Shannon Airport Runway 5km Night Race (04/07/14)
By Will Greensmyth

After the omnishambles that was the Dublin M***thon 2013, my goal for this year was that there have been no “goal” races– just entering random races of various distances hither and thither. As I was near thither last week, I entered the Shannon Airport 5k Night Race. A unique experience for all involved, organised by Shannon Airport and Bank of Ireland in aid of the Samaritans.

The race was scheduled to start at 11pm so forsaking the second half of the Brazil v Colombia shinkicking and vertebrae-breaking contest, I headed out the N18 towards the airport. Registration was in the Departures Hall in the Airport where we checked in and collected our hi-vis running tops which were compulsory for the race. There was a lot of hanging around in the Departures Hall but a relaxed atmosphere. A group warmup was held in the hall and then out we went into the blackness of the night where we were chaperoned by the airport police onto the runway. Another bit of hanging around as we waited the green light from the control tower, no last minute emergency landings or unscheduled arrivals!

Finally we had clearance. Bang from the starter’s gun and we took off at stealth speed.

The race progressed down one of the taxiways. I had thought for some reason that it would still be fairly bright at 11 for the race. It wasn’t. it was pitch dark and despite the presence of plenty of lit up marshals every 100m or so, the benefits of a head torch were obvious. Alas, I had left mine at home. I ended up running most of the race on my own, adrift of the lead group and it was an eerie enough experience. You couldn’t see your feet and the only noise apart from my own belaboured breathing was the whirr of the radar beside the runway.

After about one km, we turned onto the main runway. I am reliably informed that the runway is 3,199 metres in length and is an asphalt surface. Because of its length, it is a designated landing site for space shuttles. I’m not sure any space shuttles have ever had to land in Shannon. This race was clearly an “alien” experience however. Boom-boom.

Ahead in the distance I could see the flickering light of the lead bikes making a turn to direct the lead runners towards the finish on the other taxiway. For some deluded reason, and because I was not wearing a stopwatch and because it was pitch black, I deduced that this was the last couple of 100metres and decided to kick for the turn and finish. It wasn’t the last couple of 100metres. As I quickly found out, there was still another km or so to go. On I trudged – cursing myself, this runway, the history of manned flight, duty free shopping, the Wright brothers and Boeing as a few more lads passed me. This was going to be a turbulent landing.

Finally, I saw the actual finish line approach in the distance. I crossed the line with a time that was faster than the previous week’s efforts in Kilcock. I guess it’s true. Time flies.

A novel experience with a good cause benefitting. As fast a course as you will find, flat as a pancake and plenty of space to run. Definitely more exciting that the Brazilian game. Next week: Eoin O’Brien and myself tackle the Liberties Run 6k…join us for a guided running tour of the sights and sounds of inner city Dublin, Kilmainham Royal Hospital and the Coombe Hospital.