Ultra-running and long distance mountain and trail running get the headlines this week. Lindie Naughton reports. 

Keith Russell from Navan was one of two men to break the world record of 85 laps – or “yards” in Backyard lingo – at the Race of the Champions Backyard Masters in Rettert, Germany from May 14-21.

Russell called it quits after notching up 89 loops and 596.790 km in 66:14.22, while Merjin Geerts from Belgium kept going for one further loop running 90 laps for 603.5km in 73:38.50. Both were breaking a record of 569.586km or 85 laps record set by the American school teacher Harvey Lewis 19 October 2021 with Geerts now the world record holder.

During a backyard ultra, runners must complete a 4.2-mile loop, or “yard,” every hour. Their only chance to rest is the time between the end of one lap and the beginning of the next. Competitors are eliminated if they fail to complete a loop within the hour. It ends when just one runner remains. The distance of each yard (4.167 miles) is 100 divided by 24, which, coupled with the time constraint, pushes competitors to complete 100 miles every 24 hours.

The ultramarathon where “there is no end” was devised in 2011 by Gary “Lazarus Lake” Cantrell – “Laz” for short – the eccentric genius behind the Barkley Marathons, so tough that only fifteen have ever completed the race.

Navan man Russell, aged 39, has shown steady progress since finishing tenth in the 2019 Energia 24-Hour in Belfast, when he covered covering 210.696 km. Last October, he improved that distance to 232.570km in the same race.

So far this year, he has won the Last Man Standing in Castleward in February completing 248.122m, and was seventh in the IAU Solidarity 6 Hour race covering 63.943km, with a 50 km split of 4:53.36.
Next big date for Russell is the IAU European 24-Hour Championships in Verona, Italy on September 17/18.

Seven Sisters Skyline and Challenge

Experienced ultra runner Ricki Wynne from Drumshambo in Co Leitrim came out on top at the Seven Sisters Skyline 55 km event in the Derryveagh mountains of Co Donegal on Saturday (May 21).

Wynne’s winning time of time of 7 hrs 7 mins 47 secs put him 24 minutes ahead of Gavin Byrne, in 7:31.47 with Lonan O’Farrell in 7:34.07.

Ellen Vitting of Trim AC was first woman in 8 hrs 37 mins 20 secs, over thirty-six minutes clear of Aoife Mundow who finished in 9:13.57. Major target for Vitting this summer is the Mont Blanc Ultra in August.

Photo: Richard Bolt

Dublin orienteer Ruari Long pulled away on the final 5km to win the shorter Seven Sisters Skyline Challenge, a point-to-point race which started at the bottom of Muckish mountain, and is part of the Valsir Mountain Running World Cup – a series of 17 races in 10 countries.

Long completed the 30km distance with 2,134m of climb in 3 hrs 29 mins 59 secs, which was a course record. Finishing second was the American-based ultra runner Paddy O’Leary in 3:36.46.

American visitor Olivia Amber was first woman in 4:07.36 – also a new record time. Kathryn O’Regan, also American, was second in 4:47.18. Third and best of the Irish was Sarah Brady in 4:47.18.

Photo: Richard Bolt

Roads… to an extent

Tudor Mircea of Clonliffe Harriers (also known as Tudor Moldovan) not only set a new course record of 70 mins 39 secs at the Lap of the Gap half marathon around the narrow twisting, roads around Glendalough, he won the race by a margin of over 19 minutes.

Not that second placed David Brady was complaining when he finished second and first M40 in 84 mins 1 sec.

Simply finishing the course, set in a beautiful part of Wicklow, is an achievement in itself. Third in 84:30 was Michael Bagnall while fifth overall and first woman was Linda O’Sullivan of Watergrasshill AC in Co Cork. She finished in 86:34 and was also first W50. Second woman was Lucy O’Malley in 87. 44 and third was Laura Rooney, also from Watergrasshill AC, in 88:52; both women were over 40.

Leading home 126 finishers in the marathon was was Darren Foley in 3 hrs 7 mins 8 secs. Not far behind for second and first M40 was Jerome Debize of Galway City Harriers in 3:07.52, while third in 3:14.43 was Kenneth Rothwell.

Julie McNamee, from Tir Chonaill AC in Donegal, was seventh overall and first woman in 3:24.02. She’s been picking up a lot of second and third places in in recent endurance races and was delighted to notch up a win. Karen Clarke of Brothers Pearse in Dublin was second in 3:43.24 and Michelle Frutiger third in 3:51.33. All three women were over 40.

Counting up to 1,000

Finishing at the back of the field was David Brady of Raheny Shamrock AC. Brady had aimed to reach his 1,000 marathon before his 70th birthday, before the two-year lockdown put an end to that ambition.

Glendalough was either his 979th or 980th marathon – he’s kinda lost track – and he’s delighted to be getting back into the swing of both training and counting down marathons.

“It would be nice to finish my 1,000 in the Dublin Marathon, but we’ll see how it works out. I won’t be too worried now if it goes into 2023.”

A variety of distances

Peter Somba of Dunboyne AC and Leevale’s Lizzie Lee were the winners of the inaugural Ashling Murphy 4-Miler in Tullamore on Sunday (May 22).

Somba, who finished in 19 mins 43 secs, was followed home by Mick Fogarty of Ferbane AC and Michael Murphy from the host club Tullamore Harriers, while Sinead Whitelaw of Mullingar Harriers AC and Fiona Gettings of Longford AC wee the second and third women. Lee’s winning time was 22:30.

Among the age group winners was Olympic marathon runner Pauline Curley of Tullamore Harriers who was first W50.

Mick Clohisey of Raheny Shamrock AC was the winner of the Kingdom Come 10-Miler organised by An Riocht AC in Castleisland, Co Kerry, on Sunday.

Clohisey was a clear winner in 50 mins 47 secs, with Derek Griffin second in 54:04. In a double for Dublin club runners, first woman was Niamh Clifford of Donore Harriers in 63:21.

On the same day in Donabate, Co Dublin, Dylan O’Brien of Raheny Shamrock AC won the LSA Peninsula 4-Mile road race in 20 mins 49 secs. First woman was Sheila Bourke of Lusk AC in 24:44.

On Saturday, Alan O’Shea of Bantry AC in 15 mins 13 secs and Martina Kiely of St Finbarr’s AC in 17:50 were the winners at the Barry O’Sullivan Memorial 5km in Dromahane

Earlier in the week

Both Paul O’Donnell of Dundrum South Dublin AC and Leevale Olympic steeplechaser Michelle Finn set course records at the Bob Heffernan and Mary Hanley 5km in Enfield on Tuesday evening (May 17).

O’Donnell won the race in 14 minutes exactly, beating Peter Somba of Dunboyne AC who finished in 14:17 and master athlete Michael Harty of East Cork AC in 14:20 – which is an M40 Irish record.

With four runners in the top 16, DSD AC finished best of the men’s teams; Emmet Jennings and Michael McCarthy made up the scoring trio. Leevale AC was second and Mullingar Harriers third.

In the women’s race, Finn’s winning time was 15 mins 44 secs. Jessica Craig of North Down AC finished second in 16:18 and Lizzie Lee of Leevale AC third and first W40 in 16:27. With Jessica Coyne finishing fourth, Leevale were comfortably the women’s team winners, ahead of DSD AC and Longford AC.

In the KIA team category (combined men and women’s team results), Leevale with 47 points beat DSD on 62 and Mullingar Harriers on 122.

The race was the third round of the KIA Series, with four races to come and the best four results to count.

On the same night in Cork, Niall Shanahan and Sinead O’Connor were the winners at the John Buckley BHAA 5km.

Shanahan was a clear overall winner of the race finishing in 14 mins 42 secs and was also first M40. In the battle for second place, his Department of Education team mate Mark Walsh got to the line ahead of Shane Collins of Apple Inc, with the pair timed at 5:16 and 15:22.

Sinead O’Connor, also running for the Department of Education team, was first woman in 16:18. Carol Finn of Carol Finn Physical Therapy was second in 17:38 and Michelle Kenny, another Department of Education team member, third in 17:48.

To no-one’s surprise, the Department of Education team won both men and women’s A grade. Eli Lilly was first in men’s Grade B, where Musgrave proved best of the women, while in Grade C, the Apple men and the Midleton Town Council women were the winners.

On the same night the annual ESB Beach 5K was cancelled, with Sandymount Strand turned into a quagmire after a day of heavy rain.

Track time

Ciara Mageean produced the Irish performance of the night at the Birmingham Diamond league meet on Saturday (May 21) when she finished fourth in the women’s 1500m in 4:04.70. In the women’s 800m, newly-crowned Irish recordholder Louise Shanahan of Leevale AC finished eighth in 2:01.55.

In the men’s B 800m, Luke McCann of UCD AC was fourth in 1:50.43, with newly minted Dundrum South Dublin AC member Rocco Zaman-Browne a fraction behind for fifth in 1:50.45. Zaman-Browne opened his outdoor season a few weeks ago with a time of 1:48.12 for third place in the 800m at the British University Championships.

At the Lange Laufnacht in Karlsruhe, Germany, also on Saturday, Darragh McElhinney of UCD AC finished sixth in the 1500m in 3:39.79. He moves up to 5000m next weekend. In the women’s 800m, Claire Mooney was second in 2:03.91.

Ryan Forsyth of Newcastle AC was in action in New York at the Track Night NYC on Friday (May 21), where he clocked 14:26.56 for 12th in the 5000m. Marcus Reilly, son of Irish steeplechase Olympian Stephanie, ran a time of 4:08.46 in the boy’s mile, while Kevin Kelly was 11th in the 1500m in 3:47.07.

Time for some league athletics

Highlight of the National Track and Field League opening round in Belfast was a thrilling women’s premier division 1500m, where the ageless Maria McCambridge of Dundrum South Dublin AC chased down Eimear O’Brien of Sligo County for the narrowest of victories.

Both women had a brief rest before running again – McCambridge finished third in the 3000m and O’Brien fourth in the 800m. Such is the nature of league athletics!

Winning the 3000m was Emma Mitchell of Clonliffe Harriers in 9:47.96. Master athlete Denise Toner of Monaghan County won the 800m in 2:12.66.

Making it a middle distance double for Dundrum South Dublin AC in the men’s premier division was Paul O’Donnell who starting by winning the 1500m in a handy time of 3:54.33 and then ran a smart race in the 5000m, tracking early leader Sean O’Leary of Clonliffe Harriers for the first few laps before making his move and winning in 14:48.69. O’Leary was second in 15:28.05.

Clonliffe Harriers, the defending champions, finished the day on top of the men’s premier table with 146 points; DSD AC was second with 110 points and Crusaders third with 99 points. DSD topped with women’s table with 127 points, followed by Louth County 106 points and Clonliffe Harriers 100 points. In division 1, Tir Chonaill AC proved best of the men and were a close second behind Ratoath AC on the women’s points table.

Next round of the league takes place on July 31, with the final on August 14.

Photo: Lindie Naughton

School competitions

Irish junior international athlete Scott Fagan of Castleknock College had a tough battle in the senior 1500m on the second day of the Leinster Schools Track and Field Championships in Santry on Saturday (May 21).

Fagan was chased all the way to the line with the pair finishing in 3:58.83 and 3:58.93 respectively. Equally close was the senior 5000m when Jonas Stafford of ETS just got the better of Shane Spring of Ard Scoil Ris.Their times were 15:20.50 and 15:20.54.

Winning the inter girls 3000m in 10:03.63 was Anna Watson of St Joseph of Cluny – the fastest time of the day. Also impressive was Maggie Jez of Lucan CC who comfortably won the inter 1500m in 4:29.71, also the fastest time of the day.

Earlier in the week, on Wednesday (May 19), Marcus Clarke of Castleknock College won the senior boys’ 2000m steeplechase in 6 mins 17.50 secs. Niall Carberry and Shane Spring, both Ard Scoil Ris, were second and third.

Fastest in the combined senior and inter girls’ 1500m steeplechase was Eleanor Foot of Loreto Dalkey in 5:23.69, who took the inter title.

At the Munster Schools Championships in Templemore, also on Saturday, Cian O’Boyle of St Flannan’s Ennis won the senior boys 1500m in 4:03.92, while Joseph Tanner of Borrisokane CC won the 5000m in 15:33.75.

Caoimhe Flannery of Skibbereen CS won the inter girls’ 1500m steeplechase in 5:23.71, with Louise O’Mahoney of Col Mhuire Ennis an untroubled winner of the 3000m in 10:05.96. An impressive winner of the senior 3000m in 9:57.47 was Jane Buckley of Col Toirbhirte Bandon.

Lady Mary Peters, winner of the Olympic pentathlon 50 years ago in Munich, was a special guest at the Ulster Schools Championships at Antrim Forum, again on Saturday. Lucy Foster and Rebecca Rossiter were among the middle distance winners on the day. Full results to come.