Just before sunrise on the Saturday week, March 7, ultra-endurance athletes from all over Ireland and the world will line up at Gartan Outdoor Adventure Centre.
‘The Race’ has already been recognised internationally as one of the 10 toughest events on the planet.
Held in north-west Donegal, ‘The Race’ - in only its’ second staging - has brought Ireland right to the forefront of ultra-endurance racing as popularity for the sport continues to explode worldwide.
“We believed that Ireland had the topography and climate to rival the world’s greatest ultra destinations” said The Race co-creator and adventurer David Burns.
The Coleraine native and fellow adventurer Maghnus Collins, who is from Limerick, have taken part in endurance races the world over and felt Ireland could deliver a course and event to rival the worlds’ best.
The search took the two men to northwest Donegal.
“In Donegal we found a landscape that took our breath away, but more importantly we found a course that would be as tough as anything internationally, Collins said.
“And it would guarantee a significant rate of attrition amongst competitors. A course that competitors could not be certain of completing.”
The event pits competitors against a 250km course taking them across Ireland’s most rugged, remote and challenging terrain.
Competitors must run a half marathon from Gartan to Ramelton, cycle 175 km over two legs, paddle 15 km from Ramelton to Rathmullan and climb 800 vertical metres up Muckish Mountain before finishing with a full marathon through the night from Doochary to Gartan.
All of the above must be completed in just 24 hours.
Crucial to the concept is that there is no typical competitor. Competitors come from a variety of backgrounds and disciplines.
Firemen, teachers, mums, dads, students and everything in between compete alongside tri-athletes and elite ultra-runners.
Those who compete in and complete The Race are simply those who refuse to give up.
The male category in 2014 was won by Canadian Bill Wells with the female title going to Scottish triathlete Christina McKenzie.
This leaves the door open for a first Irish winner in 2015. Letterkenny’s Sean McFadden and Dublin based Eddie Brennan are hotly tipped to compete for the men’s’ title this time around.
Irish adventure racer Avril Copeland and German ultra-runner Anne-Marie Hammerfeld should go close in the female category.
Whilst much attention will be focused on the possible winners for most the challenge is provided by course rather than other competitors.
To simply finish the course within the 24-hour time limit will drive most competitors on and pull them together.
As 2014 finisher Oisin Weldon put it: “There is a camaraderie among the participants, a communal spirit.
“It’s us against the course rather than against each other and it’s great to be a part of that.”
The Race is a not for Profit event with all proceeds going towards the work of Gorta – Self Help Africa.
Gorta – Self Help Africa’s CEO Ray Jordon said: “I would like to thank all the competitors for their incredible dedication towards the race and our work with rural farmers in Africa”
It is organised by Sand2Snow Adventures and Gartan Outdoor Education Centre.
“Gartan OETC is delighted to co-organise The Race’ with Gorta - Self Help Africa. The event highlights what Gartan OETC and Donegal has to offer as one of Ireland’s leading outdoor adventure locations,” said Sean McCrudden of Gartan OETC.
“We would like to wish everyone involved in and with ‘The Race’ the best of luck and especially our very own instructor John Boyce who is taking part.”