HOLIDAY makers were replaced with health junkies and fundraisers as part of a unique charity event at Shannon Airport.
Instead of boarding aircraft for sunny Spain more then 1,200 people took part in a run down the airstrip as Shannon was shut to planes and opened to athletes on Friday night.
The runway closed to air traffic shortly before 11pm to allow the five kilometre race to take place between the terminal building and the airport fire station.
The airport found a cap in the schedule and temporarily closed the runway for the event, allowing plenty of time for the race on Ireland’s longest runway.
More than €15,000 was raised for the Samaritans, as the charity’s volunteers joined Clare’s under-21 hurlers in marshalling the race, which was kicked off with a flare-gun by airport CEO Neil Pakey.
The run was led by Irish rugby legend Keith Wood and marshalled by almost 200 volunteers.
Waterford man Rory Maloney finished first in just 15 minutes and four seconds, while Newcastle West woman Ide Nic Dhomnaill was the first woman back in 18 minutes.
Sixmilebridge man James Liddane, 36, came in second place with a personal best time of 15.19.
“It was a different experience. Your preparation has to change: you have to do reps and circuit training instead,” he said.
Ennis Road man Frederic Bousquet, who has taken part in three marathons, added: “I work at the airport so I thought it would be a nice way to see the runway.”
Keith Wood, who was recently appointed Chair of the Healthy Ireland Council, said the event was as “enjoyable as it was novel”.
“I know from the organisers here at Shannon that they could have filled twice the 1,200 event capacity but I’m not surprised as it was such a unique event,” he said.
“We have landed on and taken off from this runway so many times but how many of us actually ever got to get out on one, let alone run a race on it. No wonder it was such a draw.”
Shannon Airport CEO Neil Pakey said the “atmosphere was electric” for the event.
“It was a different speed to what normally goes on along a runway but very impressive times were posted, with the winner coming in with a personal best, so runners were clearly driven on by the uniqueness of the occasion,” he said.
“We are particularly delighted to have been able to generate €15,000 for the Samaritans, largely thanks to Bank of Ireland and their huge support for this event and they deserve tremendous credit for coming on board.”