Wild Atlantic Ultra: The Rise of Ireland’s Premier 50-Mile Race

June 11, 2024

The Wild Atlantic Ultra, an exhilarating 50-mile race that loops around the iconic Croagh Patrick in County Mayo, has quickly become a beloved event in the ultra running community. This unique race, which starts and finishes in Louisburgh, has a compelling origin story and a passionate organiser behind it.

Michael van der Klei, the mastermind of the Wild Atlantic Ultra, is an accomplished ultra runner himself. The idea for the race came to him in 2019 after he returned from a run and realised he had covered exactly 50 miles. Inspired by this serendipitous achievement, he decided to create a race that encapsulated the rugged beauty and challenging terrain of the Irish landscape.

The inaugural event in 2019 saw a modest nine runners at the start line. Fast forward to 2024, and the race had grown to accommodate 50 enthusiastic participants. This remarkable increase in interest has been driven purely by word of mouth, a testament to the race's growing reputation within the running community.

One of the distinctive features of the Wild Atlantic Ultra is its route. The race takes runners on a loop around Croagh Patrick, offering breathtaking views and a formidable challenge. The 50-mile distance is further supported by strategically placed aid stations every 5 kilometres. This frequent support is unusual in ultra marathons and fosters a close-knit, supportive atmosphere among participants, setting the Wild Atlantic Ultra apart from other races.

Michael’s philosophy for the event is clear: maintaining a tight-knit group of happy runners is more important than having an overly-large number of participants. "Fifty happy runners are better than 300 runners with two unhappy by the end," he says. This focus on quality over quantity has paid off, as the race is consistently reviewed as an incredible experience by those who run it.

In fact, the Wild Atlantic Ultra is the only 50-mile race in Ireland, adding to its allure. Michael is keen on securing recognition from the International Association of Ultra Runners (IAU), a move that would further elevate the race's prestige. He is actively gathering feedback from ultra runners across the country to continuously improve the event, ensuring it remains a top-tier race.

Looking ahead, Michael aims to maintain the race's high standards and exclusivity. The race always has a waiting list and sells out quickly, a trend he intends to preserve. There are plans to gradually increase the participant cap to 75, but the emphasis will always remain on quality over quantity.

The Wild Atlantic Ultra stands out not just for its challenging course and beautiful scenery, but also for the community it fosters among runners. Michael van der Klei's dedication to creating a memorable and high-quality race experience ensures that the Wild Atlantic Ultra will continue to be a highlight on the ultra running calendar for years to come.

Early bird entries for the 2025 edition of the Wild Atlantic Ultra can be found here!

Featured Image: Courtesy of Michael van der Klei

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