Energia 24 Hour Race: 24 reasons to cheer on the 24-hour runners at Belfast's Mary Peters Track
Who in their right mind would want to run around a track for 24 hours? Well, apparently one hell of a lot of people.
Now in its sixth year, the National Championship was sold out in the space of two weeks; with a lengthy waiting list knocking at the door.
Here are 24 reasons to support the 24 hour runners this weekend:
1. Soak up the atmosphere – there are 144 runners, which means there will be a great sense of pride and achievement at the Mary Peters’ Track – go and be part of it!
2. Speaking of the Mary Peters’ Track – if you haven’t been to the hub of athletics in Northern Ireland, then what are you waiting for? The five star facilities are a fantastic asset to our sports scene.
3. Not content with just seeing the track? Then meet the lady herself! Mary Peters always starts the race, and loves meeting fans and supporters.
4. Bring sustenance – the runners will all have teams of supporters, but you can always bring runner-friendly energy snacks to the track – and there can never be too much water!
5. Be a cheerleader – the main reason to support, is to cheer on the runners. Think about it, at 3am, when energy supplies are low, words of encouragement will always make a difference.
6. Watch in awe – have you thought about what these people are actually doing? Running – for 24 hours? Some without a break? Yeah, that’s something to be in awe of.
7. Support a good cause – many runners are not just running for the fun of it, there are lots of charitable causes that they are fundraising for too. Energia, the event’s title sponsor, has a couple of relay teams that are running for Age NI, so you can always donate while you’re down there.
8. Witness Gru from Despicable Me run the race – David Higgins from Armagh is dressing up as the much loved villain-come-good, in support of SADS (Sudden Adult Deaths) UK, and a small African charity, Friends of Gambia NI.
9. The competitors maketh the race, so look out for Eddie Gallen wearing the number 1 bib as the current Irish champion. He lives and works in Madrid, but is returning to his home city of Belfast to once again, show us how it is done – this is his 31st 24 hour race, if you can believe it.
10. Witness some running love – amongst many competitors, there are a few love stories that have developed on the track. They include Gary Connolly and Gillian Cordner, the ultimate running couple from the Seapark running club in Carrick. Gillian became the first woman in Northern Ireland to run 100 marathons, and Gary has also surpassed the 100 mark.
11. Jerry Forde is not only the second oldest competitor taking part at 64, but he is the first wheelchair bound athlete to take on the Energia 24 Hour Race.
12. Through these varied competitors, you will witness amazing strength – you will never not be shocked at the strength that these runners pull from the depth of their souls in the bleakest hours of the circuit.
13. As a supporter, you can camp out in the middle of the track. Amongst the families and support teams, you can mingle and meet like-minded folks, all with great stories to tell of their runners.
14. Help feed the masses – at midnight, a gourmet meal arrives at the track. Every year, James Street South chefs make a vat of pasta and courier it to the track to feed the weary runners – a great carb boost when most needed!
15. Meet people from around the world – a shortlist of countries that will be represented at the race include Poland, Hungary, Spain and The Philippines.
16. Malcolm Gamble is the competitor that will travel the farthest – he’ll be coming from Melbourne, Australia.
17. Witness a sprint finish – after 24 hours of running, as unbelievable as it sounds, sometimes there is a sprint finish.
18. John O’Regan gave the crowds a thrill with one last year – all down to his sheer strength and cheering from the crowds!
19. This year, John O’Regan is putting his record hopes on hold to guide the race’s first visually impaired athlete, Sinead O’Kane from Cork.
20. When supporting, it’s not just the grown up athletes you can cheer on – there is also a kiddies 24 second race that deserves lots of cheers!
21. Get on TV! Such is the uniqueness of the Energia24, local news crews can sometimes be found getting footage on the event – tell them how great you think the event is, and don’t forget to say hello to your mum!
22. Be inspired – maybe one day you could be challenging yourself to a 24 hour race
23. Or, if 24 hours seems daunting, register for the 12 hour race, or as part of a relay team. It really is worth the pain!
24. … and if you can’t be there in person, follow all the action @energia24 on Twitter, and search Energia 24 on Facebook.