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World of Sport

02nd Mar 2016

Meet the Irishwoman preparing for her wedding by running, cycling and kayaking 250km… in 24 hours

Serious dedication

Patrick McCarry

Most people preparing for their wedding go to some sort of effort to look their best on the big day. Heather Irvine is taking that notion, pushing beyond it and then leaving it far, far behind.

This weekend marks the third staging of The Race in Northwest Donegal. Established in 2014 by Irish adventurers David Burns and Maghnus Collins, the ‘ultra-endurance’ race has already been recognised internationally as as one of the 10 toughest events on the planet.

The Race pits competitors against a 250-kilometre course taking them across Ireland’s most rugged, remote and challenging terrain. Competitors must run a half marathon, cycle 175 km, paddle 15 km and climb 800 vertical metres before finishing with a full marathon through the night.

All of the above must be completed in just 24 hours.

Even typing that left us out of breath.

If it seems a daunting prospect, it is. However, the rewards are also rich. Participants push their endurance levels to the brink while enjoying a great sense of companionship, camaraderie and, for the lucky ones, completion.

SportsJOE caught up with Heather Irvine, who is undertaking The Race for the first time and eager to tick another mighty item off her bucket list.

Heather Irvine

What motivated you to get involved in The Race this year?

As a big fan on endurance events, The Race has been on my list since it began a few years back. Most of the racing I do is in summer so I think the lure of shite weather mixed with the fact that I am a serious sucker for punishment got me in the end!

But seriously, this is a very tough challenge, it is a solo event, in harsh weather with long hours of darkness. I love to really push myself and I know that this race will be one of the toughest I have entered yet.

What other endurance events have you tried out?

I have taken part in a number of adventure races from 24-hours up to 72-hours. This year I will take on my first five-day race when Itera comes to Ireland. I have also taken part in a number of ultra-running races including a 250km running race across Iceland.

Your fianceé was also taking part. Did you meet through this activity or is it a shared passion? Is there a competitive edge there?

I met my other half while competing in a 250km running race across Iceland. Since then, we have taken part in a number of races together. It’s great, we are not at all competitive with each other, instead we are usually dragging each other through. He is a brilliant training and race partner – we have a good laugh (most of the time!).

We are actually getting married just 2 weeks after The Race so I am hoping we’ll both make it through in one piece.

The Race 4

How meticulous do you have to be with preparing gear/food/fluids?

Thankfully I have a fair bit of race experience under my belt so I know what gear I like and how much food and water I need to take on board for a race like this.

To be honest I am not the most meticulous person you’ll ever meet but I do try and organise my kit as best as I can. Good gear is essential for a race like this as you really are out in tough weather conditions.

Food and water-wise, I try to keep it all as simple as I can. I’ll have some pasta in my boxes at transitions and then stick to nuts and a bit of chocolate when I am on the move.

What would a good result be for you this weekend?

To get to the finish line. I really don’t mind if I come last. Let’s just say that my training hasn’t exactly gone to plan, but I am a firm believer that you can always do more than you think you can. Getting to the start line and giving it my best shot is a result in itself for me.

I also reckon some of the best craic is to be had at the back of the pack as generally competitors give each other a boost to try and pull each other through. Racing in Ireland is just brilliant – everyone is so friendly.

For more on the event, check out The Race.