Sunday 1 October 2017

Course Records Tumble at the Cotswold Way Century

It’s rare to see a 100-mile course record get smashed by over 90 minutes, and even more so for that kind of quality performance to result in a second place. On September 23rd & 24th on the Cotswold Way Bath’s Holly Rush tore lumps out of the Cotswold Way female FKT, with a time of 20:17 which would have won the event outright for 3 of the previous 4 years, only to follow an astonishing race from Rob Forbes.  Forbes, of Cirencester, broke the overall course record by 1:57, completing the 102 miles in 17:34 – an average pace of 10.5 minutes per mile.  Both runners had fantastic races, running at or near their maximum level for the entire event.

Runners set off on the 5th annual Cotswold Way Century.  Rob Forbes (right) spends his last few metres of the race not in the lead.  Photo courtesy UK Life Medics.

Each year, the Cotswold Way Century gives runners the opportunity to pit themselves against this iconic long-distance national trail.  Every year is different, with runners in the past having to navigate through thick fog, cope with overnight torrential rain, and occasionally even testing them with relentless heat.  This year, the weather was kind, and the front end of the field looked set to offer a good chance of a group pushing each other to close to 19 hours.  When the runners headed off down Chipping Campden high street, only one person had any idea that something special was about to happen.

Rob Forbes had a 10m lead by the first turn, and several hundred metres after the first hill.  On an ultra, these things rarely count for much in the opening miles, but by the time the race reached Broadway, he was out of sight off the front and never had need to look over his shoulder for the rest of the run. By the half-marathon point, the lead was 10 minutes.  From there, it only ever grew.

Possibly the worst-ever finishing picture, but what do you expect at 5:40 in the morning?  My camera was tired...
Meanwhile, Ryan Hogben, 2-time winner Daniel Hendriksen, and Holly Rush carried on behind wondering, like the volunteers along the route, if the race could or would ever come back to them.  By the end of the first marathon, the chasing men were 25 minutes behind, with Rush a further 20 minutes back.  By the 48 mile station at Painswick, Henriksen had dropped back to join Rush at 1:20 behind and Hogben chased alone, now 50 minutes back.

Women's winner and 2nd place finisher, Holly Rush enjoying a well-earned rest.
As the night wore on, the usual demons of ultrarunning attacked everyone bar Forbes.  Falls, navigation errors, fatigue, digestion complaints, and fitness concerns dogged the runners.  The field thinned as many ended their race early, the frontrunners reshuffled with Rush making significant time on Hogben and Hendriksen dropping out of the competition for places and into a completion pace. In the final 15 miles, the ladies’ winner pushed ahead into second overall, eventually gapping Hogben by 40 minutes.  

Further back, Daniel Weller and Rob Hicks picked up places to race each other for the men’s 3rd place finish, with Weller eventually breaking clear by over two minutes.  Emily Warren, Heather Rawlings, and Dawn Gardner pushed on for the finish, leaving the competitive thoughts in the background until the final miles.  Warren sprinted to the line in second, having seen Rawlings and Gardner getting too close for comfort.  Rawlings and Gardner, good friends and occasional training partners, finished together for joint third place in the women’s race.

Apparently, yes, you can run 102 miles in 5-Fingers. Hats off to Damian Barratt!

Smile of the day goes to Vicky Gullo
In total, of the 106 starters, 62 runners managed to complete the course within the 30-hour time limit, 15 of them in under 24 hours.  For several runners, the event was their first attempt at running 100 miles.  Race Organisers Cotswold Running wish to thank the runners, local authorities, landowners, and the Cotswolds AONB for creating an atmosphere where the elite and non-elite runners can enjoy competing against the same course to achieve extraordinary results.  Full results are available at


  1. Over a curry on the Monday, Rob thought he / someone could go sub-17hr!

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