(Terrible headline… sorry! 🙂)
In February, Armagh plays host to one of the most competitive 5km road races in the world. The main reason it’s so fast is that it is really hard to get entry to this race, particularly the international 5km for which you need a 5km time of 15:30 or under within the last year. Our lads don’t do many 5km races, so I had been bugging the organiser for the last few months based on equivalent 3km times, etc to see how many of the lads we could get entered and make a little road trip out of it.
As last week rolled around and there were various drop-outs (including our own Jamie Fallon who decided to focus on the upcoming Barca half), some slots opened up for some of the lads and we pretty much sent a full team there. Many thanks to the organiser James Vallely for being so sound, and to others like Tom McStay who helped by giving them his slot when he picked up an injury. In the end we had William Fitzgerald, Sean Cotter, Patrick Noonan and Oisin Davis in the 5km and speedsters Sinead Gaffney and Kyle Moorhead in the 3km races (womens before the 5km, men’s after).
The city is like a one-night mecca for distance runners. After the 3 hours trek from Craughwell, we arrived on a packed square surrounded by speakers and internationals jogging everywhere you look.
Fellow Galway men were there too – Castlegar’s flying Eoin Molloy and Abas Edris were pacing around. Eoin gave an apt description of the race he had received some someone who ran it previously – “sneeze and 10 men pass you”.
The race consists of laps of the 1km square which is filled with spectators. Surprisingly to me – the lap isn’t flat: there is a slight but noticeable incline for about 400m up the long side of the rectangular square, and a similar decline on the other side. The surface is mostly good but quite rough near the top.
Geoff Wightman – who knows a thing or two about athletics – was announcing the races and got the fields off to a mighty start. The sight of 200+ runners blazing past at over 25 km/hour is pretty stunning and you could literally feel the wind of them passing. It is great for spectators in a cross-country way. You can run over and back on the central square and shout on your favoured runners every 500m, as long as they don’t get too separated! It can be quite hard to pick them out in the field, so thick is the crowd and so quickly do they pass.
In the Internaltional 5km, William Fitzgerald led the team home with a spectacular new club record of 14:29 (26-second PB) – the fastest time over the distance by a Galway man in probably a decade. I’d say Gary Thornton was the last man to run it. Seán Cotter was next home in 14:35 (21-second PB), followed by Oisin Davis in 14:41 (76-second PB) and 2023 resolution-run Champion Patrick Noonan hot on his heels in 14:46 (30-second PB).
Sinead Gaffney had a solid run in the 3km, to finish in 10:21. This was a new club record, but she didn’t feel like she really got going (her fitness was proven a few days later with some exceptional League performances).
Kyle Moorhead ran in the men’s 3km and also set a club 3km road record of 8:43 (27-second PB). Kyle wasn’t sure how to pace the race and found himself leading a chasing pack which wasn’t a great place to be. He finished the race thinking “I had way more left!“, but good learning for the next time!
All in all, an exceptional experience and a really special evening. Well worth the trek – we will be back!