Co Down mountain runner dreams of seeing sport included in Olympics

Co Down runner Zak Hanna has been using lockdown to train in his favourite sport, mountain running, and has told UTV he hopes it will be added to the Olympics in future. Hanna's commitment to his sport is not in doubt. He only began mountain running in 2016, rising through the ranks to a sixth place finish at the world cup in 2019. Despite a lack of competitive action during the pandemic, lockdown gave him the opportunity to focus on why he loves to run, come rain, hail or shine. “Running the mountains without any traffic or anyone around you just has huge appeal, it's just a great place to be especially when you have the Mournes to run in and at home in Slieve Croob,” he says. “I learnt not to focus on how fast I was going, or how far I was going it was just going out, having the enjoyment factor, and being able to look back and realise this is why you run. “It's just absolutely fantastic and that's where I'm at my happiest. I'm running 90 to 95 miles a week at the minute, on top of holding down a full-time job so it's very much the work I'm willing to put in to try and make that next step and become a professional runner.” Hanna knows first hand all that mountain running has to give, but isn't just focused on chasing on his own personal goals. As an ambassador for his sport, he hopes to promote all it has to offer on the global stage. He says: “Mountain running isn't seen as a mainstream sport compared to road running or track racing, but I would love to see that change, mountain running isn't in the Olympics. “I'm a big believer in that the sport has so much to give, you look at Italy, Switzerland, France, Italy especially the mountain running scene is huge. The professionals there are viewed in the same esteem as Premier League footballers, I'd love to be an Olympian some day but to an Olympian as a mountain runner would be something special.”