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Sunday 22 October 2017

trusty steede steals show

On a glorious day in the hills, not one but two records were set at the annual Wicklow Way 52km Ultra and 26km trail runs.

Two years ago, Jonny Steede of Ballymena Runners won the 52km, running from Glencullen to Balinastoe Woods and back in freezing snow and ice. On Saturday, Steede proved himself a runner for all seasons by winning for a second time in glorious sunshine.

He had led from the start, and his time of 3 hrs 56 mins 47 secs smashed David Simpson's 2012 course record of 4:11.27. It was also the first sub-four hour time for the extended 52km course first run in 2010.

Finishing second was Paul Tierney, just outside the old record with a time of 4:11.34 while third was Eoin Keith in 4 hrs 18 mins.

On a perfect day for fast times, Suzanne Kenny, the winner of the women's race, finished in 5hrs 10mins 42 secs - the second fastest winning time after Beth McCluskey's 4:52.25 of 2011.

Second record of the day came in the 26km trail run, where Sarah McCormack finished third overall in a time of 1hrs 51mins 40secs, breaking Donna Mahon's time of 1:57.14.

Ahead of McCormack, Rathfarnham's Brian Furey and Ian Conroy of Raheny Shamrock battled it out, with Furey stretching away on the final road stretch back to Glencullen. Both were timed at  just over 1hr 48mins.

It augurs well for the World Mountain Running Championships which take place around Betws-y-Coed in Wales on Saturday September 19. With Wales a short ferry ride away, this is next best thing to a home event for the Irish squad.

McCormack, who finished sixth at the 2013 World Championships and led the Irish team to bronze medals, plans to spend a lot of time in north Wales over the next few months.

From her base in Cumbria, she will run the British Intercounties scheduled for May 16 in Betws-y-Coed - a trial race for the Senior Home International at the same venue on August 22.

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These races will not only serve as a final trial for the World Championships, but give athletes an ideal opportunity to experience the actual course. Already Irish athletes with designs on a good result at the World Championships are also looking at these two races as part of their preparations.

One of those is Ian Conroy who is spending a lot more time in the UK, competing in top-class fell races.

"The standard is very high with all the good guys running - you are not going to get the same level of competition in Ireland," he says.

Conroy, a regular on the Irish mountain running team since 2011, argues that training camps in Wales over the next few months might be a good idea.

So how about it Athletics Ireland?

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