What a week-end it has been for John Byrne of Mayo AC. Sunday 27th March 2011 will be a date the Straide man will never forget. They say poetry is ’emotion recollected in tranquillity’, well John was pure poetry in motion in Perth, and he will recollect joyfully in the calm days ahead and he heads out the Windy Gap to train. And he certainly has a lot to celebrate. John joined the five man Irish team in Perth for the Anglo Celtic Plate 100k ultra race.This annual event is not only a very competitive race between the Home Nations but also incorporates the Irish 100k championships.
For more pictures click here -> http://www.roadrunpics.com/011anglocelticplate.html
The team manager was well known adventurer and experienced ultra
athlete Richard Donovan from Galway. Two experienced runners, Thomas
Maguire – the current Irish record holder (7 hours 4 minutes) – and
John O’Regan, were joined by Keith Whyte (Ennis Track Club) and Daniel
Doherty (Basingstoke and Hants AC), both attempting their first 100k.
John Byrne came to the race having entered the ultra distance zone in
2010 with a 50k race in Galway in August and an excellent 60th place
in the World Championships in Gibraltar in November. In between these
two he completed yet another Dublin marathon.
100k is the equivalent of running two marathons back to back and
finishing with a 10 mile run. How do you prepare mentally and
physically for this task. We will have to ask John and his team mates
that question. They will all have different schedules and plans but
the same obsession and dedication.But we know the many miles John has
clocked up over the years and the mental conditioning he has gained
that essential to endurance events.
Sunday morning’s 7 a.m start at serene and foggy North Inch Park in
Perth came even earlier after the clocks went forward. The 2.38k
circuit was as perfect as you could find. Tree lined park paths, Bells
Sports Centre on on side and the slow flow of the river Tay on the
The Irish support crew were in place with a table full of all the
varied needs of the team. Gels, energy drinks, clipboards, watches,
mobile phones, fig rolls and protein bars, and plenty of water. Each
of the 42 laps were recorded,noting faster and slower times, facial
expressions were read, encouragement offered, placings advised, and
sometimes withheld. The sun burned away the fog. John reached the
marathon mark in 3 hours and steadily passed the halfway 50k point in
3 hrs 33 mins. He had been lapping the circuit at 10:15 – 10:30 pace
As the noon bells tolled they had been running for five hours. Richard
Donovan told us the race really began at 70k, And so it came to be, as
runners unravelled amid muscle pain and fatigue. John was sixth and
second Irish placed runner but showing great consistency in lap times.
The Gibraltar experience came into play. He got to fifth, then at
about 80k caught Daniel Doherty who had a brilliant debut. Then in
the last few laps, with his familiar determined grimace he pulled the
leaders back. With just a couple of laps to go he went into third
place and ran a fantastic last lap in 9.42 to finish in 7:09:33 to
finish third in the individual competition behind Craig Stewart of
Scotland (7:01:36) and Alan Smalls of England (7:04:54). He beat his
Gibraltar debut time by 54 minutes!
There were delighted hugs from his Mayo AC supporters especially his
number one fan Sarah Syron, Catherine Conway and TJ McHugh had played
a key role too and they also celebrated John’s performance underneath
the team tent’s tricolour. Daniel Doherty was joined by Keith Whyte
over most of the last 20k and they held on for 6th (7:19:29) and 7th
(7:28:59) overall finishes, respectively. Like John, they also posted
qualifying times for the World 100km Championships in September.
Richard Donovan said that “for a relative newcomer to ultrarunning,
Byrne ran an incredible time”
John was crowned Irish 100k champion for 2011, and is now the second
fastest Irishman in history over this distance. He led the team to a
cumulative times of 21:58:01 – a new Irish team record -. eclipsing
the record set by the Irish team that finished 5th at the European
100km Championships in 2007. Team captain Thomas Maguire was fourth
Irish finisher, and John O’Regan came in fifth with a personal best
time .The Irish team were third in the Anglo Celtic Plate. The
performance also ensured second place behind Scotland (21:43:36) in a
highly competitive team competition which saw Commonwealth Champions
England finish 3rd.
This must rank as the best race of John Byrne’s athletic career, a day
when he held it all together, a day for grit and talent, a day to make
Mayo, Mayo AC and Ireland mighty proud.