After an astonishing performance at The Beast which saw Jacek Cieluszecki blitz round the brutally hilly 12.5 miler in 1:24:46 and beat Christopher Peck by over 8 minutes, his prospects for the Chiltern Wonderland 50 looked good.
It seemed almost unfathomable how anyone could get round that course with a 6:45 average pace but JC somehow did. He was on fire that day and would have been hoping to carry that form into the Centurion Running 50 mile event.
It wasn’t going to be the first time Jacek had competed in the Chilterns. He’d previously been at the Maverick Frontier Chilterns event and had won the 21km ‘Middle’ distance race in the summer of 2021.
Unfortunately though, Jacek had been suffering from a knee problem that would be fine one day and then hurting the next. Because of this issue, he opted not to race hard but to run with his wife Ela instead, which he knew would exert less pressure on the area of concern.
The pair already do a lot of training together over the Purbeck and Ela seems to enjoy the long endurance races just as much as Jacek. And she’d pretty good at them as well. She proved that when she ran with Jacek in the North Coast 110k which was in Exmoor. That day she was first female and finished 3rd overall in 16 hours 53 minutes and 11 seconds, which was an incredible result.
Could she repeat those sorts of heroics again though at the Chiltern Wonderland 50? The route for CW50 was a single loop, incorporating 5,600ft of elevation, heading through acres of luscious and unspoilt countryside.
Starting and finishing in the riverside village of Goring on Thames, it’s begins on the hilliest section of the Thames Path National Trail to Whitchurch before joining the Chiltern Way to Mapledurham. Then it’s four miles to Sonning Common before some of the most standout climbs in the Chilterns come into play.
Heading through Bix, it’s then on to Stonor Deer Park before a steep climb out of Turville and past Cobstone Windmill. It’s then along rolling countryside to to the Ibstone check point. The route then continues along the Chiltern Way to the highest point of the course which is Christmas Common at 800ft. A fast descent then leads underneath Watlington Hill as then joins the Ridgeway.
After the aid station at Swyncombe Farm it’s then east along the Chiltern Way extension before heading west to rejoin the Ridgeway at Nuffield. The final aid station is at Grim’s Ditrch before one of the fastest sections of the course brings the runners home to the finish.
It was a super tough course but Jacek and Ela tackled it well together and made it to the end in 9 hours 25 minutes and 49 seconds. It was a phenomenal effort from Ela and it turned out she was 5th placed female on the day.
At the half way stage she’d been 10th placed lady but over the second of the race, she and Jacek had worked their way up the field. That demonstrated a supreme level of endurance and from Ela, as well as the spirit to match.
The first placed woman, Sophie Biggs, arrived in 7th place overall and recorded an incredible time of 7 hours 55 minutes, which made her the fastest V50 ever in the race, across both genders.
Possessing a name synonymous with speed Natasha Mansell lived up to it, finishing as 2nd female in a time of 8:23:18. That put her in 13th place overall out of the 203 runners who took part.
Rachel Lindley was 3rd female, coming in in 8:35:42 which put her in 16th overall. Then it was Tamsin Neale who got round in 8:45:52 and came 23rd in the overall standings. Ela and Jacek were 45th and 46th overall and Jacek was really proud of Ela for the performance she put in.
The overall winner of the race was Paul Russhard, who completed the course in 7 hours and 32 seconds. Jacob James took 2nd place in 7:09:37, with Thomas Marchmont taking 3rd in 7:10:43.
Had Jacek been fully fit and racing it hard, he may well have been the man at the top of the final standings but that’s something we’ll never know now. The experience for him though, running alongside Ela was still a rewarding one though and one that he no doubt would have derived great pleasure from.
The next target for Jacek to assimilate was the Black Hill Run, which is staged in Bere Regis. He was hoping to be at full strength for that one and if was, there was certainly a good chance of a return to winning ways.