The Bob Heffernan & Mary Hanley 5k took place on Tuesday 16th May in Johnstown Bridge near Enfield County Meath. Renowned for being fast and flat, it drew a huge crowd of around 750. Weather conditions were almost as perfect as you could hope for with a warm, sunny and still evening.

Being an ‘after work race’, there is always the anxiety of what condition the M50 will be in. Many WhatsApps later and some travel time contingencies, the Sportworld crew of 12 arrived in plenty of time.

I have run this race many times and having been a County Meath teammate of Mary Hanley, I was eager to toe the line again this year after her untimely passing.

The start of the race is about 2km jog from the race headquarters and so provides a great opportunity to be well warmed up.

Crona and I met up with Noreen, Maria and John set off on a 2 mile jog warm up. There seemed to be ‘elite’ runners at every turn so it was clear that a strong field would be assembled.

The warm weather meant there was no need to even consider wearing an ‘old t-shirt’ to the start. We quickly changed shoes and set off for the line.

The start of the race was fast and furious with people jostling for position from the gun. We ran about a kilometer along a main road before a sharp left onto a sheltered country road. At this stage in a 5k, the field is usually pretty strung out with plenty of room to run your own race. However, such was the depth of the field (209 participants under 18mins – of which 28 were female – and 370 under 20mins) it never really got quiet.

Myself and Noreen ran side by side for much of the race with Maria tucked in nicely directly behind us. We were passing people, being passed by others, dodging from left to right but overall I think it helped us not to overcook the first mile.

It is a great course, very flat and sheltered and definitely one where a PB is possible.

I didn’t look at my watch much during the race, mainly glancing at the mile splits as they clicked. I think that a 5k can often feel as fast as a track race yet as long as a marathon and I just tried to run as hard as possible for as long as I could. Having team mates right beside you is a great incentive to pin the ears back and ignore the thoughts of taking it easy/stopping/dropping out. If they can do it then so can I etc. I’ll admit the commitment in advance to doing this race report (thanks Michael) was an added motivation!

The last kilometer is the nicest one, with only a small bump interrupting a long slope down to the finish. I crossed the line (17.14) with Noreen (17.22) and Maria (17.27) following really closely. Maria ran a stormer, smashing the 18 minutes barrier for the first time. It is fantastic running in its own right, and even better given her injury interruptions of late. She was delighted.

With 3 to score and 3 under 17.30, we were 3rd team overall behind DSD and Tullamore Harriers.

The scoring members were strongly backed up by strong performances from Katie Nugent (20.01), Deirdre O’Connell (20.08) and Crona Clohisey (20.29). Katie has been so close to breaking 20mins on a number of occasions now, it is only a matter of time before she does it. Deirdre continues her fine running form and Crona, a former podium finisher at this race with a pb of 17.10, is getting fitter with each race following the recent birth of Eabha.

Not to be outdone by the ladies, there were great performances from the men, with Gareth the first club finisher in 16.16. This was a fantastic result so soon after his efforts at the Limerick marathon. During our group debrief, Gareth was even brave enough to point out that the majority of the ladies team were racing girls ’20 years younger’. A harsh truth!

Paul O’Connell was next home in 17.22 followed by John McGeown in 18.21. John’s extended warm up detour (!) obviously did him no harm, securing a pb. Great running.

Adam Furlong (19.13), Declan Brady (19.54) and Noel Lynham (22.14) all had strong runs to complete the Sportsworld representation.

It was a great start to the summer evening races. Well done everyone.