Avid adventurers conquer tough Kenton 100 Miler
In the cool evening breeze, at 10pm on a Friday evening in Kenton-on-Sea, eight ultra distance runners began the inaugural Kenton 100 Miler – a unique trail race that would test the physical and mental resolve of each of these adventurers.
With Mark Crandon, himself a runner, and one of the brains behind this initiative, with his trusted companion, one-eyed dog Claudius, leading the way for the first lap, the first stretch, along the hard sand of the beach saw the runners bolt off.
It wasn't long, however, before a few rocks led to the first short, but steep ascent up the dunes. What followed was an arduous section of steep sand ascents, navigating sharp rocks, with a touch of rock climbing thrown in for good measure.
Runners were forced at points to descend sitting down, holding on tightly to branches, before pressing themselves against the rock face and gingerly edging themselves across before slowly turning and jumping back on to the sand.
Once the runners had safely navigated this arduous stretch, what followed was a few hundred metres of steep running over soft sand, before a rumbling descent, a sharp right turn, and a single trail grass track back to the winding dunes, before at last reaching the welcome sight of the hard tar roads.
But not for long. After climbing a 200m hill, the runners entered a short stretch of forest, complete with low-hanging branches, logs on the ground, and jutting rocks. Once through the forest, a climb of 70 steps had to be negotiated - and this was only the 4km mark of a 16km loop, that had to be navigated 10 times within the 38 allotted hours.
The remainder of the course included several steep climbs, a few sharp descents, a jugged run along the river to reach the half-way mark, and more steps. Each lap included around 400m of climbing. By the time the runners completed the race, each would have successfully climbed around 4,000m.
At the 12km runners were met by the welcome sight of the food/ aid station, situated at Bushken Pre-Primary School. The organisers went the extra mile to ensure that runners were able to refuel, briefly rest, have a massage, and more especially appreciate the warmth and reassurance from the dedicated and seemingly tireless supporters who took turns through both nights and the long day to play their part in getting each runner to the finish line.
The friendly face of Martin Neethling met runners for the last check-in. Before the race Neethling had assured that when he was reached it was just a short run from there to the end of the lap. Perhaps that was true, but the last stretch felt like it would never end, with a number of climbs to endure before the satisfaction (or was it relief!) when reaching the end of a short beach run and a final few steps.
Cornel Metcalfe ran an extraordinary race, crossing the line after 23 hours 58min to comfortably win. What made her effort all the more remarkable was that she had already completed three 100 Milers in October. Stephen McCarthy finished second, with a time of 28 hours 08min, with Eloff Hoffman third in 29 hours 16 min.
Tobie Reyneke overcame an early setback, when he suffered a heavy fall off the rocks, to bravely push through to complete his 82nd 100 Miler, an astonishing feat. Reyneke's time was 34 hours 16min.
Tim Stones, a deaf and partially sighted ultra runner, crossed the line in fifth place, with a time of 35 hours 11min. Stones was accompanied by a team of guides – Mark Crandon, Stephen Wigley, Nick Albrightson, Kerry Curry and Dani – who helped him to navigate the night hours over what has since been recognised as one of the toughest, most physically demanding 100 Miler courses in the country.
Reflecting afterwards, one of the race organisers, Shona Bell, said: “The experience was almost surreal for me... bringing top endurance athletes to a village where people haven’t quite yet figured out that when we do Ironman it’s all in one day.
We get told we’re crazy and it’s not possible. Now we get messages thanking us for bringing you all the Ultra Endurance elite here
“We get told we’re crazy and it’s not possible. Now we get messages thanking us for bringing you all the Ultra Endurance elite here; to be witnessed with successes (pains too) enjoyed by all.
“I forget that some people have never seen this type of event, maybe only on the news. So being able to share my love of endurance sport is a real privilege. When Mark came up with the idea and spoke to me about helping get it off the ground, I knew then we had something unique. The goal: a unique quirky event to put our village on the map of great international events. Tourism is the only way we can truly grow our local economy. So we each have to do our bit.”
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