SUNDAY sees the return of an extraordinary test of endurance, the Barry Track 40 Miles and Barry Marathon Track Race, at the Jenner Park Stadium. Racing over such arduous distances pre-dates the modern Olympic Games and was very popular in the mid and late nineteenth century.

In Wales too, many such races were held in Maindy Stadium, Cardiff, and the first sub four hour 40 miles was achieved there in 1967.

The local equivalent at Barry was first held on the cinder track in 1986 and was won by local athlete Mick McGeoch, who remains the race director today.

After converting the track to a synthetic surface the following year, the Barry 40 has been held every year, and has earned its place as a cult event on the global ultra calendar.

In the previous 32 editions no less than 62 world best performances have been set, and 3 Barry winners have gone on to win global titles – Carolyn Hunter-Rowe (1993), Simon Pride (1999) and Lizzy Hawker (2006).

The Barry Marathon was created in 2017 as an opportunity for those who would find themselves unable to complete 40 miles in the allotted time, and has proved a popular under card.

Two time winner Steven Way (Bournemouth AC) is unable to defend his title this year, which leaves a potentially very open race. Samantha Amend (Belgrave Harriers) is the stand out entry, and we could see an outright lady winner. Sam won the UK 100 km title at Redwick last Easter in 7 hours 53 minutes which was a new Anglo Celtic Plate record by 7 minutes.

She has a marathon best of 2 hours 42 minutes and possesses incredible consistency with 18 marks under 2 hours 50 minutes.

Today is something different and part of her build up towards the World 24 hour championships in France this October.

Potentially the quickest in the field is Grant Jeans from Glasgow.

Incredibly loyal to today’s event, Grant has twice won here in 2012 and 2015, and last August won the Strathaven 50 miler for the fifth time in a new record. If he has managed to arrive injury-free, he will be hard to beat.

Nathan Flear (3Ms Gorseinon) has been runner up for the last two years, as well as Welsh Champion. He has been training in both Kenya and Bulgaria lately and flies home especially for this race.

Norwegian born Ake Fagereng is a scientist currently based at Cardiff University. Now 36, he has contested ultra races all over the world and most notably won the 2015 Racing the Planet Roving Race, 250 km over 6 days in Ecuador. However, 40 miles on a track is a new experience, even for him.

As always the race incorporates the Welsh Ultradistance Championships, and 5 of the athletes qualify for that.

The great thing about ultradistance is that every athlete has a tale to tell – a special reason for competing, if you like. Such tales are invariably inspiring. Syd Wheeler (Chepstow) comes to Barry to compete in the marathon, having completed a marathon every year since 1983. Syd has completed the 40 miles 5 times in the past between 1996-2002 and is now 81 years old!

Finally, we welcome a local man, Jason Elworthy, who competes in the T38 class. Jason competes for Barry & Vale Harriers, where he also coaches.

In the past he has mainly competed in the throws and shorter distances, with a longest distance of Half Marathon in Cardiff, where he set a Welsh record of 4:16:49.

As ever, the race will start at 10am and admission is free.