Saturday, 31 December 2011

2011......WHAT A JOURNEY !!

What a year it's been.This time last year I had just run a 2.38 marathon and began to look for a new challenge.Whilst browsing the web I came across ultra running Ireland.The idea of ultra running really appealed to me but I didn't want to say it too loud !! Working a six day week whilst trying to balance family life with a wife and two kids and a disciplined marathon training programme was hard enough.But I have a very competitive and  addictive personality,and for me I prefer to go balls to the wall,or not go at all.So it was decided.....I would now focus my attention on Ultra Running.Contact was made with UltraRunningIreland.They really sold Ultra running to me and I became even more interested  in the 100km event.Before I knew it I received the call on new years day that I would be selected on the Irish Team to run in the Anglo Celtic Plate 100km.It was like all my dreams had come true.I would be running in an international competition wearing the green of Ireland.I had to pinch myself !!

In the lead up to that race I was invited to run the Donadea 50k.This was to be my first ultra race and I wanted to make an impression on those that selected me for the national team,and prove I was worthy to wear the green vest.Long story short I managed to win the race and this set me up nicely for the ACP in March.

March 27th Perth,Scotland,Anglo Celtic Plate 2011.....My Ireland debut :)
It was a totally surreal experience for me to be kitted out in the Ireland gear and I was buzzing all weekend.
The previous day I met my team-mates and crew for the first time.A really great down to earth bunch of lads,which I think calmed my nerves some bit.One thing I have noticed since I took up running 4 years ago is the camaraderie in the sport,but Ultra running takes this to another level altogether.I was the novice in the team with the other guys boasting a vast range of Ultra running credentials,but the support and advice these guys gave me was invaluable.
Before the race all I had on my mind was running a sub 7.30 100km.This was the qualifying time for the World/European Championships.Of course I couldn't be content with running in the Irish colours or even finishing the race,I had to go one better and try to get the qualifying time at the first attempt !
I did it...Just about...7.28:59.............Roll on the World Championships in September

In the lead up to the Championships I ran the Connemara marathon and placed 3rd.Next up was the Kildare Marathon which I finished in 1st place.Two weeks later I ran the Newry City Marathon and placed 3rd again.
In July Ireland was to host the Trail World Championships and Ultra Running Ireland's Richard Donovan was an outstanding success as race director.From a personal point of view I had never ran a Trail race before,but because I was selected I decided to give it a crack.It was another international cap which I would have been foolish to turn down.On the day a lot of factors contributed to me suffering from dehydration and subsequently being forced to drop out of the race.

I was determined to put my first DNF behind me and my first race on the ultra scene was the Longford 39.3 mile Ultra which I placed 1st and restored some confidence before the big one in Holland.

So September finally arrived.World Championships were here.The whole atmosphere surrounding the event was fantastic.From the athletes village to the opening ceremony to the race itself was an experience.I was completely up for this race and had high hopes of putting in a good performance,but just like in the Trails things didn't go to plan once again.It was a big disappointment but I count myself very lucky to have represented my country at 2 word championships in one year.

October 31st I was a pacer for the Dublin City Marathon.I must say I got great satisfaction from helping fellow athletes accomplish there aims in attaining a sub 3 hour marathon.I still felt I had a decent race left in me before the year ended.I started working with coach William Sichel in early October in the hope to develop my ultra running potential.We selected some races which would be part of my training towards the World 100km 2012 in april(providing I would be selected that is)

First up was the Clonakilty Waterfront Marathon.I knew this was going to be a tough race and not one for a fast time.What I wanted was a good work out.Afterall the bigger picture was Italy 2012.
As it turns out I ran a strong race on a hilly course which was enough for me to take 1st place.So that was  2011 wrapped up,and when I look back on the year tonight I just realise what a rollercoaster ride it has been.Lots of ups and even more downs,but even more importantly valuable experience gained.So here's to taking what I've learned in 2011 and turning it in to something better for 2012.

List of races from 2011

Feb -  Donadea 50km  1st place

March - Ireland debut ACP 100km 7.28

April -  Connemara Marathon  3rd Place

May -  Kildare Marathon  1st Place

May  - Newry City Marathon  3rd Place

July -   Trail World Chapionships

August -  Longford Ultra Marathon 39.3 miles  1st Place

September -  World 100km Championships

October - Sub 3 Hour Pacer in the Dublin Marathon

December - Clonakilty Waterfront Marathon  1st Place


  1. Great year and great performances... roll on 2012 .. best of luck

  2. What a journey is right and don't forget you're still traveling ;) Here's to an even better 2012 and see you in Donadea.


  3. Wow! What a great year. Well done :-)

  4. Nice going there mate,

    Here's to 2012
    Hope to see ye guys in Italy

    Chris O'Neill