Uno In Brno – By Tony Mangan

Uno in Brno!

By: Tony Mangan. March 27, 2007

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 faded. 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 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 Tetratsoks 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 refreshment!

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 Dvoracek 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 Dvoracek in 374.9km. Irina Koval from Russia won the women’s 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 women’s 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 physio 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 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 happy.

Tony Mangan. The home of multiday running news and events.


  1. Thanks Dave and John. Looking forward to seeing you both in July and December.Good luck in New York,John. Happy running Tony.

  2. Fair paly to ye man, sorry it took so long to get back to ye, Never got to sy goodbye to ye, all the best. Tioghfaidh ar la!

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