There’s no getting around the fact that, when it comes to 100K races, the 100km de la Somme is a fast course.
The biggest reason for this has to be the terrain: it’s flat, it’s mainly unobstructed, and it’s an out and back so – by the second time you see things – it’s familiar. There are no surprises in the last 40km because you’ve already run that 40km in the other direction. You don’t need to hold something back for the end and you won’t find a killer hill to panic over (or need to reserve energy for) in the final 10km.
But mainly it is fast because it is flat.
Well looking over the list of winning times since the race kicked off in 1979 suggests the answer has to be ‘real fast’:
- 1979 – 7 hours and 44 minutes
- 1980 – 7:12 (‘old’ course record)
- 1981 – 6:48 (record)
- 1982 – 6:32 (record)
- 1983 – 6:52
- 1985 – 6:35
- 1986 – 6:42
- 1987 – 6:41
- 1988 – 6:31 (record)
- 1990 – 6:26 (record + French record)
- 1991 – 6:24 (record)
- 1992 – 6:24
- 1993 – 6:23 (record)
- 1994 – 6:38
- 1995 – 6:25
To put these times in perspective, the fastest 100K by a man anywhere in the world so far this year is Geoffrey Burns’ 6:30 at the Mad City 100K in Ann Arbor, Michigan.
My own personally speedy 50K of 3:55 works out to an average pace of 4 minutes 30 seconds per kilometer. The winning time from 1993 works out to an average pace of 3 minutes 49 seconds per kilometer…but for twice as long!
More recently the times have been slightly slower but no less impressive:
- 2012 – 7:39
- 2013 – 6:47 (‘new’ course record)
- 2014 – 7:14
- 2015 – 7:02
As I mentioned previously, my goal for the race is to get home first of all completing the distance. Then, if that is looking possible, to aim for under 11.5 hours and – if that seems possible – then try for sub-11 hours and potential a place in the top couple of hundred runners. There’s no chance of me picking out a sub-8 hour run based off my 3:55 50K because, at these sorts of distances, it’s impossible to extrapolate in this way.
Also, because at the end of that 50K I could barely run another kilometer…not exactly where you want to be half way through a 100K, I’m sure.
That said, as far as 100K races go I think I have picked a good one to start with. I won’t have to worry about hills, I won’t have to worry about really technical trails, and save for the first hour or so it should be light the whole way around the course so the headlamp is not really necessary. There is plenty of aid along the way, I don’t really need to run with a hydration pack or even a handheld water bottle, and I won’t be running on roads so even if my brain slowly gets foggy in the last couple of hours, I won’t be running into traffic by mistake.
For what it is worth, if I managed to break 11.5 hours for the 100K that would be a top 15 performance for an Irish runner this year and a top 20 performance for an Australian runner this year, at least as far as the DUV statistics go. A reasonable goal, don’t you think?
Anyway, I’m looking forward to spending 11.5 hours seeing what I can do in Picardie this weekend, and I hope to come away with a nice time, a big smile, and the extra motivation to reach out and take the next ultra challenge in Saint Etienne by the scruff of the neck in December.
It’s a fast course, but will I be able to make it mine?