...Iryna Kennedy, if you've been to Energia, any Energia you may not know the name but you'll certainly remember the cheery face and smile! Iryna has been at every Energia, and embodies the spirit of the race. Always friendly, positive & supportive to other runners, yet personally never giving up.
Irnya may not be the fastest but when the top Women can reach the men's A standard and the Top men are world class, few are. However Inrya, came 25th in this years race running 92.67 mile (149.1 km). That's over 7 half-marathons in one day, imagine doing one... and then having to do six more on top, back to back. Almost 150km is amazing.
This year Inrya came third in the Irish National Championship, and whilst everyone was delighted for her, her smile and "i've never won anything before" quote summed up this event for me. This race isn't just for the elite or the record breakers, it's about keeping going, it's about pacing yourself, every inch a mental and physical test of yourself.
When you're feeling low, other runners will try and pick you up, talking to you, running a lap or two with you. Even when quiet descends a few hours in, as runners pass, one will often whisper words of encouragement. The power of a humble word, can lift the spirits right up. People offer advice, distraction and just friendship/support. A relay runner offered to run with me for a few laps, not to pace, but just to keep me company when I was at a low ebb. Just the offer can you make you feel better, more positive. This is the stuff you don't get at any other race.
In mentioning Energia praise must go to Athletics NI for the track/facilities, with Dave Seaton and Gary Keenan there for long periods helping out. The Lord Mayor, Nichola Mallon was there to hand out medals and took a real interest in the race, and Mary Peters was kindly there as ever to start us off. Tom and Michael from Energia are always there in person (last year Tom even ran as part of the relay!), supporting the event more than just financially, and with flags.
But this event would never be the staple it is today without Ed Smith and family. With the entry less than the cost of the Belfast or Dublin Marathon, this shows how hard Ed has worked with funders & sponsors to make this accessible and open to runners. Ed is always friendly, encouraging and has the event working perfectly. Ed's wife, daughters extended family and friends are all caught helping as well. From taking video, counting laps, handing out t-shirts, to cooking porridge... nothing is too much.
When running 12 or 24 hrs, you don't want to have to worry about the race organisation as well.... and you never do. You know everything will be in place, including the magnificent panorama of the Track setting.
Conclusion: Whether as runner, supporter, volunteer or spectator this race stands out. You can't compare it to any other race, it's more mental than physical (and there's an awful lot of physical endurance in it!). But unlike any other race, you're all in it together, everyone's effectively within the same Gaelic pitch for the duration. The slowest to the fastest person are all on the same track, fighting their own battles. Whilst everyone has their own reasons, their own demons, their own plan... they all share the pain, the pride and the occasion.
When coaching at my local club, at the end when everyone's tired I get them to do a few last hills or sprints. They complain they can't do it, but they get on and do it well, sometimes surprising themselves what they have left. Sometimes you never know what you can do, how far you can go until you give it a go. That's why i love the Energia, life's too short never to know, too short for regrets.