What a weekend just gone it was for John Byrne of Mayo AC, last Sunday will be a date the Straide man will never forget. Byrne joined the five man Irish team in Perth, Scotland, for the Anglo Celtic Plate 100k ultra race. This annual event is not only a very competitive race between the home nations but also incorporates the Irish 100k championships. The team manager was well known adventurer and experienced ultra athlete Richard Donovan from Galway. Two experienced runners, Thomas Maguire - the current Irish record holder (7 hours 4 minutes ) - and John O'Regan, were joined by Keith Whyte (Ennis Track Club ) and Daniel Doherty (Basingstoke and Hants AC ), both attempting their first 100k. John Byrne came to the race having entered the ultra distance zone in 2010 with a 50k race in Galway in August and an excellent 60th place in the World Championships in Gibraltar in November. Between these two he completed yet another Dublin marathon. One hundred kilometres is the equivalent of running two marathons back to back and finishing with a 10 mile run.
Sunday's 7am start at serene and foggy North Inch Park in Perth came even earlier as the clocks went forward. The 2.38k circuit was as perfect as you could find. Tree lined park paths, Bells Sports Centre on one side, and the slow flow of the river Tay on the other. Byrne reached the marathon mark in three hours and steadily passed the halfway 50k point in three hrs 33 mins. He had been lapping the circuit at 10.15 - 10.30 pace throughout.
As the noon bells tolled they had been running for five hours. Byrne was sixth and the second Irish placed runner but showing great consistency in lap times. The Gibraltar experience came into play. He got to fifth, then at about 80k caught Daniel Doherty who had a brilliant debut. Then in the last few laps, with his familiar determined grimace, he pulled the leaders back. With just a couple of laps to go he went into third place and ran a fantastic last lap in 9.42 to finish in 7:09:33 to finish third in the individual competition behind Craig Stewart of Scotland (7:01:36 ) and Alan Smalls of England (7:04:54 ). He beat his Gibraltar debut time by 54 minutes.
Byrne was crowned Irish 100k champion for 2011, and is now the second fastest Irishman in history over this distance. He led the team to a cumulative time of 21:58:01, a new Irish team record, eclipsing the record set by the Irish team that finished fifth at the European 100km Championships in 2007.