25 May 2021


Written by Cara Jeffrey

Age is just a number for Maghera miracle man Tommy Hughes, 61, as he goes beyond the marathon on Saturday 29th May at Down Royal in search of yet another world record.

The Covid clouds have cleared sufficiently for Tommy to go to the start-line in the inaugural Whitespace NI & U 50K and 100K Championships being staged by the fledgling Northern Ireland Ultra Running Association (NIURA).

The Strive Racing phenomenon is entered in the 50K looking to increase his world age-group record haul: He already holds the half (1:11:09) and full marathon (2:30:02) records and with his son Eoin the world’s quickest father-son combined marathon time.

Certainly, the current record of 3:29:51 set by Germany’s Erwin Remmele way back in 1999 looks to be well within his compass.

The ‘youngsters’ in the field will have to keep an eye on him as they race to become the first name on the Northern Ireland trophy.

Favourite for the 50K, although not eligible for the NI title, will be Co. Clare’s Sean Hehir. His marathon PB of 2:16 from London 4 years ago earned him an Irish vest at the IAAF World Marathon Champs. And, he was the Dublin ‘virtual’ marathon winner last October (2:21).

Keep an eye out for Newcastle AC’s mountain running international David Hicks who drops down from the hills to try his luck on the flat.

In the women’s race, North Belfast’s Louise Smith, the NI record holder over 50K (3:39:52) should be well placed as BARF’s NI 100K record holder and 24-hr Irish international Susan McCartney drops down to the shorter distance.  Both will have to look out for Donore Harrier Sorcha Loughnane who has a marathon PB of 2:55.

In the 100K, Willowfield’s Aaron Woodman makes his competitive debut at the distance following some impressive marathon times. In March 2019 he clocked 2:25:56 in London and then improved that by a minute in the autumn in Chicago.

Others to watch include Lee O’Boyle with the Mallusk Harrier running an impressive 3:19 for 50K in a Victoria Park trial earlier this year; and Dave Andrews from the Metro Aberdeen club. Dave came to prominence at the World 24-Hr Champs in Albi, France in 2019 where he ran 235K(146 miles); and this Spring he represented the UK in a 6-hr virtual race.

The NI title in the 100K women’s race looks wide open but the overall win could come from the Navan club with Joanne Rice and Nicola Duffy looking to complete in 9 hours. Nicola is a past winner of the Connemara 100 and last October won the Gloucester 24-hr invitational race covering 207K (129 miles).

The 50K ultra runners will complete just over 17 laps of the Down Royal course and it’s just over 35 laps for the 100K.

The first-time Championships will carry additional weight as the NIURA selectors will sit down in early June to pick the men’s and women’s NI & U teams to go to Anglo Celt Plate 100K home international team championships, this year being held in Mondello Park, Co. Kildare on August 21.