One Lurgan runner is gearing up to race on home turf as this year’s Anglo-Celtic Plate 100K Championship is set to bring teams from across the UK and Ireland to Craigavon Lakes.
Barry McCarroll, from the Slieve Gullion Runners, is hoping that running on familiar ground will give him just the edge needed to bring home the Championship for Athletic Ireland, after being selected as one of six men to represent the team.
This Spring will be the first time that Northern Ireland has played host to the Anglo-Celtic Plate 100K Home Countries Team and Individual Championships, with the contest taking place at the Lakes on April 2, organised by the NI Ultra Running Association (NIURA).
It will be the 28th running of the championship which was first raced for in Nottingham in 1995 with Scotland having hosted it more times than any other Nation (10). The most recent Championship was held in Perth in 2022.
The NIURA has targeted the Craigavon course with its 4.75km (2.96 mile) loop as tailor-made for an ultra race of this stature with the prospect of fast times.
Barry, who is part of the Slieve Gullion Runners – a south Armagh-based running group formed in July 2014 – told Armagh I that this will be his third year competing in the Anglo-Celtic Plate, with his first year being in 2021 at Mondello Park in Dublin, followed by 2022’s outing in Perth, Scotland.
In his first year, Barry completed the race in eight hours and one minute, topping that result the year after with a time of seven hours and 56 minutes.
He’s hoping that this year, Northern Ireland’s first time hosting, he will be able to channel the home advantage to return an even better time.
Barry – who started running in 2008 ‘for a bit of craic’ but has since clocked up over a hundred marathons – says that the miles he has been putting in for this race are the most he has ever done.
He said: “I am confident because I do know the course. I run the Lakes nearly every day in life so I know what’s coming up and I know what the course is like.
“I know where there are a few hills and where I can go fast or need to go easy, so I definitely think that the wee bit of home advantage will hopefully play into my hands.”
He added: “The big thing for me is that I’ve no doubt that there’ll be a fair few Slieve Gullion Runners making their way up to have a nosy. I’ll have a lot of family and friends there, so I think that’s maybe more of an advantage.
“The Craigavon Lakes are literally only a mile and a half from my front door so it couldn’t be any handier.”
The Anglo-Celtic Plate is a Home Nations Championship, so there will be teams from Northern Ireland, Ireland, England, Scotland and Wales.
The event, which takes place over a single day, will see runners completing the 100k in as quick a time as they can, with collective times of the first three finishers from each nation deciding who takes home the trophy.
Barry explained: “It’s a gold standard distance in terms of ultra running, which is becoming massively more popular in Ireland and all over the world. It’s a challenge to complete it but I think more of the challenge is to complete it as quickly as you can.
“It’s not just a matter of jogging the distance, but it’s about going that bit quicker and that’s the big thing for me. Nobody in any of those teams will be there just to finish the distance. They’ll be there to finish it as quicky and as strongly as they possibly can.”
With the event taking place in April, Barry says he is putting in the miles now, around 15 a day, to prepare himself for the race and surpass his efforts from previous years.
Said Barry: “I’m definitely excited. The best thing for me is meeting up with the other Irish team members, because they’re runners who I would definitely look up to and have a lot of respect for.
“I’ve had the opportunity to run alongside some extremely talented runners. Pulling on the shirt always gives me a very big sense of pride and that’s a huge thing for me.”