The Kerry Way Ultra-Marathon is now deemed the toughest ultra in the world. The daunting marathon is over 210k along the most beautiful rugged and coastal Kerry Way.
The race started in Killarney at 6am on Friday morning, continuing along Killarney National Park, to the infamous Black Valley, Bridia Valley, Glencar and along the Iveragh Peninsula, with runners facing challenging ancient mountain tracks, coastal cliff faces, beautiful lakelands, country lanes, midnight forest tracks, and, of course, the unforgiving Irish weather systems.
Fifteen brave souls started the epic journey, but such was its severity that all but three athletes finished the race. Not for the faint-hearted, the athletes succumbed to injuries along the route with almost all completing the equivalent of three marathons by 8pm in Waterville.
It was Stefaan D'Espallier of Belgium who not only broke the new world record, but approached the finish line in Killarney unscathed to a hero's welcome on Saturday morning in a time of 27:08.12.
Afterwards, D'Espallier said: "I loved the race; it was the constant changing of landscape and weather that was most challenging. The scenery was breathtaking. I managed to get lost three times, but thanks to the night marshals who were so helpful.
"The organising team and support crews made the race with constant back-up and support. I will definitely be back next year."
Marathon runner Jens Waechter was second, with his dad and support crew at the finish line to welcome him home. Jens is no stranger to this part of Kerry; his good humour and banter along the way was infectious.
But the real hero of the race was Brigid Daly, Wicklow, who is D'Espallier's partner. Brigid was the only Irish athlete and woman to finish the race. She displayed great courage and spirit along the route.