Portumna has become a ‘must do’ event for those who know of its magic and what better way to describe it to other runners than from another runners race report. The following is an exerpt from one of Ireland’s best known ultra marathoners – Gerry Duffy. Gerry has completed 32 marathons in 32 days and 10 full distance Iron Man events in 10 consecutive days. In his own word’s Gerry describes Portumna Forest Marathon….
“A clue to its attraction is that it is organised by runners. Its founder – Sebastien Locteau – is a French native who lives in these parts. By day Seb runs ‘Sports Ireland’ a high performance coaching company. Indeed, Seb’s sporting CV is longer than some of his endurance events.
Along with a great team -in his spare time- he gives back to sport by organising great events.
Here is an interesting fact from the day’s activities. Despite the magnitude of the four different distances on offer, never once were any of the 800 runners more than two kilometres geographically from the race headquarters. How so? It’s a looped course, something relatively uncommon in these parts. Previously, I have seen its concept employed once or twice, but never before have I seen it work so well and with such a large group continuously running a 5km looped trail. For half and full marathon runners, it meant four or eight loops with a small bit added to make the distance, while for the 50k’ers it was ten laps of 5k. Then there were the few mad souls -31 to be exact- who completed 20 loops, to ensure they covered 100km of running.
From an organiser’s point of view, looped courses can make enormous sense and I often wonder why more races don’t employ its concept. Some might contend that it might be hard on the brain and therefore unappealing to the masses. Try it for yourself. The novelty can be well, novel, to say the least.
Here are Seb’s thoughts. “A lapped course means athletes can monitor progress. It also simplifies health and safety. It makes refreshments and marshalling a much easier delivery”, he explains. “But the most important element is that laps are great for building camaraderie and – over the years – I have witnessed participants support each other by a glance, a smile or a thumbs up as they pass.”
The busy headquarters which we passed through every 5km, was abuzz with atmosphere and helped lifted spirits that might otherwise have waned. My own partner who was busy crewing, commented on the relationships that were built up during what was a long day for many.
Running any of those distances takes time, no matter how fast the competitor. By the end of the day, she had made four or five new friends in the running community, which made her day more enjoyable too. It’s not all about the athletes!
A central HQ on a 5km looped route, means medical and physio cover can always be close at hand. It also simplifies water and race nutrition provided by organisers. It virtually guarantees atmosphere too as its focal point attracts spectators and supporters like wasps to a honey pot.
The sell – out crowd in Portumna, bears ultimate testimony to the popularity of this novel race.’