The Cotswold Century
Report – Seth Turner
Having successfully completed several 50k and 100k races I decided it was time to step up and challenge myself at the 100 mile distance, so in February this year I put my entry in for CWC102 2023.
The Cotswold Century is a 102 mile ultra trail race the length of the Cotswold Way from Chipping Campden to Bath. As it meanders its way Southwest it takes in all the nice viewpoints and the pretty villages in the valleys so it really is very scenic but quite hilly with somewhere over 12,000 feet of climb over the course.
You have 32 hours to complete it with the winners usually coming in around 20 hours.
It is considered a tough race and has a normal DNF rate of over 25%.
Knowing the northern half of the route quite well and having trained on the hills around Broadway I knew I could put in a decent performance over 50 miles but beyond that would be a compete unknown.
Stepping up to this distance involves many more challenges than just fitness with nutrition, navigation, mental approach and coping with sleep deprivation all having a part to play.
We set off from just outside the market hall in Campden on Saturday morning in good running conditions, cool for September and a little misty.
As the first miles unfolded I felt good and strong and concentrated on keeping my pace conservative and dialling in my nutrition. Around Hailes Abbey at close to 20 miles I fell into step with another first time 100 mile runner called Nick, who runs for the Tetbury Dolphins. After a bit of chatting we worked out that we had similar racing backgrounds and times and with him having a good knowledge of the last 50 miles of the course we figured by sticking together through the night we could help each other to reach our goal successfully. The idea was to stick together until dawn then see what happened.
The plan worked well and we kept ticking off the miles, stopping at the periodic checkpoints to fuel up and pushing each other up and down the unrelenting hills. At the very scenic Birdlip checkpoint about 40 miles in we were feeling strong and seeing my family who had come out to support us really cheered us on as we headed into the darkness.
By around 70 miles, in the early hours of the morning my companion was starting to struggle. As is often the case with these longer distances I think he was finding it hard to get the required calories into himself and therefore starting to loose energy and becoming a little nauseous and disoriented.
I refused to leave him alone in the dark so I tried to keep his spirits up, chatting away as we fast-hiked the 5k or so to the next checkpoint. After a few minutes sitting Nick decided he was in no condition to continue for the time being so was going to rest an hour or so and see how he felt. I don’t think he knew at that point if he was going to finish or not but as I was still feeling positive and determined and with a quick change of shoes and shirt I left him there and continued on my way.
As the sun came up I felt a lift of spirits as I could feel the finish line coming towards me.
Arriving at the penultimate checkpoint in Cold Ashton I was overjoyed to find not only my wife Yumi there in support but also my trail buddy and club mate Adam Evans who had driven down from Stratford to run the last miles with me.
With 90 miles in my legs at this point I was undoubtedly feeling tired and slowing down somewhat, I was nonetheless determined to get the race done.
Amazingly a couple of miles after leaving the checkpoint a familiar voice came from behind me and my earlier companion Nick appeared, having been rejuvenated by a rest and some food and found a new determination to compete the race.
We decided to run it in together and with painful legs and aching bodies but a real sense of joy and companionship we descended the hills into Bath.
With Adam joining us for the last miles we ran through the lovely Georgian streets, dodging the slightly bemused tourists and arrived at the finish outside the Abbey in a final time of 24 hrs and 28 minutes, claiming a joint 7th place. What a day!
The men’s race was won by Richard Ellsworth in a second fastest ever time of 19 hrs 55 minutes and the ladies race by Zosia Young in 27 hrs 13 minutes.
The CWC102 is a superb event on a stunning national trail and was an incredible experience and a journey that I will not forget. The organisers and volunteers were absolutely amazing, positive and encouraging throughout and the spirit of the event as is so often in trail and ultra running, truly life-affirming I recommend it to anyone seeking a challenge and a chance to see what incredible things they are truly capable of.