Royan 48hr Course – Round the bend?

William went to Royan in great shape for the race – but we aren’t really expecting amazing results this time…

Partly this is because William is planning on simply gaining more experience at the 48hr event (he has more of a track record in both shorter events such as the 24hr race and longer events such as the 6-day race but hasn’t run many 48hr races).

However, one of the main reasons that you probably won’t be seeing an earth-shattering result this time round is that the Royan course simply isn’t set up for it…

The venue itself looks very nice and I’ve had good reports from runners who have competed in Royan in the past. However, for the 48hr race (and the 24hr race which will be run on the same course at the same time during Sat/Sun), this is the chosen route :

This is a 1.2km (roughly 3/4 mile) circuit – which as you can see contains no less than NINE 90-degree turns in the course (as well as several more gradual ones).

For those not experienced in ultra-running this may not seem like a very big deal, so I’ll try and give a context.

The current World Record for the 48hr Road race in William’s age group (M55) is held by B. Zander with a distance of 352.040km (set in Koln, 1992). We’ll assume a slightly slower pace than this, and consider a possibility of an average pace of 7mh throughout the race, which would give 336km in 48hrs.

The course is a little over 1km but if we call it 1km for simplicity, if a runner were to average 7kmh throughout the 48hrs, and thus ran 336km, this would require them to make a total of 3024 ninety-degree turns during the race.

It is absolutely no joke trying to make a right-angled turn during a race under any circumstances. Attempting to do so around three-thousand times during a two-day period will certainly be a test of everyone’s ankles…

But it gets “better” than this…

In case you are thinking that the photo may be misleading, William had a chance to walk the course prior to the start of the race. He told me that the

“…course is wide in all but one part”

(which is good news as runners may thus in theory be able to take some of the corners “wide”) but William added that there is

“… one part where it narrows to about a single runner’s width – a real chicane!”

Again, to put this in context, FORTY runners are due to start the 48hr race. On Saturday they will be joined on the course by a further FORTY-FOUR competitors in the 24hr race, making a total of 88 runners racing on the 1.2km track. And apparently one of the bends looks likely to require being negotiated in single-file… I think I’ll risk sticking my neck out and predict the occasional bottle-neck occurring (!).

Looking at the course layout it seems a shame that the organisers didn’t opt for a roughly .5km course, avoiding the “snake” at the start/finish. No doubt they had their reasons for choosing this particular course, and naturally all the runners will be grateful for all the hard work that goes into putting on an event of this kind, but having this many bends and angles, plus a very narrow section, will virtually automatically stop any serious chance of a really world-class performance by any runner. Whatever distances the runners do achieve, they would almost undoubtedly have achieved more on a more favourable course…

More news as I get it,