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PICTURE: 4th January 2018: The standards continued to rise with the mercury at the Energia 24-Hr International and National Championship in Victoria Park, Belfast at the week-end (June23/24).

There were personal bests all over the park as the top 10 finishers all went passed 200kms and some 53 claimed those coveted jackets for reaching 100 miles - a record outside of last year’s World Championship. And, 8 women placed in the top 20 overall.

Pride of place went to Cork’s Aidan Hogan, 45, who smashed his personal best to be crowned National champion covering 243.9Kms (151.54 miles) and get the better for the first time of three-time champion and record holder Eoin Keith, 49, his Irish international colleague, who’s also from Cork, having to settle for second some 5 kms back with Scotland’s Nathan Flear, 35, something of a surprise package, with another big PB in third.


Because Flear was ineligible for the Irish Championship, the bronze medal went to Bangor’s Mark Walker, 48, who has been knocking at the door in recent times and was also in personal best form.


Australian Barry Loveday, 40, from Queensland was the longtime leader, but dropped out after 14 hours.


In the women’s race, England’s Samantha Amend, 39, was a class apart leading from start to finish, the Belgrave Harrier accumulating 220.2kms (136.9miles) along the way. Irish international Louise Smart, 39, from Newtownabbey finished second and, with Amend ineligible, claimed the National title for the second time with another personal best.


Finland’s Paula Wright, 42, finished third overall - but her membership at the Newport AC club allowed her to take second in the National Championship with Ballycastle’s Helena Dornan, 46, claiming the bronze medal with a big personal best total.


The pre-race favourite Mizuki Aotani, 44, from Japan finished 4th and 12th overall.


And, worthy of note in the women’s race was the performance of the two 69-year-olds in the race: Colette O’Hagan from Dundalk and Ann Bath from Epsom in Surrey who finished 67th and 68th beating others half their age with O’Hagan just getting the better of it by 1K covering 143.6Kms (89 miles).


Elsewhere Dublin Bay Running Club’s  Ger Copeland, 40, won the 12-hour race (115.7kms/71.9miles), with Fiona Prue, 49, from Ward Park Runners in Bangor taking the women’s title (111.9kms/69.5 miles). Prue was in fact second overall with North Belfast’s Gregg McClure third and visually impaired runner Sinead Kane and her guide fourth.


In the 100K, Ennis athlete Keith Whyte, 38, was on the comeback trail and looking to pitch at his own Irish record of 7 hours and 3 minutes. He was on schedule at the 50K halfway mark but couldn’t sustain it and eventually stopped leaving the way clear for Belfast’s Tim Brownlie, 38, to sweep on to victory in 7 hours 47 minutes and 56 seconds - a huge personal best for him by some 40 minutes - which will have impressed the Irish selectors ahead of the World Championships in Croatia in September.


Fittingly, there was a double in the 24-hr team event for local club Orangegrove as they took the Mixed team title (291.5kms/181.1miles) and the women’s title (245.2kms/152.4 miles).


Michael Ringland from title sponsor  Energia says: “Hats off to all who took part not only did they overcome the time on their feet but also the heat of the day with sponges much in evidence. The atmosphere was great and as a company we were proud to support such endeavour.”


Race Director Ed Smith says. “After last year’s World Championships, I didn’t think we could come close to matching it - but there was again a real buzz of anticipation and huge effort out there with a lot of PBs  and brilliant support from crews, spectators, family, volunteers, medics and everyone who contributed.

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