RunWinschoten have been organising a 100k race since 1976 when 77 runners took part.
On Saturday over 3,000 were running in 100k, 50k various teams in 10k x 10k relay and 2k races for youngsters. They have perfected the
organisation of this event over the years so it is no surprised that IAU have incorporated their championships into it..
There is probably no Dutch word for undulating in this uniformly flat landscape’, so the 10k lap course has only an elevation variation of 1 metre. The town (pop 20,000) adopts a festival atmosphere with bunting everywhere, music on every corner, picnics on the grass verges etc.
The weather was hot and humid – which became a big factor as the 100k race which began at 10am progressed. The temperature climbed to 26c by 1 o’clock and first aiders were busy.
The Irish men’s team of six had arrived at the athlete’s village during the week. They all settled into a good pace over the early laps – aid stations for the 35 participating countries lined the route and the Irish table, with physio John Belton and Sarah Syron in support was busy all day.
Daniel Doherty settled into a strong pace and was always going well, as was Chris ‘Neill. Daniel reached 35k in 2.24, followed by Chris at 45 secs, John Byrne at 4 mins, Keith Whyte at 7 mins, Marty Rea at 9, and John O’Regan at 21.
Keith Whyte had been suffering and dropped out at 40k, followed by Marty at 50k. With Daniel reaching 65k at 4.28, and Chris at 4.34, John Byrne began to hurt too and got some physio at that point (5.05) but at 70k decided to stop. After 10 mins of quiet and rest on a chair, amazingly he started again, and in a fantastic display of mental strength and determination he completed the remaining 30k. This inspired the other three and although they all suffered, they got there, courage hardly describes it.
Daniel Doherty ran the race of his life, running the last 5k wrapped in tricolour, to finish 14th in the World overall, and 6th European in 7.08.07 just outside the Irish record of Thomas Maguire. Chrs O’Neill had hamstring problems but got back on track each time after John Belton treated him and he finished in 32nd place in 7.33.24. Next home was Mayo AC’s John Byrne in 82nd position in a time of 8.21.46, a profile in courage. And Irish 24 hr champion John O’Regan was next to finish 108th place in 8.43.55.
Just 202 of the 325 100k starters finished. The first man was Italy’s Giorgio Calcaterra in 6.27.32 a great time in the conditions and only a few minutes outside the course record. First woman was Marina Bychova from Russia in 7.27.19.
The prizegiving in the sports hall beside the finish started at 10.30pm. It was a time of celebration and reflection. For John Byrne and team a ”tough day at the office” was just an understatement. He says he will now take time out to consider his future running
direction after an intense 15 months in the ultra world. The Irish team can reflect with pride on their achievement and their team place will reflect this.
As the prizegiving finished, a major natural thunder and lightning fireworks display lit the skies over Winschoten at midnight .. and the heavens opened. What a day!