Another exciting chapter in the athletics life of Mayo AC's John Byrne was written on Saturday. The story began at 10am deep within Donadea Forest Park in Kildare. Sixty-five brave souls gathered for the Donadea 50k, excellently organised by Donadea Running Club. The race doubled as the Irish 50k Championships.
It was chilly and bright along the forest trails as the runners set out on 10 5k laps. The terrain was mainly flat with a few gentle drags as the runners wound their way along a wonderful woodland setting. There was a top class field from ultra running in Ireland on the start line. Straight away the main contenders pushed the pace along at the head of the field. John Byrne and Daniel Doherty were together in front, with Keith Whyte, John O’Regan, Paul Tierney, Eoin Keith, Jim McCormack, and a couple of late entries, Barry Minnock (a 2.20 marathoner ) and Dave Simpson, all well in touch. It was soon evident that John Byrne was going well in the lead, consistently ticking off laps at six minute mile pace. Last year’s winner, Keith Whyte, dropped out at about 20k. Up front Byrne, Minnock, and Simpson all looked strong as they pushed on. Although Minnock went to the front briefly at half way, Byrne regained it with little effort and continued at a steady 18+ mins lap pace. He passed the marathon mark (42.5k ) at 2.37.40. In the final laps he stretched the gap between himself Simpson and Minnock. Byrne cruised to victory in 3.07.54, 11 minutes better than his 50k debut in Galway in 2010. He was delighted he gave ultra another go this year and took a few major scalps at Donadea along the way. He was disappointed with his 100k run in Holland last September and this victory more than makes up for it. He is on the Irish team for the 2012 World 100k Championships in Italy in April and this performance will be a major boost of confidence ahead of that formidable task.