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Ultra Bests fall in London

The breadth of the sporting challenges and disciplines that Athletics has to offer is one of the primary attractions of our sport. Road, cross country, track, sprints, distance, walks, throws, jumps and combined events, present both the competitor and spectator alike, with the most varied sporting collage imaginable. Variety in this sense, really is the spice of Athletics’ life!

This summer in particular we have been treated to the most varied of feasts outside the usual confines of championship disciplines. In June, ‘the Emperor’ Gebrselassie made an unsuccessful attempt on the record for the One Hour Run, one of the now rarely run classics of the track. Then in September, the annual Double Decathlon event was held in Finland, which this year was won by USA Decathlon champion Kip Janvrin. Then last weekend, in London it was the turn of the ultra distance runners to add their own colourful variant in the shape of a 100 Mile Track Challenge!

The race was held on Sunday 20 October at London’s Crystal Palace to celebrate the 25th anniversary of Don Ritchie setting the world best for 100 miles of 11:30:51.

The race was promoted by the British Road Runners Club (RRC) - the oldest club in the world - who had put on the original race at the same venue back in 1977, and was organised by John Foden, one of the originators of another ultra-distance classic, the Spartathlon.

It was by no means a domestic challenge, as enticed by the bookmakers William Hill, who put up a prize of £5000 if anyone broke Don Ritchie's world best, two hardy Russians travelled to Crystal Palace.

The race started at 8am on Sunday morning. 22-year-old Russian Denis Jalybin took out the race, in cold and damp conditions, tracked by his better known compatriot, Oleg Kharitanov. The two runners vied for the lead through much of the race, Jalybin running even pace, whilst Kharitonov would come off to change clothing, for toilet stops and the like, before speeding up and closing down on his younger rival. The runners were minded by a legend of the sport, the great Konstantin Santalov, perhaps the greatest competitor in the history of the 100km.

The 150km mark was reached in 10:34:30 by Jalybin, breaking Don Ritchie's previous world mark of 10:36:42. At this point the race began in earnest, as both men strove for the prize on offer for any runner breaking Ritchie's 100 mile mark.

Kharitonov at this point was some four laps behind Jalybin but began running 6 minutes miles despite having run 93 miles/150km already, and Jalybin was struggling, looking pale and as if he would drop out.

Jalybin clung on to the lead until the end of the 402nd lap, a mere 135 metres from the finish. At that point Kharitonov passed by, pushing on to clock a new 100 Mile world best of 11:28:03. It was to take Denis Jalybin nearly two minutes to cover the last 135 metres, whereupon he collapsed. Jalybin also broke Don Ritchie's mark, recording 11:29:32.

The lap recording was done by electronic chip, with manual back up, but as a precaution under the organisers advice, Kharitonov ran an additional two laps.

William Sichel was a distant third in 15:17:47, with Walter Hill, the only other finisher within the 17 hour time limit, running 16:34:28.

IAAF, Ultra-Race Historian Andy Milroy, RRC and Race Results Weekly.

Results -

100 miles
1 Oleg Kharitonov (Russia) 11:28:03 (new world best)
2 Denis Jalybin (Russia) 11:29:32 (also beat previous best)
3 William Sichel (Orkney Is) 15:17:47
4 Walter Hill (Crawley) 16:34:28

1 Denis Jalybin (Russia) 10:34:30 (new world best)
2 Oleg Kharitonov (Russia) 10:41:48