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South Downs Way 50

07-Apr-2018 Worthing, Sussex, UK (England)


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Trail Race Race Terrain
80KM / 50Miles
1 Day

DIFFICULTY Race Difficulty Brutal  

Photo Credit: www.centurionrunning.com

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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.

Review South Downs Way 50

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05:54 13-04-17

I ran this in 2017 as my third Centurion event and what will hopefully be the start of my grandslam of Centurion’s 50 milers. I knew that I could rely on Centurion to put on a well organised, well-marked and friendly event. As I had never run on the south downs I was less sure of how I would find the route. I knew it had a decent amount of elevation, and I much prefer this to a long, flat run. My main concern was that I had been told that you are pretty much always going up or down. My usual strategy in an ultra is to power walk uphill and run the rest, but I wasn’t sure if this would result in me walking half the race. I needn’t have worried – whilst the description was accurate, it made for an enjoyable course. The individual hills are maybe not as long or steep as some other races I’ve done, but the continual up and down is, for me, mentally easier than running at the same pace for miles on end. I found that I naturally fell into a rhythm of running and walking that worked for me. The descents are very runnable and you need to make a judgement on when to run or walk the uphills based on what works for you. It was a surprisingly hot day and there is almost no shade on the downs – it is wide open farmland on a ridge and most runners ended up sunburnt. I can imagine that, had it been wet and windy, those high, exposed trails would have been tough in a different way. If you are running this, bear in mind that hot weather will be hotter and inclement weather harsher than it is in urban areas. The trails are also chalky and very dry. You could have run it in road shoes and it is worth bearing in mind that you will need shoes with the same level of cushioning that suits you when you run on concrete or tarmac. Thankfully, it is far more scenic than a road run. The downs are beautiful and there are some stunning views. I found that the time passed quickly and I felt that the route challenged me but was runnable enough for me to move more quickly than I had expected.

Centurion volunteers are incredible people. They work tirelessly for hours on end and I have never seen one who isn’t smiling. They do a fantastic job of making sure everything runs smoothly and that the well-stocked checkpoints never run short of anything. There is a wide selection of sweet and savoury food. A huge bonus for me was that, for the first time, they had Tailwind on tap. I swear by Tailwind for both energy and electrolytes and it made things so much easier not to have to mix my own when I needed to refill. I hope this continues at Centurion races and that other races consider following suit. There was hot food at the finish and volunteers kept me well supplied with cups of tea whilst I waited for the coach back to the start. It was great to be able to have a shower at the stadium in Eastbourne and to be able to cheer friends over the finish line. There is a lovely sense of community amongst Centurion runners and volunteers and I have heard it described as a ‘family’.

There is nothing really to criticise about this race. It would be suitable as a first 50 miler for anyone used to off-road running but would also be enjoyable for more seasoned ultra-runners. It has a different feel from some of the smaller races that I’ve enjoyed, but Centurion manage to offer relatively large and very efficient events that still have a warm and friendly feel. It was a race that got the best from me and this has boosted my confidence for the South Downs Way 100 in June.

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05:00 12-04-17

My first Centurion event but not my last. The terrain was very hilly and open. Long stretches of winding hills with the occasional steep decline to give you a rest. The day was hot and dry so the ground wasn’t great for trail shoes however not great for road shoes either. The course was marked very well with great rest stops full of goodies from sweets, sandwiches, fruit, you name it. The volunteers and marshals were fantastic and enthusiastic, their wit and smiles helped me focus on the next stretched. The scenery on such a nice day was stunning – I almost started daydreaming. The miles/Kilometres are not marked (they are not allowed pin them up) so if your watch fails (as mine did) its difficult to measure your pace and plan ahead. I thought it was tough terrain and not for those that haven’t done off road/trail at a marathon distance before. The finish at the athletics stadium was mazing – lots of claps and cheers to push you to the line. Great medal, great T-Shirt, great race!

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01:42 20-05-16

Broad, sweeping vistas of the South Downs, cool spring breezes, and 'runnable' hills. Well, sort of runnable. Depends how fit you are! I just found them endless on what was my first 50 in 2014. Deceptively tough but as you'd expect a brilliantly organised event by Centurion Running. And I love the track finish!

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07:11 29-04-16

This is my second Centurion event. The familiar features were there: hills, more hills, perfectly marked trails (only if you are asleep could you get lost), checkpoints stashed with all manner of tasty food and staffed by enthusiastic, friendly volunteers, great viewpoints and of course more hills. Your fellow runners are amiable and chatty. All in all, a surprisingly relaxing and enjoyable way to spend a day in some beautiful countryside. Quite why the lady I ran the last couple of miles with decided a sprint finish was required though...

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04:38 18-04-16

There is a story that’s comes from the African savannah that every morning a Gazelle wakes up and knows that it must run faster than the fastest Lion or it will be killed. Every morning a Lion wakes up and it knows that it must run faster than the slowest Gazelle or it will starve to death. This is the unique balance of nature and I found myself being both the Lion and the Gazelle during the recent Centurion South Downs Way 50 mile event.
One of the things I love about Ultra runners from what I have experienced to date is that there is an amazing camaraderie in the community , we want one another to do well, we support and encourage one another but we know that deep down we are all running with the heart of a Lion, eager to run as fast and far as we can until we reach our prize.

I started at the middle of a pack while waiting for the gun to avoid the stampede at the start but this meant I ended up struggling to get past the crowd up the first narrow climb. Lesson Number 1 get up front next time.

Having settled into my rhythm after some exciting downhill sections I witnessed one of my mates nose dive into a puddle, to be fair the terrain was very muddy and slippery and this amused me initially, that was until I caught up and realised he had caught his knee on a piece of flint and there was a large hole staring me in the face. I took out my limited med kit, cleaned the wound patched him up and we went on our way.
I cannot fault the organisation of this amazing event, it was like a well-executed military operation. The army of volunteers tirelessly fuelled and encouraged the masses at each checkpoint.
My buddy ran on in frustration as I took too long at the half way point, but I knew from previous races that this was my opportunity to fuel, I knew that there was a beast of a hill coming, having done a recce a few weeks previous. Lesson number 2 always recce the route where possible.

The unknown territory for me came after mile 32 at Southease and in a way I was glad the route was unknown because if I had known what was coming I think I would have broken. Hills, hills and more hills. I hadn't done much in the way of hill training for the event and began to wish I had, it wasn’t that I didn’t have the strength it was more a strategy issue. Being ex-military I am more than used to getting my head down and yomping up a hill but I wished I had done more short sharp 300m runs in between the yomps as this would have helped me pick up time. Lesson number 3 do more course specific training.

At mile 41 my buddy and I ran together as his injury was taking its toll my fatigue and pain began to set in. I began to slow like a tiring Gazelle ready to accept its fate, but the inner heart of the Lion roared and I battled on up the relentless last hill out of Jevington.
Hitting road on the last 2 miles was a welcome sight but it pounded the joints and where I would have normally dug in and sucked up the pain for some reason I faltered and began to encourage people to pass me, was this because I felt responsible for my buddy or was it because I had given up I don’t know but one things I do know this was out of character. Lesson number 4 by all means help others but predominantly run your own race. We both ran into the sports ground at Eastbourne, to a rapturous applause from crew and competitors alike and I had the immense pleasure of receiving my medal from Mimi Anderson.

The hunters instinct in me had hunted other runners at various points in the day, I had also been hunted by other stronger pack members at some points I felt weak and tired but I knew I had to continue, I knew I had set a target of 10 hours and I achieved my goal in 9hrs 43 min. There were many lessons learned during the SDW50, it’s a tough race and as always in this sport I now reflect and decide what is next?

The underlying moral to this tale is that it does not matter whether you're a Lion or a Gazelle when the sun comes up, you better be running.

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04:28 17-04-16

This is my second year running the Centurion South Downs Way 50 and I have only down one other event from their series. To put it into context how I rate them, I have entered the 50 grand slam and the Autumn 100 this year. When you turn up to a Centurion event you will not have to worry about route marking, aid stations, a good brief, overall care as they have got all this nailed. I will start to sound like a Centurion groupie but I have come to love the comradeship you get with Centurion. The event is challenging but the scenery and the experience everyone is going through that day is second to none.

The little touches of runners manning the aid stations (very well stocked aid stations) and the race crew being on hand to offer support / answer questions make this a top event.

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02:50 16-04-16

The South Downs Way 50 2016 was my longest ultra so far and first Centurion event. Wow, what a wonderful first 50 experience.. The race organisers 'Centurion' and volunteers did an outstanding job taking care of runners from beginning to end. I must admit I was a tad nervous (and excited!!) at the start but everything was relaxed and organised... No stress at all :-) ... The race route was gloriously challenging - I smiled throughout the whole race... Happy times!! ... The support throughout and at the finish was fabulous.. I will definitely be back next year... Think I'm a Centurion Fan already!!! :-)

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12:29 16-04-16

Great run as ever. 2nd year of doing it and just gets better everytime. Great atmosphere created by the runners but more importantly all the volunteers and race organisers. If you want a challenge this is an ideal ultr to do. Steep hills but also nice downs. Stunning views and great finish lap of an athletic track. Already planning to visit again next year.

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10:44 16-04-16

Brilliant. Really well organised, superb support and a fast and lovely course - whats not to like!

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04:37 15-04-16

What can I say about the SDW50? Simple really - I LOVE THIS RACE ! 2016 was my 2nd time doing the SDW50 and it was even better than 2015. The conditions were ideal, the aid stations were first class, the scenary was stunning and the atmosphere through out the race was second to none. I'm a bit of a Centurion fan and have run a few of their races - but the SDW50 is always 'the one' for me. Last year I did it to recce what is effectively the 2nd half of the SDW100, but this year I ran it just to enjoy it. There are hills (lots of them and some steep ones too!), there is mud, in some places there are even sheep and pigs. But what there is, in plentiful supply, are like minded Ultra runners, going out there and giving it their best shot. Everyone is encouraging each other because 50 miles is actually quite a long way - but Centurion mark the course beautifully. I only got lost in Eastbourne - but that was user error on my part! I cannot recommend this race highly enough and when entries open for 2017, I will be one of the first to sign up. If Carlsberg made Ultra races, this would be their best one !

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