This will be the 12th occasion on which the IAU has staged a World 24-Hour Championships. It was awarded to Belfast in February 2016 following steady growth for an event that began on the Mary Peters’ track in 2010 and moved to Victoria Park in 2016 for its World Championship demonstration event.
The International Association of Ultra Runners (IAU) is based in Monaco. It operates under the patronage of the IAAF, delivering ultra distance running internationally within the IAAF rules. It has more than 80 member federations.
The 24-Hour Championship is a form of ultra marathon, in which a competitor runs as far as they can. It is a 1-2-3 podium men’s and women’s race. There is also a nations’ team race. Competitors have ‘crews’ to help them. They tend to ‘fuel’ as they go and only take toilet breaks - although they can leave the course for rest periods.
The top athletes are capable of running six marathons back-to-back.
The men’s world record was set by Greek Yiannis Kouros in Adelaide, Australia at 304km (189 miles) in 1997. Many feel it will never be beaten and is one of the most impressive records across any sport.
The women’s world record was set by Japan’s Mami Kudo in Soochow Taipei, Taiwan at 254km (158 miles) in 2009.
The best Irish performance at a World Championship was fifth from Cork’s Eoin Keith in Bergano in 2009 (237km/147 miles) and seventh from Cork’s Ruthann Sheahan in Katowice in 2012 (229km/142 miles).
From being staged every year, the World 24 Hour Championship is now held every two years, alternating with the European Championships which were held in 2016 in Albi, France on 22 and 23 October.
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