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Dublin: 15 °C Wednesday 20 March, 2019
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One of toughest endurance races in the planet took place in Donegal this weekend - here are the best pics

Letterkenny native Sean McFadden was the winner of the men’s race while Waterford’s Diane Behan picked up the women’s title.

Race Source: Paul Doherty Photography

THE RACE, WHICH has gained a reputation internationally as one of the world’s toughest endurance races, took place in Donegal this weekend.

The event was won by Letterkenny native Sean McFadden (15 hours, 5 minutes and 30 seconds), while Waterford’s Diane Behan (18 hours, 43 minutes and 57 seconds) won the female category and finished eighth overall.

42 of the 64 starters finished within the 24-hour time limit in total, with the competitors raising in the region of €60,000.

Co-creator of the event, David Burns, praised the athletes’ efforts, particularly amid extremely difficult conditions, which forced organisers to alter the course at the last minute for the sake of competitors’ safety

“It was an incredibly tough day for competitors — probably as tough a day as you could safely run the event,” Burns told The42. “But it was amazing how they fared in those conditions.

018PD Diane Behan, who won the women's race, starts stage three. Source: Paul Doherty Photography

“It rained nearly all day, the wind’s gusts were changing direction. It’s incredible that people do stay out for 24 hours. They would all wait for the next competitor coming in so it was a great atmosphere and quite emotional seeing them all finish.”

Burns explains that while the event was tougher than ever, the standard was also considerably higher compared with last year.

“Last year, there was probably a lot of people thinking ‘I’ve done an Ironman and I’ll take a crack,’ but really, it’s quite a big step up mentally. The type of competitor now realises while there’s a physical side, an awful lot of it comes down to mental strength. People are aware now once they sign up for The Race, that’s what they’re getting themselves into.

“About a third dropped out, but when we started, there were quite a few drop outs early on and I did expect the drop-out rate to be a lot higher.

“And the people that do drop out have still done incredibly well — it might be a technical fault or injury [that causes them to drop out].”

010PD Sean McFadden after his victory. Source: Paul Doherty Photography

Burns also paid tribute to McFadden, who won the event in an incredibly quick time, but was hardly surprised that he emerged victorious given his obvious dedication to the task.

“He was second last year. He’s an Ironman and he’s part-time — a lot of the people that competed would have been more or less professional. But he trains all the time, he’s got such discipline and mental strength.

“At the halfway point in The Race, he nearly broke down and started crying, but he had amazing support out there and he said that’s what got him through. I couldn’t believe what he did on the day.

“We tried to figure the earliest possible time someone could come through on each stage of the course and we gave ourselves buffers on that, but he was putting us under pressure at all times. It was incredible how fast he was.”

And while 42 people finished, it ultimately turned into a three-horse race, with Sean McLoughlin and Eddie Brennan finishing within an hour of Burns, who there was no stopping ultimately.

“He did [the event] last year, he trained on the course the whole time and knows it like the back of his hand. You could tell the way he set out on the day, it was all or nothing for him. At one point, he was thinking about having to settle for second place, but a few factors came in to change that. He didn’t leave anything out there.”

Burns also paid tribute to the volunteers and everyone who made the event possible.

“There was an orange weather warning at the weekend. We were set up for bad weather, but it was incredibly extreme. The Red Cross have a team at every single stage and there are ambulances on the course as well.

“You have to monitor people so closely — they do start to suffer from hypothermia and getting really cold. But you can do that really closely with an experienced team. But the weather did pose an awful lot of problems for us and the competitors. They were able to adapt to it, but I couldn’t imagine a much harder day.”

One of toughest endurance races in the planet took place in Donegal this weekend - here are the best pics
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  • The Race

    Source: Paul Doherty Photography
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    Source: Paul Doherty Photography
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    Source: Paul Doherty Photography
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    Source: Paul Doherty Photography
  • The Race

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    Source: Paul Doherty Photography

The Race is a not-for-profit event with all proceeds going towards the work of Gorta – Self Help Africa. For more info on how to donate, click here.

All pics used with permission from David Burns.

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Paul Fennessy

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