Irish Ultra-Runners Seeking New Records This Weekend in Belfast

June 13, 2024

In Ireland, the sport of ultrarunning receives tokenistic support from the national athletics body. Thus, those who strive to reach their potential in endurance running are lone wolf athletes; they compete in a sport which is unsupported, unappreciated, unorganised, and directionless yet requires professional levels of dedication, discipline, and commitment as well as a well-rounded physical and psychological skillset.

Ultrarunning is anti-materialistic, non-corporate , and a uniquely demanding endeavour. Its attraction is unclear to the average observer. Indeed, some observers often make the mistake of viewing the endeavour as disturbingly masochistic.

For those who run and participate in endurance events the act can become a quasi-meditative competitive pursuit, a potent stew of introspection and propulsion forming an addictive physio-psychological factory reset amid an increasingly oppressive technological and economic landscape.

The empty dystopian streets and cleaner oxygen of the Covid 19 period then would seem to be the perfect training ground for the ultrarunner. 5km restrictions not withstanding, those who regularly logged 50 to 100 miles per week were not unduly affected by the pandemics more totalitarian-esque dictates.

Did the Covid period afford Irish ultrarunning competitors a unique opportunity to reach their potential?

Looking at the numbers , the answer is in the affirmative.

Donegal based runner Ed McGroarty entered a period of sustained excellence beginning in February 2020 when he recorded a new Irish 24-hour record of 249.761 kilometres at an indoor event in Finland, besting Eoin Keith’s previous record of 248.436 kilometres.

In July 2021 McGroarty ran from Mizen to Malin completing the course in a new record time of 3 days 1 hour 55 minutes beating Eoin Keith’s previous best of 3 days 3 hours and 47 minutes.

In October 2021 the surging ultrarunner turned up at the rescheduled Irish 24-hour National Championships in Belfast and registered another national record of 256.570 kilometres, the first Irish man to break the 250km barrier. In June 2022, again at the national championships in Belfast, the evergreen McGroarty posted 255.880 kilometres to retain his national championship title. In September 2022, he captained the Irish team at the 24-hour European Championships where he posted a mammoth 258 kilometres yet another new national standard. Over 32 months McGroarty set 7 new national records; three new Irish 24-hour road running times, two 100-mile records, a 12-hour running national best distance, and a new Malin to Mizen record. Prior to this golden period of performance which coincided with the Covid 19 years, the Lifford AC athlete ‘s 24-hour best was a mere 222 kilometres.

Rumours that McGroarty was spotted at the Wuhan labs in China prior to 2020 have yet to be substantiated.

The Irish 100-mile record time ,heading into the 2020, was considered to belong to Athenry A.C’s Michael Rice, who ran 14.27.06 at the Connemara 100 road race in 2010. By this metric, the record had stood for over 11 years before McGroarty updated the historical annals with an official split time of 14.27.03 in Belfast, June 2022.

Corkonian Aidan Hogan then ran an impressive 13.57.23 100-mile race at the Connemara 100 in August 2022,an unofficial Irish record . McGroarty responded in the early hours of New Years Day in Leixlip with another Irish record best of 13.47.37. Then, in August 2023 , Tullamore A C man Stephen Murphy ran a blistering 13.32 at the Connemara 100, yet another unofficial Irish record coming from the hills and roads of Connemara. It was Murphy’s first legitimate ultra road race and marked him out as one of very few capable of challenging McGroarty’s sudden stranglehold over Irish ultrarunning records.

Stephen Murphy ran 13.32 at the Connemara 100-an unofficial Irish record for 100 miles

The Irish 12-hour record has also been updated twice in the last year. Adrian McNamara exceeded McGroarty’s 12 hour best by over one kilometre running 143.3 kilometres. The Mayo AC man is one of very few with the capability, dedication, and drive to mount an assault on the Irish 24-hour record.

McNamara breaking the 12 hour road running record

This weekend Adrian McNamara goes for the Irish 24-hour record while Stephen Murphy seeks to set a new 100-mile Irish best.

As they seek to break new boundaries and push themselves further than any Irishmen have gone before, you can track their progress via the Atlas Running Facebook page.

Ignored by the national athletics body, these athletes deserve better.

We wish them the very best in their quest for glory.

Written by Gary Elbert.

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