Uno in Brno!

Posted on March 27, 2007 by

By: Tony Mangan.

I felt the Japanese runners eyes burning holes through my back.We were in
the latter hours of the Brno 48 hour indoor international endurance race in
the Czech Republic. He was probably wondering who was this upstart.I had
googled him last week and knew he was a member of their gold medal-winning
team from the world 24 hour championships in Taiwan.He had finished 7th
there.I was 16th.

I moved to the left he moved to left.He was waiting for me to go. Cat and
mouse.I was in no hurry, as I had a nice lead of about 10km.I stopped to
send a mothers day sms message! Kenjai grunted and charged off.This was his
3rd attack of the 4 he had mounted on me.Knowing he was nearing his limit
this time I went with him just to show him I was feeling very strong.It was
a short attack.Just one lap of the 250 meter concrete track of the indoor
arena. Eyeballs- out-stuff, we ran it in about 70 seconds but it seemed sub
60. Most of my other laps were in the 1:30 to 1:40 region. At the end of
this lap his hand went up in the air,almost as a sign of submission. I had
managed to fend off his 2 previous attacks,lapping him a few times when he
I never did get to send that mothers day message but later my mam had
said.”Son that was the best present any mother could have wished for!”

We jogged on for a couple of hours, towards the never-ending
finish.Refreshed with about 2 hours to go we spoke for the first time.He
told me not to worry that he wanted to go through 400km in style. Still,I
had to take this seriously as anything could happen to me giving him an
outside chance of victory.He lifted his pace gradually,adrenalin filled,
running through the pain barrier.I was watching him carefully from the
opposite side of the track matching his pace.He was running clad in his
white Japanese singlet and blue shorts with a forward leaning style which
was easy to pick out amongst the other runners.

I started this race wearing my Dublin clubs Metro St.Brigid’s singlet for
the first 14 hours.As as it was St.Patrick’s day at midnight on the first
day I changed into my Irish national singlet.This was first time in 20 years
as a member of my club I didn’t wear my clubs colours for a non-championship
race.It was my plan to change back at midnight,but I decided I didn’t want
to change the luck of the Irish.
After 2 hours I was in 26th place of the 51 runners.As the hours ticked
slowly by I was gradually moving up the standings,passing other runners,one
by one.I felt like a grand prix driver moving up through the grid. By the 24
hour mark I was 3rd place, later getting a presentation for that competition
within a competition;223km run, almost identical to the distance I covered
in the Verona European championships 6 months earlier,finishing 9th.
For once the weather could be guaranteed for a race.The arena which is
usually used for expos had been heated to 17degrees C.
I wondered what my friends and family were doing at home.My club,MSB were
hosting the St.Patrick’s Day KBC assets 4 mile road race in the Phoenix
Park.It would be nice to run a shorter race sometime I thought.
I don’t like to listen to an audio device during these races – preferring to
concentrate on form,style and pace – besides a radio is never far from my
ear in real life and it makes for a nice rest.

Here in Brno, I took the lead with 10 hours to go. I was running like a man
possessed.No way did I want to finish second again in a big
race.Passion,ambition and a hunger to win were the fuel that drove me on
through that second long night.This Japanese runner, Kenjai Okiyama, is some
competitor, courageous full of running, never-say-die attitude – we had an
incredible tussle! On each of those 4 attacks I managed to hold him off by
raising my pace steadily so he found it hard to keep his attacks going.
I took a half hour nap after 20 hours and another half-hour at 32 hours.Upon
returning to the track I got sick and wasted another 15-20 minutes.
The only time I walked was for 3 laps immediately before my first nap.

Peta a young science student was assigned to look after me giving me my
carbohydrate Sustained Energy drinks, Hammer Nutrition Gels and E-Caps.Also,
Alan Young a UK athletics official was very generous with his assistance
even though he was there to crew for William Sichel who broke the Scottish
48 hour record and finished 6th.These helpers were instrumental to my
success.I owe them a huge debt.This was the first time I wore Injinji
Tetratsoxs and for the first time in 3 ultras I didn’t get a blister, in
fact my feet hardly had a blemish!
The official aid stations were well stocked and included beer! As a
non-drinker I chose the alcohol-free one, occasionally.They were of course
not pint glasses but shot glass size.Sometimes one finds it hard to stomach
regular drinks and as beer is rich in carbohydrates – it’s a welcome

Towards the end of the race I was escorted by the race referee to my
finishing spot to put down a marker to mark what I thought to be a course
record. Jaroslav Kocourek,a Czech runner was the first to shake my hand and
congratulate me on breaking his indoor world record! I asked him what he
meant: “was it not a course record”? “Yes it’s a course record but the
course record is the world record!” That was a pleasant shock to me!
I looked for Kenjai and gave him a massive hug.We exchanged flags and were
photographed holding each others flag.Then third place Vlastimil Dvoracrk
came over.We exchanged race stories.I fell into a chair and gave 2
television interviews and numerous photos as the arena sign flashed ” World
48 hour indoor record Tony Mangan Ireland 426.178km ” (264.81miles)
Kenjai’s second place total was 412.9km. Third was the Czech runner
Vlastimil Dvoracrk in 374.9km.
Irina Koval frrom Russia won the womens race with 353.4km. Nina Mytrofanova
from the Ukraine was second,334.4km.Michaela Dimitriadu, Czech Rep. 322.3km,
third. My 24 hour splits were 223km and 203km.

We got onto the podium sharing with the 3 womens winners.We were all so
tired, almost falling off and hanging onto each other as the presentations
continued with individual awards for each finisher.Eventually they allowed
us to sit down on the podium while the ceremony continued.

I went back to the hotel,showered and slept for about 4 hours and went out
to dinner with the other runners.I sat with Kenjai.He told me about life as
a runner in Japan.His wife is a 10 day runner.It was very expensive for him
and his handler to come here.I felt sorry for him. I was wearing my
traditional race night tee-shirt which reads: “Battered,shattered,plastered
and twisted!” I was happy and this made up for so many heartbreaking second
place finishes during my ultrarunning career.
My club psysio Michael Farrell deserves a lot of credit for his great work
getting me ready for races.Many times I have doubted if I can get over some
injuries but Michael always seems to pull me through.In 5 years years
working on me the masochist has never failed me!

Race director,Tomas Rusek did a wonderful job putting on this incredible
race which went like a well-oiled machine without a hitch.The trophy I was
presented with was so big I didn’t know how to get it home! He called to my
room the next morning to give me a large sports bag which the trophy barely
fitted into.
I went to the airport put the 48 hour shoes into the x-ray machine and
pitied the operator!As I put them on I heard some Irish weekend revelers
asking. “Did you Run?” Thinking they were talking to me I turned just as
the other was replying, “Are you crazy? I couldn’t run across the street!”
I had a little chuckle and walked very slowly through the terminal.I was

Tony Mangan.