Late result: Southern 50 – 1, Storm Dennis – 0
Storm Dennis the Menace did its best to disrupt this year’s event, presenting the 300 walkers with the most atrocious weather conditions in the 41 year history of the Southern 50. But despite the constant gale force winds and driving rain, all it did was to bring the best out of them, with an 84% per cent finishing rate from nearly 300 starters. It was a similar percentage figure for the 78 teams who toed the line from 06:00 onwards when the weather conditions were somewhat kinder. However, as the day wore on, the strength of the wind and rain was ever increasing, and the look of grim determination and resilience was there for everyone to see.
Adult leaders and Explorer Scouts came from thirteen different counties to Tring School to tackle one of the three waterlogged routes, taking them on a wide circle passing Ivinghoe, Berkhampsted, Great Missenden, Wendover and back to Tring.
The winners and runner-up in the 30km Explorer event were identical to last year. The 22nd Southgate Young Leaders were the same characters who won it last year, and now a year older and a year stronger storming round in under five hours, some 40 minutes in front of Wild Wolf ESU. Hot on their heels just twelve minutes later were two teams from The Hatters ESU and 7th Purley Scouts who tied for bronze medal position.
The 50km event saw familiar winners with the 22nd Southgate Leader Team obviously showing the Young Leader Team how to achieve. This was teaching by doing at its finest. These old hands won the event two and three years ago and are back on top with a whirlwind performance having missed out last year. Good to see Hobgoblin Network picking up a trophy for the first time when breezing home as runners up despite a colossal 96 minutes time gap between first and second place. A short while later, Hornchurch Network produced a finishing surge to finish in third position just in front of Phoenix Flyers Too who never seem to be far away from the action.
We now come to the blue riband 50 miles event. The first two placings were a reverse of last year with the remarkable evergreen Ten Gallon Dixie team from Oxfordshire producing a lightning turn of speed to win in 13:34, finishing just 23 minutes in front of last year’s winners, Phoenix Flyers from 201st Islington. Nearly six hours later came Hitchhikers ESU from Cambridge, in front of a leader team from Hatters ESU who were the last team home just before 03:00.
Nearly 200 adult leaders staffed this year’s event, many of them braving the extreme conditions to make sure that this year’s event was such a success whilst roads were being closed due to flooding, planes unable to take off and trains being cancelled across the UK.
The final word goes to Mike Suggate, perennial leader of the winning Ten Gallon Dixie team. He said “The event was an absolute joy to be a part of once again. Storms Ciara and Dennis really played their part, the amount of rain that had fallen over the past few weeks turned the usually pretty boggy Chilterns into a complete quagmire. It sapped so much energy from every foot placement on the flat sticking to the mud, to every hill sending you sliding backwards. The wind and the rain picked up after midday and stayed with us all night, which made it tough going for those walking, and trenchlink conditions for those brave souls stoutly running checkpoints without whom the event would not be half the experience”.
You can download the full results here.