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ultras push it to their limits

Almost four years ago, Tony Mangan, an ultra runner from the Metro St Brigid's club in Dublin, finished the Dublin Marathon and then set off to run the world.

Since then, he has run an average of 20 miles a day with a few breaks here and there.

He had dealt with the lonely cold of the South American uplands, the bureaucratic nightmare of trying to get a visa for China (he didn't get it) and the worry of skirting the more volatile parts of the Middle East.

With two months to go until the SSE Dublin Marathon, where he will end his odyssey, Tony has arrived in England last week - his 39th country - and is heading for Wales. He takes the ferry to Dublin on Saturday September 13 and then begins 1,600km lap of Ireland as a fundraiser for his chosen charity Aware, with runners along the way invited to join him for a few miles.

"The run will finish where it started at the finish line of the Dublin marathon. Exactly 50,000km, and not a metre more," he says. "A friend asked what I am going to do when it's all over. Get a car was my reply!"

While Mangan was on the roads of the UK last Saturday, Tom McGrath was putting in the laps at Santry Stadium in a special 24-hour charity run. In May 1984, just 30 years ago, McGrath clocked up 126 miles to win this country's first ever 24-hour race at Tullamore. A former Fermanagh footballer and a boxer, he had emigrated to the USA, where running proved his salvation after he developed a serious drink problem.

His honeymoon in 1977 was a solo 3,046 mile run from New York to San Francisco that took 53 days.


He's never lost touch with his roots, returning often. In December 1983, McGrath ran 630 miles around Ireland in just over a week, raising funds for charity. From 1988 to 1992, he undertook a 1,000 mile run each year in the USA for favourite children's charities, usually taking about 15 days to complete the run.

For the past few years, he has completed runs around the provinces of Ulster, Connacht and Leinster for charities on his annual visit home. He finished his 24-hour at Santry in fine fettle, surrounded by family.

So what now? "I'll have a short jog tomorrow, otherwise my legs will be running kilometres in bed," he said. "Then I have six marathons in six days in New York at the end of the month. You have to stay active, you have to keep going."

A mantra for ultra runners everywhere.

3 A film of Tom's life called 'Lazarus Running' comes out next year.