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Northern Ireland ready to run for Energia 24 Hour Race

Challenging endurance event is forerunner for World Ultrarunning Championships in Belfast in 2017

Over 100 runners from all over the island of Ireland, the UK and abroad will gather in Belfast on Saturday 25th and Sunday 26th June for the Energia 24-Hour race at the Victoria Park Track in East Belfast. One of the toughest running challenges in the world, the Energia 24-hour race is the endurance race where competitors run as many laps of the 400m race track as they can in 24 hours.

The competitors will represent 13 nations and a total of 25 counties on the island including Northern Ireland, together with a wide range of international runners. After 6 years at the Mary Peters’ track, Energia24 moves to a 1 mile (1.7 km) circuit in Victoria Park in east Belfast in search of more space. 20 generators and 100 floodlights will ensure that the night time part of the event runs smoothly.

This year’s Energia24 is seen as a ‘dress rehearsal’ for the premier event in the sport – the International Association of Ultrarunners 24-Hr World Championships which will be held in Victoria Park in July 2017. World officials will be on hand in Belfast this week giving the Northern Ireland event a once-over stress test in advance.

Perhaps in anticipation of the world championship, the 24-entry list has doubled from last year with all sections of the race including 12-hour,100k and relays also well supported. The competitors will represent 13 nations and 25 counties on the island, and the best represented club will be Dublin Bay Runners.

Race Director Ed Smith says: “We’re 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 having to deal with a whole new environment in Victoria Park. 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 24 hour race at noon,” he says.

“It’s 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 are also involved.”

Title sponsors Energia, the leading gas and electricity suppliers, have backed the 24-hour race from day one. Michael Ringland, Marketing Manager, Energia said: “We hope our sponsorship helps to energise this year’s fantastic event once more. It really is completely different from anything out there on the Irish sporting calendar. Best of luck to all the competitors.”

The event carries a Silver Label from the World Governing Body and is grant-aided by Belfast City Council and supported by Pure Running.

ONES TO WATCH

24-HOUR

EOIN KEITH,47,from Cork living and working in Dublin. Current Irish champion. In January won the 431km Montane Spine Race across the Pennines , north of England in under 4 days and in sensational style smashing the course record by 15 hours. At the start of June he returned to the north of England to win the Northern Traverse, 306kms(190 miles) of running with 16,000 ft of ascent. he completed it in just over two days (51:38:15) to win by over 5 hours in what was described as “ an awe-inspiring run.” Could he make an assault on Thomas Maguire’s Irish road record(248kms/154 miles)which Maguire set in Monaco in 2009?

EDDIE GALLEN,53, from Belfast living in Madrid. Remarkably this will be his 32nd 24-hour race. He has done all 6 Energia24 races. In 2015, amid emotional scenes, he won his first National title. He brings no back-up and only leaves the course for toilet breaks. Last December on the track in Barcelona he set a new Irish record for 12-hours of 135kms.

JOHN O’REGAN,46, from Leixlip, Kildare. Coach, mentor, Irish captain. He has raced all over the world and is a 3-time National champion. Last year he guided blind runner Sinead Kane to 2nd place overall in the 12-hour race.

KEITH WHYTE,34, from Ennis, Clare. There will be much interest in this athlete as the Irish 100km record holder steps up to the 24-hour for the very first time. Last year he won the 100km ice marathon in Antarctica and in April of this year won the Connemara Ultra. But this is a step into the unknown. Still, he has overcome the debilitating effects of osteoporosis.

RICHARD DONOVAN,50 from Galway. The Event Director of some of the world’s toughest challenges including the North Pole marathon, the Antarctic Ice Marathon, the Volcano marathon which is the world’s highest desert marathon. Generally, he’s organising races he’s already done himself! He won the South Pole marathon in 2002 and followed that up with the first marathon length run in the North Pole. He holds the world record for completing 7 marathons on the 7 continents in less than 5 days and is turning that into a World Marathon Challenge for others. Last year he ran from San Francisco to New York a distance of 3,400 miles (5472kms).

JOHN COLLINS,36, from Carndonagh, Donegal. A very interesting entrant in that for several years now he has been a crew leader at European and World Championships looking after the Irish competitors. Here’s what he says: “ I’m more accustomed to feeding, timing and putting clean socks on ultra runners. I have always held my ultra buddies in the highest regard. Now I want to be one. Here goes.”

DON HANNON,43, from Roundwood, Wicklow. The experienced ultra runner and organiser who ran over 200kms(124 miles) last year for 6th place at Energia24 has a dilemma. He will enter hospital the week after the race to have part of his liver removed. It is to help his sister who has a rare liver disease. In the week leading up to Energia 24 he will undergo a battery of tests.

AMY MASNER,42,from Arklow, Wicklow. Amy first came to prominence in the 2015 Energia24 when she won the 12-hour race in an all-comers record distance of 117kms(73 miles).Then over the winter in Finland she ran an eye-popping 218kms(135 miles) in a 24-hour race to finish 2nd. That was in Canadian colours, but, through residency, she has now declared for Ireland. Here she runs the 100k as she prepares for the European 24-Hour Championships in France in October.

12-hour

JAN-ALBERT LANTINK,55, from Borne in the Netherlands. World officials will be on hand as he attempts to break the world age-group record for the distance. But he made light of his years in 2015 winning the Ultrablaton outright covering the 221kms(137 miles) in just over 18 hours. And, in 2012 he finished second overall in the famed Sparathlon completing the 250kms(155 miles) in 23-and-a-half hours.

COLETTE O’HAGAN,66, from Dundalk in Louth. She will be the oldest competitor in the field and was bitterly disappointed when injury prevented her from taking part last year.

100kms

SAMANTHA AMEND,37, from Marlow in Buckinghamshire. She has a marathon best of 2hrs 42 mins set in Amsterdam and subsequently Frankfurt and last year won the Windsor half marathon which she followed up by running 100 miles along the Thames path in 16 hours. She is looking to impress the GB selectors ahead of the World 100km Championships.

AUD STUHR,40, from Saudasjoen in Norway. The first Norwegian to take part in Energia 24 and something of an unknown quantity as to how quickly she can cover the 100kms.