Mullingar Ekiden 2021 (28th Dec)
Success of Mullingar Ekiden confirms its popularity
Following the success of last year’s preliminary edition of the Mullingar Ekiden there was big demand in the club for the competition to be reincluded in the race calendar, so it was held on Tuesday 28th December. The Ekiden, a long-distance running multi-stage relay, had eleven teams of six runners, all Mullingar Harriers club members, covering the marathon distance of 42.195km. The race both started and finished on the club’s new all-weather running track, taking in a large loop of the Mullingar environs along the way.
Stage one saw the first group of runners race from the club grounds along the Old Rail Trail to the Ballinea car park. Jenny Algar was first to arrive at the changeover giving team 9 a commanding lead, but Aisling Corcoran, Mary Stuart and Máirtín Savage arrived together keeping teams 4, 5 and 3 in contention.
The second stage took the next set of runners along an 8.5km route and over a long distance it was no surprise the race lead changed before arriving at Belvedere House and Gardens. John Whitelaw put down a massive charge bringing team 10 from sixth to first, but JP O’Brien, James Cribbin, Patrick Muldoon and Michelle Bohan kept teams 9, 6, 4 and 3 in close contention.
The Queen stage, stage three, brought the next batch of runners 12km across Gaybrook to The Downs carpark on the Royal Canal. Once again, the order of teams was altered and this time it was James Keegan who had the biggest impact propelling team 3 to the front of the race. Lorcan Mullen also had an impressive leg putting team 4 in to second place with Evan McCormack keeping team 6 in third.
Travelling along the canal from The Downs through Baltrasna and in to Marlinstown for the fourth stage, team 4 eventually made their way into the lead thanks to Jane Creevy’s determined run. Gemma Kelly held on to second from a fast-closing Gordan Ward of team 6 and team 9’s Kieran Morris Roe.
Stage five, the shortest stage at just 5km, saw the lead change once again when Shaun Mills brought team 3 back to the front of the race and handed them what could be a winning margin. But arriving at the Cullionbeg change-over together for teams 6, 4 and 9 were Caroline Mullen, Michael O’Sullivan and Brian Boyle, all determined to keep their teams in the race.
There was no time to ease up for any of the runners in the final stage as they raced through Robinstown. That once comfortable gap was closing on Tommy Byrne and the pressure was building with every step. As the runners entered the club grounds, Brian Collentine was within striking distance and eventually took the lead with just 500m to run. After a lap of the new all-weather running track, Brian crossed the finish line victoriously for team 9, their first time back in the lead since Jenny Algar’s run in stage one. Tommy Byrne held on to give team 3 second place and Stephen Bell was close behind in third for team 6.
Teams for the Ekiden were drafted in a purposeful manner to ensure all teams were as equal as possible and after almost three hours of running there was less than 15 minutes from first to eleventh place. The lead changed during every stage, often more than once per stage, making for a very exciting event for both participants and spectators. Although only in its second year, the Ekiden has become a highly popular event at Mullingar Harriers and many members are already looking forward to the next edition.