The increasing popularity of The Race – Ireland’s first 24-hour endurance event that is set for a second staging in Donegal next March - was exemplified this week with the first round of places snapped up in 24 hours.
There will be a maximum of 100 entrants the 250km event with 30 ‘first come first served’ places having been offered online on Tuesday and filled by Wednesday morning, leaving just 70 places on offer for those aiming to participate.
“We had 30 places for pre-registration,” race director David Burns, a native of Coleraine, said this week.
“We only opened registrations at 9am Tuesday and within three minutes we had 12 registrations.
“Now, the 30 places were gone and it happened much faster than we had ever anticipated.
“Last year it took us a couple of months to get 30 people registered. We’ve decided on 100 people as we want to keep the quality up.
“It’s not just about the weekend. Anyone who signs up gets support from now. We want to deliver a much more personalised service. We want to put on a challenge that is tough but safe.
“Last year we had great assistance from An Garda Síochána, Civil Defence, Defence Force Volunteers, Gartan Outdoor Adventure Centre, Irish Red Cross and the RNLI.
“We also want to minimise the impact on the local environment and ecology.”
Between yesterday, Wednesday, and Friday, September 5, elite athletes can apply for the 15 places available.
Race organisers will then, if applicable, decide on the hopefuls for this category with greatest experience and/or results taken into strongest consideration. This decision will be made by on Monday, September 8.
During that same timeframe, registration can be made for the remaining 55 places, which will be decided on a lottery basis, also on September 8.
The Race 2014, like the upcoming second instalment, was a not-for-profit event staged in aid of Self Help Africa by Sand2Snow Adventures and Gartan Adventure Centre. It was won by Canada’s Bill Wells in a time just over 15 hours and 22 minutes.
Letterkenny native Sean McFadden and Michael McCarron finished within 15 minutes of Wells.
Next year’s course will be the same as was used in the inaugural staging of the event last March.
“I’ve taken the plunge again,” said McFadden, who is also planning an assault on the Donegal Iron Man record next year in Copenhagan, Denmark.
“The Race opened a lot of doors for me. After last year’s event I was raising blue flags at beaches and giving talks in schools.
“I wouldn’t change anything about the course. It’s a great event. I tend to go better the windier, the wetter, the harder it is.
“I made a few mistakes last year and hope to learn from them in a field that is likely to be more competitive again. But I’m willing to go to extremes to do well next year.”
Christina Mackenzie was the first placed female last March, completing the course sixth overall in 18 hours and 37 minutes. In total 54 competitors began The Race 2014 with 38 finishing.
Burns added: “Competitors have to have trust in you when you arrange an event like this for the first time. We’ve listened to the feedback, which has been good.
“We would love this to be a top international event. We want to make this a top class event, one where we will continue to look after competitors and they thoroughly enjoy their experience here.
“The course itself was beautiful and worked very well.
“The course will be the same with there being improvements in support on the course, more permanent structures instead of tents at transitions, more people on the course. Without hand-holding those who take part, it’s about slight improvements in the support systems.”
Competitors will run 22km from Gartan Adventure Centre to Lough Swilly, kayak 15km Ramelton to Rathmullan, cycle 100km onto Muckish Mountain, then run, walk or scramble the 5km 500-metre vertical metres up and down, cycle 75km onto Glenveigh National Park before finishing with a 43km to Gartan Adventure Centre - a marathon along the paths and trails of Glenveagh.
“Having spent a lot of time travelling in some extreme places, something we’ve enjoyed is the test the environment can give you,” Burns said.
“Ireland has something unique and Donegal really capitalises on that. The terrain we have, the undulating nature with the wind and the terrain. You’ve never really sure what the weather is going to do.
“The environment makes it different and it’s more of a mental struggle and that’s what we’re really looking for. Donegal does that brilliantly.
“Everyone who did it last year, particularly those from overseas, were just blown away at how beautiful a place it is. People were amazed by it.”
The Race will be based at Gartan Adventure Centre and will take place on Saturday, March 8. To register please see www.therace.ie