The South Downs Way 100 returns for the thirteenth edition over the weekend of 8th-9th June 2024.

With 100 miles of incredible trails with 13,000 feet of climb and descent, the route traverses the South Downs Way National Trail from Winchester in the west to Eastbourne in the east. Fast Running spoke to race director James Elson on the history of the event and the exciting future ahead.

A historic race on a historic trail

Established in 2010, The South Downs are the UK’s newest National Park, but the history of the South Downs Way goes back very much farther. Humans have been using the tracks for over 8000 years, as its elevation made it a safer and drier route than the wetter lowlands.

The trail is dotted with Iron Age forts such as Old Winchester Hill and Cissbury Ring. Ditchling Beacon is one of the most famous hills on the trail and was used to warn Queen Elizabeth I of the Spanish Armada that could be seen sailing up the English Channel.

The South Downs Way 100 is the third generation of point to point racing on the South Downs Way. One of 16 National Trails across the UK, the SDW was the fifth to be established in 1972. Originally starting in Buriton, the SDW was 80 miles long and between 1983 and 1997, the South Downs 80 was held over 14 Editions. It stood as one of the worlds premier ultra distance trail events and acted as the World Trail Championships from 1990 to 1997.

In 1987 the route was extended to 100 miles and that is the route the race uses to this day. After the hiatus from the South Downs 80, the SDW100 was established in 2012 after two years running in the opposite direction and has remained one of the most important races on the UK ultra calendar since.

A change for 2024 with a world focus

It is the inaugural year for the Gran Canaria World Trail Majors series and for SDW100 500 runners from 25 countries will toe the line on what will be the fifth stop of the series. The race has always attracted the best of British trail and ultrarunners, but with a new partnership through the World Trail Majors the race opens up to a global audience for the first time.

This has seen the biggest impact on the sharp end of the women’s race with US athletes Nicole Bitter and Karen Benway two big names that will battle it out with British 24hr international Cat Simpson and Winter Olympian Alex Coomber (if the last descent gets icy look for Alex to excel).

The men’s race has everyone’s favourite ultra-running ragamuffin Daniel Lawson, his fellow GB 24hr runner Rob Payne, UTMB winner Jez Bragg and a whole host of other strong Centurion Running regulars.

Check out the more extensive preview on the Centurion Running page here.

How to follow the SDW 100 on the day?

For the first time there will be a live broadcast across the entire event. You can follow all the action via the live stream as well as on social media and live tracking.