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Trail Toughness

We caught up with Joe Turner, fresh off his victory at the South Downs Way 100KM.

Read his candid race recap and post-race insights, revealing what it takes to excel. Experience the highs and lows of his 8-hour journey through the rolling hills and winding trails of the South Downs.

Photography: Cameron Kennedy-McFarlane

Words: Joe Turner


"The build-up was short since the UK 100km champs was at the end of March, so I had a bit of rest and then hit some big weeks. I had three 200k weeks back-to-back, solid, so I was happy with the build going into it.  

 There was the taper week sluggishness – which is always the way, but I lined up on race day feeling pretty good.  


It’s an early race, the bus to the start left at 3 am, so it was a 2:15 wake-up call. I woke up and had some bread and jam – which are easy carbs to get down, my kit was ready to go the night before, so I was all set on that front.  


Running conditions were good in the first half, a little bit drizzly and overcast. Nice and cool. I tend to run quite hot, so my go-to is the SOAR Hot Weather collection because it wicks sweat and dries quickly. And the new Trail Race Top was fantastic for that, we got soaked in the first part – running through some of the overgrowth, meant it got wet quickly, and then it dried out, and then it rained, and then it dried out again, but it was super comfortable throughout which was always good.   

It's amazing how quickly the time goes in some of these races, particularly on the trail. Your mind is in a bit of a flow state to some extent, but you are also trying to remember when you last took on nutrition and when you next need to do so. It's more about that and just making sure you’re following the route - which is easy on the SDW as the course is well laid out making navigation simple. 

It’s a completely different approach to a road marathon, where you’re constantly fixated on all your splits. It's a nice break from that, you can almost forget about the splits and enjoy running to feel. The main thing in the first half is to make sure you don’t overcook the downhills because you don’t want to kill the quads too early on. You need to run within yourself for the first half, knowing that this race gets harder in the second half, not solely because of the cumulative distance. Some of the bigger hills come towards the end, there are some nasty steep ones in there once you get to about the 80km mark, which is always fun…  

I got a substantial lead, quite early on. It was nice to run on my own on the trails, it’s so early in the morning, you feel like you have the trails to yourself.  


In the second half when it’s starting to get hotter, we hit the back of the 50km race, so you have people to, not chase down as such, but you know, tag onto, set some targets – it wasn’t too intense on the racing front.  


I started to get a few stomach issues towards the end, which can happen in the heat, especially after you’ve taken on 90-100g of carbs per hour, for 7–8 hours. 

The SOAR kit was great as expected. The new (updated) Trail shorts were great for stashing extra bits as well as gels. Salt tablets are particularly important for me in these sorts of races, especially when it gets hot, to help regulate my blood plasma levels. I had them in one of the easy-access side pockets, which is great. No need to dig into your trail pack, with easy access to your essentials.  


The finish is always a relief. It feels like it can't come soon enough after being out on the trails all day. It had really warmed up by that point too.  


I’d worked hard this time – compared to when I last ran this race four years ago - this was surprisingly tough.  


We’re a few days after now and the legs are feeling human again, I ran for the first time again on Thursday after taking 3 days off completely as well as having a sports massage.  


I felt like I dug deep this year, hopefully, the recovery will go well – I’ll take it easy for a few weeks.  


I’m super glad to get the win, and super glad to do it with SOAR’s support, waiting now to see what UKA do for the World 100k champs, fingers crossed for selection alongside another SOAR athlete James Turner.  


I plan to do a couple more trail races in the summer, but I won’t be rushing back too quickly. I'll start sessions soon enough but won’t put too much pressure on them. Another nice thing, different in the ultra-trail scene is not having those sessions where you feel like if you’re not hitting your splits at marathon pace, then it’s the end of the world, and I know that’s never the case, but it's refreshing, nonetheless."

Joe wears