So here we are with the first race of the 2015 Centurion season! The SDW50 is our biggest field of the year and our fastest race. With British ultrarunning going from strength to strength the fields are getting deeper, despite the growing number of events. It's fantastic to see some drama unfolding at the front end as runners begin to push each other and hence overall times, to the limits.
This preview comes with the usual caveats. It's compiled by me and largely using nothing more than hearsay plus a bit of investigation on DUV Statistik. Usually it's pretty close to the mark, but if you know of someone who's missing and could contend please do leave a comment.
Paul Navesey: Where else to start with the Centurion Ultra Teams' finest, the reigning champ and Course Record holder. His 6:11 last year was a stellar performance and one he ran by himself, right from the gun. Paul is his own harshest critic in terms of standards and immediately began to analyse where those 11 minutes (and more) could be found. He's capable of going a lot quicker than he did in 2014.
Victor Mound: Possibly Paul's biggest threat this time out. Victor is a name we are bound to hear much more of, at just 21 years of age and with a couple of eye opening performances behind him. Victor picked up 4th last year, coming in just under the 7hr mark. His 1st place at CTS Dorset in December brought him home over an hour ahead of second place which was a stand out performance. His short distance speed is better than anyone else in the field, recently clocking 14:53 over 5km. He also nailed a training run on the last part of the course just a few weeks ago stealing most of Paul's Strava Course Records on route..... This will be just his 4th ultra from the looks of things but he will certainly be pushing the pace.
jon ellis: Not much I can say here because he recently ran what looks like it was his first ultra, but my it was a fast one, taking home third place at Go Beyonds Country to Capital (43 miles) in 5:13. If he can replicate that kind of speed over 50 and on a course with a lot more gain and descent, it could get interesting.... Looks like he has a couple of sub 3 hr marathons to his name too.
Paul Radford: Paul's ultra resume feels like it should be a lot longer than it is because he's been competitive on the scene for the last few years, but in reality this will only be his 6th ultra. From those however, he has 4 top 10s to his name including most notably a 14:14 for the 86 mile Ridgeway Challenge last year, losing out only to Nathan Montague's CR. Paul knows the course having run it last year and with a strong early season performance at Country to Capital behind him he'll want to shine here.
David Pryce: David has been getting stronger and faster since his start in ultra running back in 2011 and his first year of 100s in 2012. Second place at the TP100 in 2014, followed by becoming the first and only finisher at the 214km Chiltern Way Ultra and a finale of winning the Piece of String Fun Run to end the year, he clearly has the mental and physical attributes to keep improving and certainly should be looking at a sub 7hr finish.
Jack Blackburn: My man Richard Felton at Profeet has put his runner forward last minute as a contender. With a 6th at the RPU 50km and 4th at Race to The Stones in 2014, it'll be interesting to see if he can match Richard's prediction of his going a way under 7hrs....
Sarah Morwood: This is shaping up to be a superb race. Heading the list is Sarah Morwood, who has run 5 x 100 milers, winning 4 of them and finishing just outside the Top 10 at UTMB. She ran strong enough across 2014 to earn herself a slot in Team GB's Trail side for the World Champs this year and has run the SDW50 before finishing 3rd in 2013. Having also won the SDW100 in 2014, she'll want to be doing the same here for sure.
Sarah Perkins: Sarah was closing hard in the final stages last year to finish 2nd to Edwina Sutton's course record. That was followed by a 2nd place at the UK 100km Champs in 8:25 (both were preceeded by a win at the Thames Trot). Sarah will be hoping some coaching from Team CR runner and husband Mark, has paid off. She ran home with a win at the Steyning Stinger earlier this month so she should be in shape to look to go one better this year.
Emily Canvin: In 2013, Emily did the double, winning the SDW50 and the NDW50. Her SDW win came from some good running but also a bit of luck as she picked up from navigational errors of runners ahead. Her NDW50 was a superb run and at 7:49 is the course record there by over 20 minutes. She's kicked off 2015 with a bang, running home second in the Thames Trot. She will be looking for something special again here.
Gemma Carter: Gemma has recently made the headlines, running a World Best for 50km on the treadmill, coming in just under 4hrs and ahead of Tracey Deans effort in late 2014. On the trails, Gemma has picked up 6 top 10 places in her 7 ultra finishes, most notably perhaps her 3rd at the SDW50 last year in 7:32. She rounds out the contenders for what will be a fascinating race.