On March 1, 2014, 54 competitors from nine countries stood on the start line of an endurance race in Northwest Donegal.
It was 5.59am, one minute before the race began and one hour before sunrise. As the crisp morning air blew in from the Atlantic the competitors gathered on the start line. World class ultra endurance racing had come to Ireland.
The event, simply called The Race, promised to be Ireland’s toughest endurance challenge. In the space of 24 hours competitors would have to complete 15km of kayaking, 5km of mountain running and scrambling, 166km of cycling and a marathon and a half of road and trail running.
The course was designed by Irish Adventurers David Burns and Maghnus Collins who believed that Ireland had everything required to provide a challenge on par with the toughest endurance events worldwide. Explaining the concept Burns said “It was a challenge designed to break competitors down. One in which finishing wasn’t guaranteed, even for the most seasoned of athletes.”
The course took in some of Ireland’s most spectacular and rugged landscapes as competitors did battle along the Wild Atlantic Way before traversing the full expanse of Glenveagh National Park.
By 6am the following morning 35 competitors had completed the course. The winning time of 15 hours 22 minutes was recorded by Canadian athlete, Bill Wells. Wells competes in endurance races around the world but felt the first cycle leg of The Race “was the toughest 100km I have ever done on a bike”. He was closely followed by Irish competitors Sean McFadden and Micheal McCarron who completed an impressive top three. This event however was not just about the battle for top spot. Indeed many of the gustiest performances were by those who finished at the back of the field. Heather Bamford was the final competitor to complete the whole course. Her time of 23 Hours 53 Minutes made all the more impressive by the fact that she had completed over the half the course in darkness.
Heather’s daughter Emma also completed the inaugural event, upon finishing she said “I never wanted The Race to be easy. I thought the wild Donegal landscape and the unpredictability of the Irish weather could break me but I didn’t appreciate that it would be the competitors and marshals that would make me.”
The Race 2015 takes place on March 7th and 8th. Competitors will again have 24 hours to complete the 250 km course.
Registration for the event is now open. Please see www.therace.ie