Westcountry Ultra 100 Miler
Saturday 13th-Sunday 14th May 2023
Elevation: - 9,694 ft.
In 2022 the Westcountry Ultra 100 Miler saw the second fastest time ever for the race - Jan Voorspoels and Colin Crowhurst both ran a time that has only been bettered by recently selected GB 24 hour runner Danny Hawkins. Danny's namesake was the final finisher in this year's race, and it was an incredibly gutsy performance. Sandra Williams was the only female runner and although everything didn't go her way she showed great resilience to get to the finish. An honourable mention goes to Ed Clements, who finished 3rd in the 100 Miler in a fantastic time despite running alone for most of the race. Neil Walbridge picked up his second WCU 100 finish, Rock Huang came back to finish what he started last year and was 5th overall, Ian Morris trained super hard and planned meticulously to get his much desired finish. Lots of stories - time to set about making yours....
The 100 miler takes in the routes of both 50 milers combined, so here are the descriptions.....
Before we go any further let's get one thing straight - The Westcountry Ultra Flat 50 Miler does have some hills. I mean, did you really expect 50 miles of splendid Somerset scenery to be 100% pancake flat? Compared to the Hilly 50 though, this route is basically as flat as they come. 15 miles of canal path to ease you in, very little elevation throughout, just some bumps in the second half. Something that may surprise you though is that running 50 flat miles can leave your legs feeling sorer than 50 hilly miles, because when you're on the flat you're using the same muscles and it's not obvious when to ease off. Although there was only around half an hour between the winning times in the Flat 50 and Hilly 50 in 2019, the flat 50 is the one to run if you want a fast time or to run 50 less challenging miles. The Hilly 50 is a beast!
Ok, so starting off in Taunton you will have around 15 miles of quaint canal path to get yourself moving. The scenery here is pretty varied, and you may spot some interesting wildlife - Kingfishers are frequently spotted along here, Otters have been known and by the time you get to the first aid station you will already feel like you've seen a real slideshow of tranquil scenes. After the canal is the meandering River Parrett - the muddy banks tell you that you're nearing an estuary, but the long grass and rural splendour are a bridge between canal and coast
Once you get to the West Somerset coast you will see the infamous Hinkley Point Power station (sorry, we can never get them to move it despite our best efforts!) and then you have the spectacular limestone formations of Kilve Beach and the surrounding coastline to marvel at. If you look out to sea you may spot the engimatic islands of Steepholm and Flatholm with the Welsh coast lying beyond them. If you look to your left when you get past Kilve you will spot the Quantock Hills, where Samuel Taylor Coleridge composed many of his best known poems
You have an inland diversion through a little bit of pine forest to West Quantoxhead, through that pretty village and on to Lucke's Lane, cutting across to Williton and then back to the coast at Watchet. You will already have glimpsed the gleaming white of Butlin's Minehead from a couple of points if you keep your eyes peeled, and this is where you are ultimately heading for, but not before the expanses of Dunster Beach, where your final aid station before Minehead lies. You carry on along the seafront from here rather than turning left just after Butlins, as you would if you were running the Flat 50, and then the hilly 50 begins....
We know this is the Hilly 50 but we're afraid there are a few flat sections - it's just that people have complained about the hills on the Flat 50 so maybe this would be an issue too ; )
Starting and finishing in Minehead, this run takes in some of the most brutal climbs you will find in Somerset. To a fell runner from the Lake District this might not seem too imposing but if you're from the south it's probably going to be as challenging as much of what you will find, perhaps unless you're from the Cornish coast. Taking in some of the best of Exmoor with lush ancient woodland, astonishing views from vast cliffs, sweeping moorland and a few more hills just when you thought they were over... well, let's just say you're in for a proper adventure. The winning time has got significantly faster each year so far, which shows that a fair bit of the course is quite runnable, but make no mistake - this is a challenging one. If you want to run 50 miles fast then enter the flat 50, if you want a challenging 50 miler enter the hilly 50
Check out some of the pictures to get an idea of the scenery that awaits you! The coast path climbs, then falls, then climbs again, then goes flat just for a very short time.... the inland sections of the route climb high, drop low, climb high again, maybe go flat for a very short while.... you get the picture. This run is an elaborate four course meal for the senses, taking in some truly mind-blowing scenery - perhaps our most visually stunning race route of all if one had to be chosen. When you get to the finish there will be somewhere comfortable to sit and some lovely snacks and drinks, and because it starts and finishes in the same place your car will be waiting for you, or your lift
There is a cut-off of 32 hours, which reflects the difficulty of the hilly section, but if you pace sensibly then there's no reason you can't comfortably finish within 32. Back in 2019 everyone who completed the race did so within 30.5 hours. 3rd placed Alan Clark said at the start he was planning on 10 hours for the flat 50 and 14 hours for the hilly, which is pretty much what he did, finishing in 24.5 hours
This 100 miler is not as bombastic as some you may find, but there are a good number of well-stocked aid stations along the way and it is a true adventure: probably one of the most varied 100 milers you will find in the UK in terms of scenery....
FASCINATING EXMOOR FACTS: -
To get an idea of how wonderful the location you'll be racing in is, check out these facts.....
*The tallest tree in England is on Exmoor at Nutcombe Bottom near Dunster. It is a Douglas Fir, and stands a massive 60.5 metres tall - this is taller than Nelson's Column in Trafalgar Square and is the height that two of the largest Blue Whales would be if they stood upright, one on top of the other.
*Exmoor has the highest sea cliffs on the British Mainland, its coast has the highest and lowest tides in Europe, plus it has the longest continuously wooded section of coastline in Britain; some 8 miles of non-stop coastal forest
*Exmoor National Park is an international Dark Sky Reserve, which means it has exceptionally starry skies and a commitment to protecting them. So yes, if you're 70-80 miles into the hundred and struggling through a tough section of the route then if it's a clear night just look up and marvel at the blanket of stars that you'll see... then carry on running, don't just stay staring at the stars indefinitely!
WE RECOMMEND THAT BEFORE ENTERING THE 100 MILER YOU HAVE COMPLETED A RACE OF AT LEAST 50 MILES WITHIN THE CUT-OFF. 100 MILES IS A COMPLETELY DIFFERENT BEAST TO 100k EVEN, ALTHOUGH WE WILL NOT EXTENSIVELY RESEARCH YOUR RUNNING HISTORY TO CONFIRM THAT YOU HAVE DONE THIS - IF YOU WANT TO JUMP STRAIGHT TO 100 THEN WE WON'T STOP YOU, BUT IF YOU ARE DOING THIS PLEASE ENSURE YOU HAVE TRAINED ADEQUATELY AND ARE PREPARED FOR THE FACT THAT IT MIGHT BE A VERY, VERY LONG AND PAINFUL DAY!
CUT-OFF TIME: - 32 HOURS
ENTRIES AVAILABLE VIA OUR ONLINE STORE. ENTRIES ONLY REFUNDABLE IN THE UNLIKELY EVENT THAT THE RACE HAS TO BE CANCELLED, BUT IF YOU ARE NO LONGER WISHING TO TAKE PART OR ARE UNABLE TO THEN IF THE RACE IS FULL WE WILL MAKE EVERY EFFORT TO FIND SOMEONE TO TAKE YOUR PLACE, AND THEIR ENTRY FEE WILL GO TO YOU. IF THE RACE HAS NOT REACHED CAPACITY THEN YOU ARE WELCOME TO TRANSFER YOUR PLACE TO SOMEBODY ELSE AS LONG AS YOU MAKE US FULLY AWARE BEFORE THE DAY. ENTRIES ARE STRICTLY LIMITED TO 100
WHAT DO YOU GET FOR YOUR MONEY?: -
Medal for all finishers
13 well-stocked aid stations, plus food at the finish
Trophies for winners
Large hall at finish to relax in which will have food, drink, comfortable seating and plenty more
Course markings, full route directions etc.
A front row seat for the finish of the rest of this race if you want to stay
Assistance with transport arrangements to get back to Taunton if needed, tailored to your requirements
Something unique, as this is the Albion Running experience (they say mystically!)
A race through some of Somerset and North Devon's most awe inspiring scenery
RACE ROUTE: -
THESE WERE THE ROUTES FOR 2019 AND WILL BE THE SAME IN 2022 SUBJECT TO NEGOTIATIONS.....
Flat 50 - https://www.strava.com/routes/4918256
Hilly 50 - https://www.strava.com/routes/12957879
SUGGESTED KIT: -
There is no mandatory kit list but it is STRONGLY advised that you carry the following items to be on the safe side: -
* Waterproof jacket that you have used in rainy conditions and know will do the job
* Hat and Gloves in case of unseasonably cold weather (possible in Somerset!)
* An additional base layer (this can be lightweight, and it's advisable if it is, as long as it's an additional layer)
* Headtorch with spare batteries in case of late finish
* High viz clothing for dusk
* Mobile phone that is fully charged at start
* Some Emergency food/water, plus at least one 500ml water bottle to carry with you
* Foil survival blanket in case of emergencies
* Personal first aid kit with plasters, savlon etc.
If you need any info regarding TRAVEL AND ACCOMMODATION please e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org - the race start is at Canal Road, Taunton, TA1 1PN. Please see CAR PARKING below for the best places to leave your car
By agreeing to take part in this Albion Running Race:
You declare that you will be 18 years or over on the day of the event
You are fully aware of the actual and potential risks in participation in this event
Although the race is organised with a full risk assessment having been carried out, will have medical support and will be carried out with the safety of the runners in mind at all times, you declare that you willl compete in the race entirely at your own risk
To the extent permitted by law, you accept that the organisers and sponsors of the race, or any of their agents, will not be liable for any loss, damage, action, claim, costs or expenses, which may arise in consequence of your participation of the event
AID STATION LOCATIONS: -
These were the aid stations in 2019 - they will be the same in 2020 subject to negotiations and if any change they will be listed here...
CP1: - BOAT & ANCHOR INN, HUNTWORTH (Meads Crossing, Huntsworth, Bridgwater, Somerset, TA7 0AQ)
This first aid station is located by the side of the canal path and will come after you've covered a bunch of easy, flat early miles
CP2: - THE ANCHOR, COMBWICH (Riverside, Combwich, Bridgwater, Somerset, TA5 2RA)
Not to be confused with the Boat & Anchor, this is located in the pretty village of Combwich on the River Parrett Trail and will be outside the pub
CP3: - STOLFORD (Stolford Car Park, Stolford, Somerset, TA5 1TW)
Within sight of Hinkley Point power station, this will be your last stop before you get onto the West Somerset Coast Path proper (that will come when you have gone around the Hinkley Point diversion) – a welcome refuelling stop
CP4: - KILVE BEACH (Kilve, Bridgwater, Somerset, TA5 1EG)
With Hinkley Point power station behind you, by this stage you will be running past the spectacular limestone formations of the West Somerset coast. Some of the best ones are here at Kilve Beach, where you can pause for a short while as you enjoy the scenery
CP5: - WINDMILL INN, WEST QUANTOXHEAD (West Quantoxhead, Williton, Taunton, Somerset, TA4 4DS)
At this point it may feel a little bit like you're on a pub crawl but this aid station is on the edge of the Quantocks and from nearby you may catch your first glimpse of Minehead, where the flat 50 ends
CP6: - DUNSTER BEACH CAR PARK (Sea Lane, nr. Minehead, Somerset, TA24 6TH)
Now you’re really getting pretty close to the finish! Only a few more miles to go from here, and so take it all in and get some refreshments to get you ready for that final push…. Unless you’re doing the 100 of course, in which case you still have quite a long way to go ; )
CP7: - BOSSINGTON CAR PARK (Bossington Lane, Bossington, Somerset, TA24 8HQ)
After the ascent of North Hill and the massive descent of Bossington Hill, during which the views will have taken your breath away, you can refuel at this leafy National Trust car park before heading back out along the coast
CP8: - PORLOCK WEIR CAR PARK (Porlock Weir, Somerset, England, United Kingdom, TA24 8PB)
This is the main car park at Porlock Weir, and is just before you get into the woods to head up to Culbone Church, which is the smallest church in England! There are 24 hour public toilets at the car park and there is always a great atmosphere
CP9: - WEBBER'S POST, nr. DUNKERY BEACON (Luccombe, Nr. Porlock, Somerset, TA24 8TD)
Webber's Post car park is at the top of a big climb through the forest; it's impossibly atmospheric and is not too far from Dunkery Beacon - the highest hill in Somerset, and really the final big climb of the race
CPs10, 11 and 12 are Webber’s Post, Porlock Weir and Bossington again