24 degree heat challenge for 24hrs

July 19

While last year’s weather was monsoon-like for the race, tomorrow’s temperatures could reach at least 24 degrees making it the hottest race in its history.

24 degree heat challenge for 24hrs

Race Director, Ed Smith admits that the soaring temperatures are a big concern with protection against the sun and hydration vitally important for the runners and teams.

Ed says; “These ultra-runners have thousands of miles of experience shared between them so they are aware, and their support teams know, the importance of good hydration on days like this. There are runners here from New Zealand and Spain, athletes who have attempted this type of race in the likes of Phoenix, Arizona, so they’ll know how to be best prepared. Still, we are not used to these conditions and there is no doubt that it will put additional stresses on what is already a huge effort. The athletes will need lots of support and we will be monitoring things very carefully.”

Lining up at the track tonight in a bid to smash both the Irish and Belfast track records were an elite collection of ultra-runners. Topping the bill was Cork man Eoin Keith, 44. The Irish record holder has unfinished business over the next 24 hours as he dropped out of the race 12 months ago in atrocious weather with an upset stomach.

Keith celebrated the New Year in Phoenix, Arizona where he ran a mind-boggling 300 miles in three days - only the fourth person in history to achieve that, and, given favourable conditions, he’ll be chasing the £500 first prize, the bonuses that go with an Irish and track record and the title of Irish 24-Hour champion.

He anchored the Irish team at the World 24-Hour Championships in the Netherlands in May. Indeed, the whole Irish team is in Belfast this weekend.

They include ultra-running guru John O’Regan, 43, from Kildare, bidding to win three Irish titles in a row; the remarkably consistent Belfast man Eddie Gallen, 50, who will be flying in from Madrid having completed 24 round-the-clock races in a stellar ultra-career; and the talented Donegal runner Dan Doherty, 34.

Doherty, who will travel from his Hampshire base, may have the Irish 100km record on his mind. It has stood since 1978 but he came within seven seconds of finishing eighth at the European Championships in France.

All competitors will be watching out for GB international Matt Moroz, 37, from Norwich. He has targeted 235km (146 miles) - and that is just shy of the Irish record!

All eyes too are on Ruthann Sheahan, 38. The west Cork woman took everyone by surprise at the World 24-Hour Championships in 2012 in Poland where she finished seventh and smashed the Irish record by almost 23km running 229km (143 miles). She is returning from injury, but showed no signs of it winning the Portumna 100K last month.

Some seven nations and 13 Irish counties are represented at the race today.

Carl Laffan, 35, has flown in from Lower Hutt, New Zealand; Dubliner Frank McDermott will have done 10 marathons in 10 days the week before!; and Don Hannon, 40, from Bray will be hoping his blisters have healed from a 260km (161 miles) attempt on the Wicklow Way there and back which just failed three weeks ago.

Achill Island sisters Caroline, 36, and Donna, 34, McLoughlin will be trying a 24-hour for the first time and hoping they don’t lose any toe nails. And, there’s also a brother and sister taking part: Tim Brownlee and Susan McCartney, who last month won the MourneWay Ultra.

Simon Buckden and fiancée Louisa Rodriguez are travelling from Leeds to take part and highlight Post Traumatic Stress Disorder - the Belfast race is part of a huge two-year fund-raising effort of big challenges.

There’s nothing like a sponsor getting involved and that’s exactly what Energia’s Group Managing Director Tom Gillen is doing as he has assembled a company team to take part in the 24-Hour relay; “Events such as these are headline-grabbing and good news for Northern Ireland and I am very pleased that Energia can be associated once again with the race” said Tom.
He continued; “Myself and the team are looking forward to the challenge, luckily we’ve had a few weeks to train in these weather conditions, so here’s hoping it will pay off!”
The race also has backing from Belfast City Council through their ‘Support for Sport’ initiative, and the Lord Mayor Máirtín Ó Muilleoir, who has a 3hr 40 min marathon to his credit, says he will run the last hour.

Ed continues; “Some of the very best long distance men and women are here. I have a feeling we are going to see some remarkable feats of mind and matter to grace the new-look Mary Peters track - for what they’re about to do - they deserve loads of support. So, I only hope people will come along to cheer them on through dusk and dawn and on to the finish.”

The race ends at 6.45pm on Saturday 20 July.

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