numbers. I have always found that there is more camaraderie in longer distances and this was no exception - faster runners were unfailing supportive of slower runners as they came past.As expected, the Centurion team had organisation down to a tee. There is a checkpoint at the start/finish and just over half-way round. Both were well stocked with sweet and savoury options. Volunteers at the checkpoints and on timings and the marshals on the route were brilliant despite being freezing cold all day. The course is well-marked and no navigation is required as long as you look out for the markers. The cut-off for the race is 16 hours instead of the 13 on Centurion's other 50 milers. This means the course should be completable for anyone used to the distance and used to hills. The terrain is mostly woodland. There are lots of tree roots and trip hazards but the majority of the descents are runnable even for those of us who struggle with technical rocky descents. We were lucky this year that it had been dry for a few days. The mud wasn't bad for the time of year, but the course does get churned up by the final laps. If it had been raining then I think it would have been a mudbath which would have made the climbs even more challenging if you were slipping down as your legs got tired.Laps are a mental challenge, but I knew what I'd signed up for and it is a lovely 10 mile route, especially with the Autumn colours. The Centurion team had kindly named segments of the course (which are strava segments) to keep us entertained - Boulevard of Broken Dreams was one!In summary, this is not a beginners's ultra unless you live and train in the mountains, but it's a great challenge for anyone who likes climbing. I hope to be back in 2017 completing the 50 mile grandslam.
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