20 May 24 by James Elson

South Downs Way 100 2024 Race Preview

The South Downs Way 100 returns for the thirteenth edition over the weekend of 8th-9th June 2024. 100 miles of incredible trails with 13,000 feet of climb and descent, the route traverses the South Downs Way National Trail from Winchester in the west to Eastbourne in the east. Runners have 30 hours to complete the route. With 13 check points along the way, a marked course, drop bags at 54 and 76 miles as well as crew and pacers, this is the perfect opportunity for runners looking to take their first step into the world of 100 milers, or for those looking to run fast.


A historic race on a historic trail

Established in 2010, The South Downs are the UK’s newest National Park and runners are treated to one of the jewels of Southern England. But the history of the South Downs Way goes back very much farther. Humans have been using the tracks that have been linked to form todays SDW trail for over 8000 years, as its elevation made it a safer and drier route than the wetter lowlands. The trail is dotted with Iron Age forts such as Old Winchester Hill and Cissbury Ring. Ditchling Beacon, mile 72 in the race, is one of the most famous hills on the trail and was used to warn Queen Elizabeth I of the Spanish Armada that could be seen sailing up the English Channel.

The South Downs Way 100 is the third generation of point to point racing on the South Downs Way. One of 16 National Trails across the UK, the SDW was the fifth to be established in 1972. Originally starting in Buriton, the SDW was 80 miles long and between 1983 and 1997, the South Downs 80 was held over 14 Editions. It stood as one of the worlds premier ultra distance trail events and acted as the World Trail Championships from 1990 to 1997. In 1987 the route was extended to 100 miles and that is the route the race uses to this day. After the hiatus from the South Downs 80, the SDW100 was established in 2012 after two years running in the opposite direction and has remained one of the most important races on the UK ultra calendar since.

2024 and the GranCanaria World Trail Majors

500 runners from 25 countries will toe the line on what will be the fifth stop of the Gran Canaria World Trail Majors Series. The race has always attracted the best of British trail and ultrarunners, but with a new partnership through the World Trail Majors the race opens up to a global audience for the first  time. 

In its current entity, the race began in 2012 with a field of just 162 starters, but has grown organically and sustainably over the intervening period to sit at the top of the UK tree in the top three field sizes for UK 100 mile races, every year. 

In 2014 an astonishing run from Mark Perkins set a mens course record of 14:03, a time which hasn’t been bettered since. At that time, Mark was at the Vanguard of the UK scene running 12 hours for 100 miles on the track and 13 hours for the win at Berlin 100, before 14 hours here put him on an untouchable pedestal. In fact nobody has come with 25 minutes of Mark’s time since. 

The women’s course record was initially owned by Jean Beaumont in 16:56, a kiwi runner who had had a lot of success on more mountainous 100 milers. That stood until 2022 when Bethan Male lowered it to 16:49 in what remains the course record today.

The 2024 Race

A deep field is expected across both the women's and men's events. 


Nicole Bitter: US based runner, Nicole is a multiple time top ten finisher at Western States, three times a winner at Rocky Raccoon 100 with a best of 14:22. Winner of the Black Canyons 100km. In 2024 she has won three races already including Rocky Raccoon 50. 

Karen Benway: Another US based runner, Karen was third at Quebec Mega Trail in 2022, one of our partner races in the WTM series. She has three top ten finishes at the competitive Vermont 100 miler to her name, was fifth at Tahoe Rim Trail 100 mile in 2023 and has a host of other top ten and podium finishes at US ultras to her name including a fourth at JFK50. 

Cat Simpson: Second at this race last year and a two time finisher of this race, GB 24hr team runner and Centurion Ultra Team meber Cat has a string of accolades to her name including a win at GUCR, fifth at Spartatlon and a 100 mile PB of 15:34 set at Crawley 24hr.

Cat Simpson on her way to second place in 2023

Alex Coomber: Ex-Olympian Alex, has a second place the SDW50 to her name and was eighth at the same race in April of this year. In recent years has picked up podium spots at Serpent Trail 50km and 100km as well as at the Testway Ultra.

Sophie Bennett: Second at the Winter Downs 200 in December of last year. Sophie was fifth at UTMR 100km and at Wendover Woods 100 last year. This year she's already picked up the win at the Bruniquel 24hr in France.

Anna Drake: Second at the Jurassic Coast 100 mile in 2023 as well as the Dartmoor Way Granite 50 and East Devon Round. Two ultras so far in 2024 including a first and a fourth place.

In the hunt for top ten: Becky Pearson, Louise Langmead, Becky Langmead, Jessica Dicks.


Dan Lawson: Dan most recently finished second at the South Downs Way 50, a race he led until a couple of k's from the finish. Our Centurion Ultra Team runner has been one of the leading lights in the sport for a very long time. Dan's back catalogue is simply too long to go into here, highlights include but are not limited to at least half a dozen Team GB 24hr vests where he has performed brilliantly and more consistently than any other including a European Champs gold in 2016. GUCR record holder. World V50 100 mile record holder with a 12:37 at our track 100 in 2023. Winner of Ultrabalaton, Ultra Trail Gobi, third at Badwater, second at Spartathlon the list just goes on and on.

Tiaan Erwee: The South African finished third at Ultra Trail Drakensberg over 160km in April. Has twice finished the epic 450km Tor Des Glaciers - both times in second place. Past winner of the Summer Spine and fourth at Tor Des Geants.

Jez Bragg: A past winner of UTMB and a best of third at Western States, Jez was at the pinnacle of the sport globally for many years and has one of the deepest running CV's today. He raced for GB on both the road and the trails and really excelled across a variety of distances and terrain types. In the last few years work and family have taken priority but it truly is an honour to have him making a longer run come back here. 

Geoff Cheshire: Geoff has been a stones throw from nailing this race twice - coming unstuck literally in the final few miles, and he is hungry to get it right this third time.  Geoff is course record holder at the Autumn 100 where he ran 13:58 in October. He also won the Thames Path 100 last year in 14:18 in what was arguably a better run. The Chiltern Wonderland 50 champion has kicked off 2024 well with a solid win at the Chiltern Ridge Ultra - this will be the one he wants to get right most.

Rob Payne: Team GB 24hr runner Rob has been very succesful with us down the years. 2023 Wendover Woods 50 Champion, his best year with us was 2019 where he won the NDW50 and finished second at both the NDW100 and WW50. Ran 7:11 for 100km at the ACP in March so is on form.

James Turner: 6:34 for 100km and second at the ACP in March, a sensational start to 2024 for James. On the trails he has placed well at other events on the South Downs from Marathon through to 100km. 

Matt Hammerton: Third in 2022 and eighth in 2023 at UTS50km, course record holder at Wendover Night 50km - this is longer than he's used to but he has serious speed over technical and mountainous terrain. Will it convert here....

Dave Phillips: Dave is fresh off of the back of a win at the Northern Traverse (190 mile) in April. Winner of the Summer Spine in 2023 in 77 hours. Dave also holds the FKT for the South West Coast Path and made the podium at the Arc of Attrition in 2022 and finished fourth in 2023. 

Sam Skinner: Sam finished second at our Winter Downs 200 in December. The SDW is his back yard and he knows the area well. Previous top ten finisher at Lakeland 100, the Arc of Attrition and at the Dragons Back - he has recently finished ninth at UTS 100km. 

Peter Windross: Champion in 2021, Pete has also won the Autumn 100 and Thames Path 100, a race he finished fourth at just a few weeks ago, once again. Four time Grand Slam finisher, Peter is one of our most decorated runners both in terms of finishes but more so top tens, podiums and wins. 

In the hunt for Top Ten: James Whetman, Matthew John, Stuart Ross, Jacob James, Joe Ackerley, Jamie Pugh, Michael O'Neill, Simon Withers, Andrew Churchill, Pere Capdevila. 


Toeing the line at this thirteenth edition of the race are two true legends of the sport.

Ken Fancett is gunning for his 102nd, 100 mile finish. He has finished our Grand Slam of 100s, 9 times and is on route to number 10, has 44 x 100 mile finishes with us to his name and this will be his tenth South Downs Way 100 and he will go home with the 1000 mile buckle at the finish. A reminder that Ken is 75 years young.

Elaine Battson became the first person to complete ten editions of the South Downs Way 100, in 2023 and earned her 1000 mile buckle there. She will be going for eleventh finish at this event. 

How to follow the South Downs Way 100

We will for the first time, have a live broadcast across the entire event. You can follow all the action via the live stream as well as on social media and live tracking.