Belfast 24 hour 2019, Preview

After some lovely big mountain races to get my season going things take a very sharp turn to flatter world of pure distance running this weekend. The 10th Belfast 24 hour running race, which is the Irish 24 hour running championships will take place in Victoria Park, right at the end of the Belfast City Airport runway! I think I’ve done 6 or 7 of these races, including when it was the world championships in 2017.

2017 turned out to be my best year there. I managed to run a bit over 248km to break my PB by about 4km, and break the Irish record by about 40 meters or so (wafer thin margin). Last year I did around 239km, which is about my 4th best 24 hour distance ever, but such is the incredible standard that we know have in Irish 24 hour running, that was only good enough for second place behind fellow Corkonian Aidan Hogan in the Irish Championships.

Over the years I’ve won the race at least 3 times. The first one or two of those were when it took place on the Mary Peters 400m track, where I set the Irish 24 hour track record of 244.67km. With all those appearances they even made me the “poster boy” for this year’s event.

Energia Poster

You never know what is going to happen in a 24 hour race. It’s a much more mentally tough undertaking than running 24 hours or so over the mountains. The main thing that keeps me motivated for races of this nature is the race itself. And a 24 hour flat looped race is a very pure form of racing. 24 hours is probably the shortest non man-made (And therefore arbitrary in some way) distance.

At this point I don’t even know the full list of entrants. I’d be pretty sure there’ll be a massive Cork battle between Aidan, Alex O’shea and myself. Past winners such as Eddie Gallen and John O’Regan are highly likely to turn up. It’s even possible that the winner of the first event from 10 years ago, Thomas McGuire, whose record I barely scrapped past, could also turn up. All past winners have been invited.

We’ve had a good international runners take part last year, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see some more come over to try to get a good distance on a fast course. There are still qualification places available for the world 24 hour running championships taking place in Albi in France this autumn for a few countries. That’s very much the case as far as Ireland is concerned, which will be yet another motivating factor for everyone.

There are no trackers for this race, but there should be some updates on the Energia 24 hour Facebook page, and possible live lap counting (surprisingly addictive) on the myrunresults website. The race starts at midday on Saturday.

It’s impossible to know how your form will hold up after 16 hours or more of continuous running, but I feel in good shape. Training has gone well. I’ve even managed to get in a few short sharp mountain races with the Irish Mountain Running Association. That at least reminded me of the pain of racing! The weather forecast is looking quite good at the moment. But this is still Ireland, so you never know!

This is definitely one of my “A” races this year. An Irish championship is always worth racing for! This is also the last 24 hour race being organised by Ed Smith, who has done so much to bring 24 hour ultrarunning in particular to new levels of strength and depth. Yet more motivation to race well!

I’m really grateful to have Richard Nunan present as my support crew, with a little background help from Taryn as well. The old adventure racing team is still working well together!

One, hopefully good, sleep to go….

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