Sunday, 3 May 2009

24h World Challenge

This weekend saw the running of the 24H IAU World Challenge & European Championships in Bergamo (Italy). This is an ultradistance, time-limited running event where participants run as many times as they can around a fixed-distance loop until the 24 hour period is up - yes, circuit running.

The IAU (International Association of Ultrarunners) is partner to the International Amateur Athletic Federation (IAAF); but where the IAAF deals mostly in fixed distance, like 100m to 100km and other track and field disciplines, IAU oversees the running of distance (50km, 100km, 160km and 1000km) and fixed time periods - 6hrs, 12hrs, 24hrs, 48 hrs and six days.

The course for this 24hr event was a 1.134km (they measure the route to the millimetre!) loop through Bergamo’s city centre. The course is described as being 'relatively flat' and run mainly on asphalt.

The race started on Saturday morning and finished this morning. The winner is Hendrik Olssen from Sweden; he ran a fraction over 257.045km in the 24 hours to beat second placed Ralf Weis (244.5km; Germany) by around 12.5km - quite a big margin. What is interesting is that 3rd place over all went to a female runner, Anne-Cecile Fontaine (France), for her run of 243.644km, less than one kilometre behind Weis. It's common knowledge that women tend to do better in longer races; this holds true yet again (the 2nd woman placed 8th overall).

As far as statistics go... Greek 'Running god', Yiannis Kouros*, still dominates with his distance of 290.221km, set in 1998 (at the age of 42). Women's winner, Fontaine, just missed setting a new World Record by 14 metres!. The current record is held by Germany's Sigrid Lomsky, who ran 243.657km in 1993 (at the age of 51).

* Yiannis Kouros holds every men's world record from 100 to 1,000 miles, from 200 to 1,600 km, and from 24hrs to 10 days.

I've run a 12hr circuit race (April 2006) and I'd definitely do another. But 24hrs running round and round... mmmm, maybe when I'm older. I find it quite incredible that these runners cover in excess of 200km (almost 300km for Yiannis!) in 24hrs. Awesome!

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