Going the extra mile at Wexford Festival of Running

Wexford Marathon Club recently hosted its second Festival of Running at Johnstown Castle. The event, held on May 7th and 8th in balmy early Summer warmth, attracted in excess of 200 competitors to an event devoted to ultra-endurance running. The fact that the site chosen for the festival is one of the most attractive parkland settings in Ireland may have made the pain endured by those in the longer races easier to bear. Live music, tents, bunting, flags and cheering crowds added a genuine festive feel to the occasion. “We genuinely don’t think there is a venue anywhere more suitable or as beautiful to host our vision of what a 24hr festival of running should be,” said Race Director, Paddy Rowe.

The festival featured a number of individual races run over a given period of time rather than, as is usually the case, over a fixed distance. The choices available were 1hr, 3hr, 6hr, 12hr and, the daddy of them all, 24hr. The latter included a relay option.

The overall winner of the 24hr race, which began 12 noon on Saturday, was Rex Brillantes of Dublin Mountain Running Club. He broke the course record by a massive 6k, finishing with a personal best of 212Km. Anita Barry of Marathon Club Ireland, with a final distance covered just short of 151 km, was the first female finisher in the 24 hour event. WMC’s Paul Duggan placed 4th with a PB of 166.76km. To put this in context, had he taken the road to Dublin rather than doing laps of 1.3km circuit this would have taken him from Wexford up to O’Connell Street, Dublin and back to Glen of the Downs!

The 12 hour race was won in impressive style by Niall McGuigan (121.41km). WMC had two debutants making the podium: Pat ‘the galloper’ Fitzpatrick and John Murphy showed great strength, patience and resilience in placing 2nd and 3rd respectively, the distances covered being 105.29km and 99.41km. Their colleague Martin Carroll completed 72.31km in what was his 50th marathon and his first ultra. In the 12hr Ladies event Anna Monahan took the win with 92.05km while Anne Marie O’Brien was 2nd with 86.71km.

In the 6hr race, WMC had two athletes on the podium: James Whitty 2nd (63.29km) and Conor Barry 3rd (62.31km). Their clubmate Stefan Hamilton was 4th (61.95km), Aidan Clarke of Wexford Tri Club was 6th on 57.96km and Anto Kennelly (WMC) was 8th. In her first outing at this duration, Dina in ‘t Zandt (WMC) covered 54.44km in 6 hours to place a very respectable 4th, especially as, due to an uncooperative alarm clock, she started 35mins after everyone else!

John Gordon (WTC) won the 3hr race, covering 38.38km. Clubmate Sean Collier was 4th male finisher with 34.77km. First woman in the 3 hr was Maria McDonald (WMC) who looked the picture of efficiency as she stopped the clock at 34.68km. Catherine Ronan of United Striders placed 3rd with 33.16km. Marion Dowling of Racing795 was two places further back on 32.28km, followed by Ruth O’Connell (WMC) and Karen Shannon (WTC).

Those still easing their way into the whole ultra-distance scene settled for the 1hr race. John Stone (DMP) in 2nd place, behind winner Barry Whelan from Tallaght, was the first Wexford finisher (15.04km). Ciara Brady was first female and 3rd overall (13.70km). For the host club, Wayne Homes on 11.78km was the first member across the line.

The club expressed its gratitude to all the event sponsors and those who helped directly in organising the event. The main charity benefitting from the weekend was Wexford Women’s Refuge. Thanks to Tony Crosbie for the photographs.

Looking ahead: one WMC member who assisted with the organisation of the Festival of Running has eyes on a bigger prize. In April, Lorraine McMahon broke the 12hr National Irish Record in Crawley UK on a 400m track covering a distance of 121.88km. She is currently preparing for the European 24hr Championship which takes place in Verona, Italy in September. She achieved the qualifying distance for the event in the Belfast 24hr race last October.