Saturday, 5 May 2012

                               100KM WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS 2012 RACE REPORT 

This years World championships was held in Seregno,Italy with record entries and 37 countries competing against one another for both World and European titles.Being part of Ireland's strongest Ultrarunning team to date to compete at global  level was an exciting prospect,and I was determined to make up for last year's disappointment.

The general feeling amongst the team was a very positive one and we all felt that if we were all on our game then we could achieve a very high team finish.

In a race as long as 100km it is rare that you will run the perfect race,but even when you run well you will experience a lot of bad patches.It is how you deal with these bad spells that determine the outcome of your race.Ultrarunning can be very rewarding but also very cruel.During my so far very short Ultra running career I have experienced lots of highs and lows,but like any sport it's all part of the game and I'm sure it will continue to be a rollercoaster ride for some time to come hopefully.

Usually I would be giving an in depth review of the whole race and every emotion I felt before,during and after the race,but then I came across a report on the race that my good friend Pat Bogue posted on the Clare Crusader's running webpage and decided for a change it would be nice to read a report from a supporter's view and get a feel for the whole event from a completely different angle.

So here is Pat Bogue's race report on the World 100k Championships 2012........

Another 2.30 am trip to Dublin airport, Colm Daly co-pilot in the passenger seat, déjà vu or what? This time, the destination is Seregno, Italy and Keith is doing the running. All going well until we boarded the Ryanair express and it was engulfed by school-touring teenagers and Carlo (aka the class clown, comedian and general source of all noise) was seated in front of me. At least Carlo said something, unlike the Milan Centrale Station staff who just grunted as we tried to find our way to Como San Giovanni, so eventually we figured out it involved a change at Monza (home of the Italian Grand Prix) and then the Chiasso train to Como. Much to Colm’s annoyance the hotel was not quite up to the ‘Riding School’ standard we were used to but at least they had managed to provide the twin-beds!!

We set off to find Seregno for the opening ceremony with the Supporting Whytes (John, Sarah-Jane & Fran). Turns out it was a handy 30 min train trip with regular connections (should be perfect for race morning). The Irish team was captained by Daniel Doherty and included Keith of course, John Byrne, Thomas Maguire, Michael Collins, John O’Regan, Jim McCormick and Helen Lavin. 

The opening ceremony consists of a flag-bearing event with local children, the local brass band, dance troupe, politicians etc.. eventually followed in procession by the competing teams. On reaching the first square, the Irish team received a taste of what was to come over the weekend in terms of their ‘embarrassing supporters’. The procession seemed to meander through every street in Seregno, the Irish supporters ended up gate-crashing the parade on a number of occasions and mortifying Keith in the process. Well someone had to compete with the bell-ringing, cheering viva Mehico! viva Mehico! (and no I have got the spelling wrong). 

Race start was due at 8 am in Seregno, so a 6.20 train would get us to the start line in ample time. Colm and myself were at the station at just after 6. Tickets in hand, we bumped into the blue and gold clad Fran (I suppose being from Tipp, it was a good opportunity to get to wear the colours once in 2012 ). A quick glance at the station screens showed that all trains had the letters SPO after them. I never did find out what SPO stood for but it resulted in a right pain in the ass for the next 17 hours or so. All trains and public transport were on strike, that’s what I quickly deciphered from the locals. Ah well, with 5 of us we would just jump into a taxi and travel the 20 or so miles to Seregno. An hour and a half later, we eventually secure a taxi. Shortly into the journey, Keith calls to say that the race start is delayed as the American team have been delayed due to snow on the mountains, we could still make the start. After a few towns, a u-turn was taken and we were heading back to where we came. Ah here, enough of this craic, we have a race to get to, so Pat-Nav kicked into action, and with no Italian, no map and rapidly decreasing patience, the Taxi driver was soon guided to Seregno and we jumped out at the first corner. We chanced a left turn and followed the route in reverse and met the race leaders as they reached the first km. A bit little Padraig O’Sullivan when there is a camera around, Keith led the Irish team on lap one. Impressed by our rapturous support for the ‘boys & girl in green’, the local TV crew asked us to do an encore for the cameras, no bother, happy to oblige. 

The route for the 100 km was a 20 km circuit of the town with a mind-boggling 1 km snake-like stretch through a park near the end (picture one of those snaking queues in the airport and multiply by a kilometre). The race was open to teams competing in world and European championships, individuals in the same event, 50 km race and a half marathon. Aid stations for teams were located at 5 km intervals. With the team on the road, time for first update to Bernadette (Whyte). Time for breakfast, easier said than done but after a few kms walk, we found a race-side restaurant which tickled our fancy – well to be honest, we figured out it served tea, coffee and toast. With the assistance of Francesca, we realised that not only was toast on offer but croissants, breakfast panini’s (a more cultured breakfast roll) and a number of local delicacies. From the experience learned at the 2011 World Championships, food (carb or any other type) loading is an essential on days like this. With perfect timing, as breakfast was almost finished the 100 km runners reached our town-centre location on lap 2 and Speedy Whyte getting a rapturous response from the Italians after a little prompting from us, well he did go easy on the World Champion Georgio Calcaterra in Connemara a few weeks ago... quick memo to supporters, the locals are on our side so no mention of Ray Houghton or Giants Stadium, 18th June 1994!!! Ok, that’s the Italians on our side, next up get the Germans on our side.... all going well until they approached, come on lads, give a cheer but then one of our crew (who shall remain nameless but hails from Tipp), roars, come on Holland ‘talk about not mentioning the war!!!’. 

To maximise the support effort, the ‘Supporting Whytes’ hit for the 10 km aid station and Colm and myself headed for the 15 km station. En-route we met all the Irish team as the completed lap 2. The weather was playing a little game of deception, going from blazing sunshine to clouds and a few drops of rain. It soon became clear that the locals were no true-blue Dubs when it came to supporting, a few die-hards here and there but not a Miltown-mob in place and as for the Nassua Street home straight, there would be more excitement after first mass on a January morning. The 15 km aid station was being manned by ‘middling marathon runner’ John Collins. Sounds good, we might fit in here, however I soon find out that the average runner has done a sub-3 hour marathon!!! These 100 km races and ultra-runners really are at another level. 

We have some excellent water-people in the crusaders but even the Hydrator Melissa and John Finn Snr (two of our most competent water supporters) could not but be impressed by these aid stations. Each runner with their own supplies, labelled for each stage and a few spares (water, isotonic, liquid gel, regular gels, energy bars, carb drinks, jellies, digestive biscuits, coke, you name it). John was also keeping tabs on each runners time and pace. To say that spending a few hours on the aid-station was an experience was an under-statement. During the day, John was also joined by team-manager Richard (7 marathons in 7 continents record holder, arctic and antarctic marathon organiser), Tony and physio John whose magic spray and healing hands were in demand from time to time. 

By lap 3 (55 km completed as they passed us) the race up front was starting to take shape with the world champion Georgio showing why he held the title, with the challenge coming from Canada and Spain. Dan was getting into his stride and maintaining a consistent pace, Keith and John Byrne were following close behind him. John O’Reagan was finding the going a bit tough while Thomas and Jim felt the day going against them. Michael remained consistent while the star of the team in terms of smiling composure was Helen. The duty of the support crew is to remain positive and motivating for the runners but despite our outward signs, the messages and phone-calls between the aid stations increased as the concern increased for how the team were bearing up. However, the American team calls to their support team kept us all entertained ‘USA, 2 gels; USA one water, one coke’ still rings in the ears. Text to the crusaders, ‘through 55 and doing well’....

At 75 kms, it seemed as if the world champion was getting into his stride, a bit like Frank Landy at mile 10 of a 20 mile run, he was just about breaking a sweat while pulling away from the opposition. Dan maintained his consistency, John was sticking to his pace.... where was Keith? Has he lost time, is he alright? .... That’s him lads! no i don’t think so, it’s him, I would recognise that run anywhere.... quick sprint to meet him before the station... ‘good stuff Keith, keep it going, looking good’.... Well lads, what do ye think? little bit of doubt from the lads, he has lost a minute or two, looking a little tired... but I was having none of it, not a chance lads, he nodded and smiled.... I had seen the look of defeat in Keith’s eyes before and this was not one of those days. Quick text to the crusaders... 75 done and all is well... call to Bernadette....

By this stage, it was already after 3 pm.... Dan was well into his last lap, time to hit for the finish. John did a quick top-up on all stocks before we left him. As we walked back towards the finish, we experienced the true determination of those competing... aches, pain, cramps and agony and for many they still had another 45 km to go. As we passed the 2 km sign, Dan came surging up the road, give me that flag he beckoned, so taking a short-cut we made it to the home straight. Roaring at the top of our voices, we let the locals know that the first Irish man had crossed the line (7.07). Tactics again came into play and the odd roar for the Italians as they passed ensured a wild response for our Irish Lads. John soon followed to finish in 7.16. 

By our reckoning, Keith was still on for a PB..... as the minutes passed, we anxiously strained our eyes to the corner.... where the hell was he? Come on Keith the clock is ticking, in my own head, I reckoned he had about 5 mins left for a PB... and then around the bend was the Whyte Swagger, engulfed by a massive Irish Flag... better ring Bernadette... so hanging onto the barrier with one hand, phone in the other with Bernadette hanging on, Crusader Keith roars past us and a new PB and third Irish finisher. The Irish team set a new record, 5th in Europe and 6th in the World.

Keith sitting there looking as if he had just run a hard 10 km... but wait, is that a monster blister from the run? Ah no, just a nasty infection which he had the week before but told no one. To say that the 100 km world championships is an amazing experience does not even start to do it justice: it was a mix of ultimate human endeavour, achievement, determination and of course fitness. To watch the world champion conquer the miles at his ease was mind-blowing. But to have the opportunity to support one of your friends wearing the green shirt and completing a world championship in record time was something special. Well done again to Keith and the Irish team and thanks for a great day out. Next year, it is Korea, will I be there? A bit like the Limerick marathon, I have not made up my mind yet!!!!


  1. Well done on a fantastic performance, Keith!

    1. Thanks Thomas it was a super event,and I can't wait for the next one!

  2. What a weekend! Well done again Keith!