Tireless Paul completes 100-mile race in personal best time

Paul McCleery displays his medal at the finish of the South Downs Way 100 race. Picture courtesy Stuart March Photography
Paul McCleery displays his medal at the finish of the South Downs Way 100 race. Picture courtesy Stuart March Photography

Ultra runner Paul McCleery achieved a 100-mile personal best time on Saturday.

The personal trainer completed the South Downs Way 100 in 21 hours, 35 minutes and 20 seconds, knocking an hour and 23 minutes off his previous time for the event.

He said: “I thought 44 was Lewis Hamilton’s lucky number, but as this was race number 4, my race number was 4 and I finished in 44th place at the age of 44. I’d say that may be my new lucky number.”

The very hot conditions were reflected by more than 80 non-finishers, and McCleery endured a very tough start with nothing in his legs from the off (as a result of taking part in the South Downs Way 100 Miles Relay the previous weekend).

He arrived at Cocking in 82nd place in 6:23, exactly the time as in 2013, and so made up some good time from that point.

McCleery reached 50 miles in 10.49 and admitted he was struggling at halfway, but Rob Grubb and Tim Cox got his head straight, fed him and kicked him out of Washington.

Pacer, Susie, picked him up at mile 70 and dragged the Hastings Athletic Club member round the last 30 miles with some steady pacing, picking off a number of runners.

Cox appeared here and there with some pick-ups and encouraged McCleery to push on. After a brief hug with Ashley Varley at Jevington and a hot chocolate sachet from Sharon Dickson at Alfriston, all was good to push to the end.

McCleery is how halfway to completing the Centurion Grand Slam double, which comprises four 50-mile races and four 100-mile races.

In last month’s TP100 and the two 50-milers he’s done so far, McCleery’s shoes ‘ate my feet’ and he started with sore feet.

This time he gambled by running in the most comfortable shoe he had, and although this worked well and he didn’t get a single blister, the soft sole made the chalk and rock like running on Lego.

McCleery has a nice long break now until the North Downs Way 100 in August, although he will keep himself ticking over by doing Ironman UK in Bolton on his birthday weekend next month.

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