On Your Marks – Herald January 9

Last autumn, ultra runner and adventurer Eoin Keith cracked a rib in the final mountain running race of the year. It couldn’t have come at a worse time. At the time, Keith had just signed up for the Across-the Years 72-hour race starting on December 30 in Phoenix, Arizona.
After only two weeks rest, Keith jogged his his first few painful steps. A week later, his training was back on track.
The rest may have done him good. By the time he finished running, early on January 1, Keith had also smashed the Irish 48 hour and 72 hour records. He had reached his target of 300 miles (383.2km) after 67 hours 21 minutes and decided to stop.
Before this year’s race, only two  other men had claimed the gold buckle awarded for those who clocked up 300 miles or more. One was the course record-holder and ultra running legend Yianis Kuoros of Greece, who ran 323 miles in 2005 and the other John Geesler of the USA, with 300.122 in 2004. The best Irish performance came from World Jogger Tony Mangan, who ran 279 miles to finish second behind Geesler in 2006 and won the race a year later.
All was to change in this year’s race. American Joe Fejes, race winner in 2011 with a total of 280.3 miles, was a man on a mission.
From the start of the race, he set what many observers felt was a suicidal pace on the specially designed mile loop at the Camelback Ranch.
After nine hours, interrupted  only by short rests for food and drink, Eoin Keith, who had run a very respectable 84.5 kilometres, was already 10km behind the flying American. At 25 hours, Keith with over 209.5km to his credit was now 22km behind Fejes and 17km ahead of third placed Ed Ettinghausen. Day two proved tougher, with the early pace taking its toll and both men slowing down, although Keith’s distance of 342.969km was a new Irish 48-hour record. On the third day, Keith found a new lease of life and managed to cover an additional 100 miles in 20 hours to reach his 300 mile target. Ahead of him, Fejes had smashed the course record with a total of 329.64 miles (530.5km).
The first man to congratulate the Irishman was Tony Mangan, who had met Keith over the Christmas break and given him valuable advice.
*After a much-need break in Dublin over the holidays, Mangan has resumed his World Jog
and is currently in Fiji.

Saturday’s Antrim International Cross-Country in Greenmount sees  Fionnuala Britton defending the title she won last year, with Britain’s Jessica Coulson and marathon specialist Linda Byrne  her main rivals.
Bernard Rotich looks the best of  the Kenyan athletes  running the men’s 10km. British athletes Andy Vernon and Frank Tickner have also entered.The senior races double as Ulster and Northern Ireland Championships, with the programme beginning with juvenile races at 11am.

A record number of  almost 350 turned out for the South Dublin Cross-Country races in Tymon Park on a perfect day for running.  Not surprising really – run for a couple of year and you quickly discover that the BHAA offer the best and most friendly races around. Winners were Brian McMahon and Caroline Crowley. Next race is at nearby Firhouse on Saturday January 19.

At the Munster Indoors in Nenagh, Robert Heffernan won the 5000m walk in his best ever time  for an opening run of the season. Running a personal best for second place was Brendan Boyce, who is coached by Heffernan. Sean Tobin, who missed out of the European Cross-Country because of illness, produced the fastest time of the day in the 1500m, while Kelly Proper, who was plagued with injury and illness last year,  won the senior women’s 60m and hopes to compete  in the long jump at the AAI Games later this month.

Claire Tarplee of DSD won the women’s 1500m at the BMC Sheffield Indoors Open in a time of 4:19.31. Kristaps  Valters of Clonliffe was third in the 800m in 1:55.02, with his  clubmate Mark McDonald clocking a time of 4:02.38 for 8th in the 1500m.

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