The 2022 Track 100 marked the third edition of this event and it seemed it would be close to an impossible task to better the 2021 race for athlete success. Obviously back then we were just a few weeks out of full lockdown here in the UK and the protocols that were required to keep everybody safe were substantial. But the effort was worth it as Aleksandr Sorokin blitzed through 100 miles in 11:14 setting a new World Record, before continuing on to the 12 Hour mark to set a new World Best there too. In the womens race, Sam Amend set a new British Womens 100 Mile Record of 14:34. A total of 14 new World, Continental and National Bests were achieved.
Rolling on to this year, the field had improved up a notch again and the anticipation coming into it was enormous. Aleksandr was back, this time targetting the 100km distance. As he already held every record from 100 mile through to 24 Hour, it seemed to be a huge ask for him to shoot for the World Record of 6:09. That kind of range in ultra running, 6 hour through to 24 hour has not been seen for nearly 70 years when Wally Hayward held 100km, 100 mile and 24 hour marks in 1953.
In the womens race we welcomed two world class international athletes. Camille Herron from the USA, like Aleksandr, came in holding 100 mile, 12 hour and 24 hour world records. Dominika Stelmach from Poland, the fourth fastest 100km runner of all time, with top ten all time 50km marks to her name was there to challenge over 6 and 12 hours. Would the two end up duelling it out and taking records to new heights?
The remainder of the field contained the best of British athletes including Sam Amend, back to improve on her existing record. Plus one Frenchman, Thomas Lepers focused on the 12 hour distance.
To top it all off, we welcomed Claudia Burrough to the race, aiming to become the first wheelchair athlete to set marks from 50km upwards in such a setting. Truly pioneering a new area for the sport in the process.
Camille Herron early in the race (Steve Ashworth)
Race day dawned bright, temperatures around 8 degrees rising to 15 through the day, but with a cruel wind that stayed steady at around 15mph, gusting up to double that. Out of the gusts things felt manageable but the gusts were frequent and became more so, making the runners' lives more difficult as the day wore on.
Straight out of the gate, Aleksandr dropped into running the 1:29 per lap/ 5:56 per mile pace he required to go through the 100km mark in 6:09. In fact, every lap he increased his margin over the record by a second or two ranging between a 1:25 fastest and 1:29 slowest. It was metronomic, much like his 2021 run and beyond inspiring to watch. Crewed by his brother Maksim who was certainly the most relaxed person at the track, the clock slowly wound away and Aleksandr remained on pace. His 50km mark at 3:01 was a new Lithuanian National Record. His 50 mile split of 4:53 good enough for fourth fastest all-time and just 13 seconds away from Don Ritchie's split when he set the previous World Record of 6:10, a record many of us still viewed as the one to beat. Aleksandr just didn't fade. He went through 98.496km in 6 hours which was a new World Record again taken from Don. Before he tore through the line in 6:05:41 to take four minutes off of the existing world record. He looked relatively fresh at the finish.
Aleksandr Running Through His Bell Lap (Steve Ashworth)
Never have we seen range like this and marks get broken by such margins by one man. What comes next, we can only wonder.
In the womens race it was Dominika Stelmach who led the charge. She set a blistering pace from the gun, showing her 50km pedigree. It was clear from early on that she was going to be around the 50 mile world record mark of 5:40 and the 6 hour world record mark on the same pace of 6:56 per mile. She gapped the rest of the womens field by a substantial margin, including Camille.
Dominika Stelmach (Steve Ashworth)
But the pace began to slip at around four hours in and the margin under the 50 mile and 6 hour open world record marks, slipped away. She did hold on for a new World FV40 50 mile record of 5:51:28 however, before running through to a new FV40 6 hour world record of 82.217km.
At this point Camille was just 3 kilometres behind and setting new USATF National records in the process including a new 6hr US Open record of 79.035km.
The gap between the two began to shrink at this point as Dominika slowed, seemingly having a tough time in the wind, with Camille remaining near metronomic in her pacing much like Aleksandr.
Camille passed Dominika just a few laps before the 100km mark where she set a new USATF FV40 record of 7:39. With Dominika just a minute back in 7:40. At that point, Dominika called it a day which left Camille running against only herself for the 12 hour and 100 mile marks.
Alas, it wasn't to be and on a day when she felt things never quite clicked for her energy wise, she made the decision to call it a day and save her efforts for Western States in 9 weeks time. Camille set a total of four US National Records. Dominika two World FV40 and two Polish National Open records.
Around the six to eight hour time frame, athletes began tumbling from the running. From the 15 starters, Peter Abraham, James Stewart, Cat Simpson, Jo Zakrzewksi and Ian Hammett all called time on their races early. And with Aleks, Camille and Dominika all out before the 10 hour mark, there was a gap before the best of British and our lone Frenchman would reach their 12 hour and 100 mile targets. Peter Windross also stopped prior to the 12 hour mark having gone out hard. He did manage to scoop a new MV50 British record over 6 hours of a hair over 82km however.
Alex Whearity (Steve Ashworth)
In the mens race, Alex Whearity had gone out hard and was gradually fading but fading only to what was still a phenomenal time. His 50 mile in 5:49 and 100km mark of 7:31 were solid to say the least. He never really looked in doubt to get it done. He eventually ran home the 100 mile race mens winner in 12:42:04 to post the 11th fastest ever British 100 mile time. The only other man to make it to the 100 mile mark was Mike Stocks. Back for retribution after his 2021 run ended early, Mike set a new IAU MV50 record of 13:41:19. There are two other V50 marks faster than his which are pending ratification so it won't be clear until they are processed if Mike has earned that World Best, or top three all-time. All the same a sensational run.
In the Womens race, Samantha Amend blew everyone away, just three weeks after finishing second at the British 100km Championships by running through to a 12 hour British record of 140.310km and holding on for a huge improvement in her own British 100 mile record of 14:10:51. Along the way she also improved the British womens FV40 50 mile mark to 6:36:27.
Sam Amend (Steve Ashworth)
Final finisher in the womens race was Eloise Eccles who ran one of the most conistent races of the day to finish in 15:36:31. Good enough for the 15th fastest British all-time 100 mile.
In a race all of her own, easily up there with any of the other performances of the day, was Claudia Burrough. Claudia had covered 100 miles in a chair before during the 2020 lockdown when she clocked a time of 15:20 in our virtual event. But this was the first time she had properly raced the distance. In fact from everything Claudia, ourselves and the British Wheelchair Racing Association can glean, she set new benchmarks at every distance on route. It was not all plain sailing. The strength and resilience she showed as her back began to seize up and her fingers generated enormous blisters under her gloves, was truly astonishing. At one point on the way to 100km in 8:45 she had a longer stop. But as she got past that mark, a renewed focus clearly established and she never looked back. Her 100 mile time of 14:44:13 should rightly blow everyones minds. What a privilege it was to watch somebody dig as deep on the path to pioneering a completely unknown area for the sport.
Claudia Burrough (Steve Ashworth)
Thank you's are needed in abundance for this race. It is a huge undertaking for just 15 athletes. On the day we welcomed six officials including the General Secretary of the IAU, Hilary Walker to oversee the race. 20 volunteers manned the check point and looked after the crews and runners. Seven staff. Our media team. The spectators who made it feel like the special day it was and everyone at Bedford International Stadium, we thank you.
Details for 2023 are already available here. We can't wait to see what this event holds in store next time around.