250km of running, cycling, kayaking and climbing in 15 hours - welcome to Ireland's toughest race
Sure, what better way would you want to spend a weekend in Donegal?
Irish adventurers David Burns and Maghnus Collins returned home, in 2013, from a remarkable endurance undertaking that had seen them tarvel - by roads, mountains and white-water rapids - from Istanbul to Shanghai. Their money-raising efforts were captured in the RTE documentary 'Silk Roads to Shanghai', which was aired late last year.
While most of us would, after eight gruelling months away, put our feet up for the rest of our lives, Burns and Collins were onto the next project.
The pair had competed in a number of the world's toughest endurance events and struck upon an idea that made perfect sense - Why not hold one in Ireland?
Within a year of their return, The Race was staged in Northwest Donegal. Now in its second year, the event has brought Ireland to the forefront of ‘ultra-endurance’ racing. It has already been recognised, internationally, as as one of the 10 toughest events on the planet.
'We believed that Ireland had the topography, climate and conditions to rival the world’s greatest ultra destinations,' Burns told SportsJOE.
The event pits competitors against a 250 km 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.
'The big variation is the weather,' Burns adds. 'You never know what you are going to get until the day and, even at that, the winds change every fifteen minutes. I was up at the course, last weekend, and we had hail, blue skies, sleet and cross winds in one direction then the other.
'If the winds are bad this year [the event is held on March 7-8], it will be incredibly hard. If it is calm, the course should be easier to overcome. Last year, we had an attrition rate of 30% and we are expecting the same again.'
Canadian Bill Wells completed the course in 15 hours and 22 minutes, last year, but Burns believes that record could be under threat. He stresses, however, that most of this year's competitors will simply see getting to the finish line as the ultimate achievement.
'I did the course in just over 21 hours last year, a few weeks before the actual event,' says Burns. 'It was Maghnus' turn this year. We're not top-end competitors or athletes but we are very determined. We thought that if we could get inside that 24-hour mark, most of those taking part would too.'
Crucial to the concept is that there is no typical competitor. Competitors come from a variety of backgrounds and disciplines. Firemen, teachers, mums, dads, students and everything in between compete alongside tri-athletes and elite ultra-runners.
'Only about 10% of those taking part will be aiming to win it,' says Burns. 'The rest will be testing themselves against the course. The camaraderie was massive last year - everybody was willing the next person on, giving encouragement. We're expecting the same this year.
The Race is a not for profit event with all proceeds going towards the work of Gorta [Self Help Africa]. For more, you can check out the event website.