22 June 2016

A new venue,a new date, a record entry and a World Championship to come next year has breathed much new oxygen into the 7th running of Energia 24 on Sat/Sun June 25/26(noon start).

And, it’s oxygen the athletes will need plenty of as they look down the barrel of 24 hours of non-stop running that could mean the completion of some 6 marathons back-to-back -that’s more than 150 miles -and with it a National title and international recognition.

After 6 years at the Mary Peters’ track, Energia24 moves to a 1 mile(1.7k) circuit in Victoria Park in east Belfast in search of more  space. It’s a ‘dress rehearsal’ for the premier event in the sport, the 24-Hr World Championships, and world officials will be on hand giving it the once-over stress test.

Perhaps in anticipation of that, the 24-entry list has doubled from last year to just under 100 with the 12-hour,100k and relays also well supported. The competitors will represent 13 nations, 25 Irish counties and the best represented club will be Dublin Bay Runners.

Race Director Ed Smith says: “ We are delighted at the size and the quality of the field and at the same time all too aware that we are under the world microscope and having to deal with a whole new environment in Victoria Park which will include bringing in over 100 lights powered by 20 generators for the nighttime phase of the event.

“ But we already know the circuit is well-used by runners through the success of Park Run -which will go on as normal on Saturday morning ahead of the start of the race at noon,” he says.

“ It is great to have the use of this upgraded facility -part of the Connswater Regeneration- and with it the support of Belfast City Council alongside our title sponsor Energia, who have been with us from the start when we had 18 entries, Pure Running, Water Within, the international Association of Ultra Runners and the athletics federations north and south.”

The top of the leaderboard could have a familiar look to it. National 24-hr champion Eoin Keith,47, from Cork has swept all before him this year winning the 431km Montane Spine Race across the Pennines at the start of the year in spectacular fashion smashing the course record by 15 hours; and then he did something similar at the start of this month at the Northern Traverse covering the 306kms(190 miles) in just over 2 days to win by more than 5 hours.

Those races were all about navigation,rough terrain and lots of climbing ,the 24-hour is different - but Keith is a runner for all seasons and Thomas Maguire’s Irish road record of 248kms(154 miles) set in Monaco back in 2009 could come under threat.

And, Keith will know all about 2 former champions who return.Three-time winner John O’Regan,46, from Kildare who took time out last year to guide blind runner Sinead Kane; and Belfast’s Madrid-based Eddie Gallen,53. He set a new Irish 12-hour record in Barcelona in December. Remarkably, this will be his 32nd 24-hr race.

Again the pretenders will be snapping at their heels: Wexford’s James Whitty,51, and Polish athlete Thomas Klimas,39, who lives in Limerick. They finished 4th and 5th respectively last year.

And, what about Keith Whyte,34 from Ennis? He holds the Irish 100km record and steps up to the 24-hour for the very first time.

Also there is Galway’s Richard Donovan,50, the promoter of some of the world’s toughest challenges. He comes back into the ranks and brings a mighty impressive CV with him. He holds the world record for completing 7 marathons on 7 continents in less than 5 days and last year ran from San Francisco to New York a distance of 5472kms(3,400 miles).

In the absence of current Irish champion Susan McCartney and Irish record holder Ruthann Sheahan - who is racing in China’s Gobi desert- the women’s race looks wide open.Brenda O’Keefe-Miere,37 from Dublin and Carrick’s Gillian Cordner,41finished 2nd and 3rd last year and will look to go one better this. 

In a surprise move, Canadian Amy Masner,42, from Arklow has opted for the 100km here despite running an eye-popping 218kms(135 miles)at an indoor 24-hr in Finland earlier in the year. In a major boost for the selectors, she has now opted to run for Ireland. 

Behind them will  come those trying to hit the 100 mile mark and get one of the coveted jackets that welcomes athletes into an exclusive club. 25 managed it last year. There should be more this.

And then, there will be those raising money for their chosen charity; and Belfast’s Conor Meehan who was so disappointed to miss out last year; and thought he would miss out this year because the date would clash with his wedding day. But,as fate would have it, the  race date was moved. Whether Conor will be able to walk up the isle remains to be seen! 

Much attention in the 12-hour race will be on Jan-Albert Lantink from the Netherlands. The 55-year-old will be attempting 3 world records at 12-hours,100km and 100 miles. And, is laying on his own official doping control to ensure any record will be ratified.

And, at 66, Colette O’Hagan from Dundalk will be the oldest competitor in the field.She was bitterly disappointed to miss out through injury last year.

Latvian Vilnis Pleite ,44, who’s working in Roscommon,also returns and his experience and know-how will stand him in good stead.

In the 100k,it will be fascinating to see if Amy Masner can get close to Donegal’s Helena Crossan’s Irish record of 7:52:45  but she’ll have plenty of competition to spur her on in the shape of England’s Samantha Amend,37, and Norwegian Aud Stuhr who are both trying to impress their national selectors.


For More Information: ED SMITH, 00447740818389