Galway runners do on Tuesday evenings.
The Galway 5KM Series turned five this year and it continued to go from strength to strength, under the watchful eye of its ever-present coordinator, Mick Rice of Athenry AC.
The series retained all the same races as the last two years, in the same sequence and on basically the same courses – Athenry was a little longer that other years; Tuam was on the same course but with a different start and finish; Craughwell had a new start due to road modifications; Claregalway changed their start and finish lines very slightly; Loughrea was unchanged; Dangan was re-arranged substantially to facilitate increased numbers of finishers.
On-line entry was on www.runireland.com again and sold out in, officially, 82 minutes. Not 82 days or 82 hours but 82 minutes (from noon on 19 February to 1:22PM that same afternoon) and still many people were disappointed to miss out. The entry fee stayed at E25, which worked out at less than a fiver a race!
Over 700 were eventually entered and 500-plus lined up that first evening in Newcastle, where the series lost its long record of dry weather during the series races. We had had a few close shaves in the past and the series' luck could not hold out forever!
The main innovation this year was the provision of chip timing at all the races, which was expertly supervised by John Cunniffe of Red Tag Timing. This took a massive amount of administration away from individual series leg organisers. It was also essential when 500 people are thundering through the finish line during rush hour in a 5KM (in the 20 to 25 minute range).
The series juggernaut moved onto Tuam where over 500 ran that fine evening too. There was a table quiz immediately afterwards in the Corralea hotel which raised money to allow Tuam AC's Brendan Monaghan to travel to Haiti later in the year as part of the Haven charity.
Craughwell put on their usual high-class event with the added bonus of Elvis running. It seemed to encourage those running around 20:30 to run that bit quicker. Who would want to be beaten by a man who's been dead for 33 years anyhow?!?
Claregalway was next in the series. Rock Road was still there and as formidable as last year, unfortunately. Again, nearly 450 lined up and finished, all in one piece.
Loughrea was the "money" race for nearly 200 of the series participants as it ensured that the series technical top would be earned there for running at least five of the six races in the series. The top was well earned especially after breasting the hill just after four KM mark!
The last race in the series was, as it always has been, in Dangan, but over a substantially different course to previous years. Two hundred and twenty more qualified for their tops that evening. The finish was a relief for many as the previous five weeks had been tough with six races in five weeks. The distinct blue on white technical tops (again expertly designed by Johnny O'Connor of Proactive) proved very popular and was worn by many finishers that evening.
Mark Davis (Craughwell AC) had a brilliant run of form in the series, winning four of the first five races – he didn’t run in his own leg. All the winning times were within a few ticks of each other too: 16:13, 16:20, 16:18 and 16:26. He took it easy in the last leg in Dangan, ‘trailing’ home in third place in 16:44! Athenry AC’s own Brian O’Connor was second to Mark on three different occasions.
The nett proceeds of E6,321 from the series were again donated to the local Galway AAI County Board for the advancement of both adult and juvenile athletics in the county. The Galway Local Sports Partnership, via Mick Curley, also donated E2,000 to the series, which was also given to the Galway AAI County Board. Mick was at the final race to see the good work that the organisers and the six constituent clubs have put into the series over the five years of its existence.
And then afterwards to the Westwood Hotel, where over 150 packed into one of the function rooms for an informal de- briefing. Many won spot prizes of special 5KM Series hoodies there, which have been worn to other local races with much pride since. Finger food was provided and was scoffed with abandon.
The three remaining three stalwarts survived the 6 races this year, though in one person's case it was a close shave, on the way back from a family holiday. The airport in question was closed a few minutes after their flight left due to the poor prevailing weather conditions. Gary Doherty (Athenry AC), Jim Maher (HP Running) and Tony O'Callaghan (Craughwell AC) can each take a bow for completing all 27 races to date.