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Dublin: 16 °C Wednesday 17 July, 2019
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4 years after taking up running, Orna Dilworth will represent Ireland at the 50km world championships

Sometimes, a marathon just isn’t long enough.

Orna Dilworth will represent Ireland in Doha on Friday.
Orna Dilworth will represent Ireland in Doha on Friday.
Image: Alan Dignam

BECAUSE 26.2 MILES just aren’t enough for some people, tomorrow the International Association of Ultra Runners 50 and 100 km World Championships take place in Doha.

On the start line representing Ireland in the 50k race will be 29-year old Dubliner Orna Dilworth just four years after she took up running for the first time.

“It was a moment of madness to be honest,” Dilworth told TheScore.ie.

“I started running for no reason in particular. I was just out of college, had started working full time and just took up a bit of jogging. That New Year’s Eve I decided I’d do a half-marathon the following year and ran it in 2:05, but it was only a bit of fun.

“Then my first marathon was in Connemara in 2011 which I ran in 4:28. It was such a roller-coaster of emotions but it was a brilliant experience so I decided to keep running with friends and doing half marathons until a friend of mine asked me if I wanted to continue running two hour half marathons or if I wanted to train properly?”

That was the turning point for Dilworth and as her training improved, so did her times. By the time she ran the Dublin marathon in 2011 her PB was 3:53. She cut that to 3:12 in Berlin the following year and ran 3:06 in Boston the year of the bombing.

In the 2013 Dublin marathon, she finally broke the three hour barrier, coming home in 2:57. It was then she knew that ultra running was the obvious next step.

“A friend of my boyfriend Alan and I’s – Anthony Lee – is the race director for the Irish national 50km championships and he was trying to sell it to me for ages.

“One thing he said, and people always say, is that I’m built like a solid diesel engine because, while I’ll never run a 15 minute 5k, I could knock out 10, 20 minute 5ks in a row.

“So my coach, David Fitzpatrick, thought I had the ability – because my splits are always so consistent – to not just run in the the Irish 50k championships but to win it.

“With the qualification for the Worlds at 3:50, I knew I could run the additional five miles in 50 minutes based on my Dublin time in 2013 so I said we’d go for it.”

Go for it she did and Dilworth delivered on her coach’s expectations, winning in a time of 3:43.

Working full time as a solicitor with Bank of Ireland, Dilworth admits that fitting in a hectic training schedule can be difficult but, like anything, if you want to do it you can find the time.

While some weeks involved up to 92 miles on the road, a more typical training week in the build up to her national 50k win and the Worlds would involve somewhere between 70 and 80 miles per week and typically looked something like this:

Monday – Two runs totalling 10-11 miles
Tuesday – One run, 8-12 miles taking the long way home from work
Wednesday – A double day similar to Monday
Thursday – One easy run, 8 miles or so
Friday – One long run, 24 miles
Saturday – Rest day
Sunday – One run, a hard 10-12 mile above race pace

With all that training, food plays a vital role but Dilworth is keen to point out that – as long as you eat sensibly and healthily most of the time – there’s room for a glass of wine or dairy milk, in most training regimes.

She also admits she has been lucky with injuries, suffering just one injury that kept her away from running for a month after racing one marathon and pacing another in too short a time period.

Unlike a lot of runners though, she did take a full rest from running and didn’t put herself under any unnecessary pressure to come back too soon.

“I also think it’s because I wasn’t very sporty as a child and so I didn’t pick up any knocks to my knee or ankle so I’ve no legacy injuries.”

While Dilworth goes into Doha injury free, conditions in the Qatar mean that any likelihood of her setting a personal best went out the window the second she stepped off the plane.

“It’s very warm, I think about 35C at the moment and that hair-dryer heat.

“The race is due to start at 6pm local time so on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday this week we went out for a run at that time and it was still 32C so the heat will play a big part in my approach to the race meaning what I expected to achieve before arriving here and what I can in these conditions are two different things.

“Training wise I’d trained for a three hour marathon and then the five extra miles on top which would have seen me home in 3:35 and probably left me mid-pack.

“That would have meant six minute, 50 second miles but I’ve reassessed that to run by my heart rate and run the effort 6:50 would have been the equivalent to in these conditions so that could end up being 7:30 or eight minute miles.

“It’s about sensible running though, this is a championship race so it’s not necessarily about running for time. I’d rather enjoy the experience and complete the race than burn out up in five minutes.”

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About the author:

Steve O'Rourke

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