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St Helena Airport’s First Runway Dash

Martin Collins on his way to becoming the winner of St Helena Airport's first runway dash, down the strip and back in just 11 min 19 sec.

Martin Collins on his way to becoming the winner of St Helena Airport’s first runway dash, down the strip and back in just 11 min 19 sec.

The World’s Most Expensive Running Track | Sharon Henry

St Helena Airport was shaken from its stupor this Bank Holiday Monday when the £285m runway was temporarily transformed into a running track – probably becoming one of the most expensive in the world.

This was another ‘first’ the for the new St Helena airport when 105 people took to the starting line eager to make history, participating in the island’s inaugural ‘Runway Dash.’

Cleared to enter the runway - 105 walkers and runners on the taxiway on St Helena Airport, heading out to the start of the runway dash.

Cleared to enter the runway – 105 walkers and runners on the taxiway on St Helena Airport, heading out to the start of the runway dash.

The runway dash is a race to the end and back of an airstrip, an event inspired by neighbouring Ascension Island who have been doing this for years.

The rules were simple; no walking on the gravel, stay on the concrete and in the event of wind shear, adopt the foetal position!

Cleared for Take-Off

The wind shear reference, if you don’t already know, throws a little humour to the cause of the airport’s delayed commercial operations. Dangerous wind conditions were discovered during flight trials earlier this year and solutions to solve the problem are ongoing. The airport is, however, open to small aircraft.

Wind speeds were low today. Would have been a good day for aircraft to land! St Helena Airport's first runway dash.

Wind speeds were low today. Would have been a good day for aircraft to land!
St Helena Airport’s first runway dash.

The overcast sky, cool temperatures and moderate breeze made conditions perfect for running and the serious competitors, keen to set initial records limbered up before the race. People of all ages, abilities and attire took part, ranging from Lycra tights to denim jeans.

It must have looked a peculiar sight from the control tower; a throng of people strung along the 1650m (1.02 miles) runway. Fitness levels fast became apparent and it seemed in no time the front runners were whizzing by us stragglers on their return ‘dash’ for the finishing line.

On your marks, get set - GO! With a gentle tail wind on runway 02 St Helena Airport's first runway dash is underway on 29 August (Bank Holiday) 2016.

On your marks, get set – GO! With a gentle tail wind on runway 02 St Helena Airport’s first runway dash is underway on 29 August (Bank Holiday) 2016.

St Helena Airport's first ever runway dash - 29 August 2016.

St Helena Airport’s first ever runway dash – 29 August 2016.

St Helena Airport's first ever runway dash - 29 August 2016.

St Helena Airport’s first ever runway dash – 29 August 2016. Scott George (right) first Prince Andrew School boy in 12 min 30 sec.

Megan Vass (right) first lady to complete St Helena Airport's runway dash in 13 min 46 sec.

Megan Vass (right) first lady to complete St Helena Airport’s runway dash in 13 min 46 sec.

St Helena Airport's first ever runway dash - 29 August 2016.

St Helena Airport’s first ever runway dash – 29 August 2016.

Dressed for the other type of runway! Actually sporting spectators who found it too tempting not to join in St Helena Airport's first ever runway dash.

Dressed for the other type of runway! Actually sporting spectators who found it too tempting not to join in St Helena Airport’s first ever runway dash.

First Prince Andrew School Girl over the line, Danielle Benjamin (middle) in 18 min. First Primary School student, Aiden Yon-Stevens (right) in 15 min 14 sec. St Helena Airport's first ever runway dash.

First Prince Andrew School Girl over the line, Danielle Fowler (middle) in 18 min. First Primary School student, Aiden Yon-Stevens (right) in 15 min 14 sec.
St Helena Airport’s first ever runway dash.

Time keepers making sure St Helena Airport's first ever runway dash is recorded accurately.

Time keepers making sure St Helena Airport’s first ever runway dash is recorded accurately.

Flying over the finish line at St Helena Airport's first ever runway dash.

Flying over the finish line at St Helena Airport’s first ever runway dash.

Final Approach

It felt incredible to be walking in a space intended only for airplanes, even to have fresh appreciation for the panoramic views of Great Stone Top, Levelwood, The Barn and Prosperous Bay House. Such amazing scenery to greet air travellers when they eventually arrive. Black skid marks were evidence that the runway has been put to proper use although it’s still just a lucky few who have already been treated to landing on St Helena.

Go-kart racing on the apron was another activity on the day at St Helena Airport's first ever runway dash.

Go-kart racing on the apron was another activity on the day at St Helena Airport’s first ever runway dash.

The Runway Dash is proposed to be an annual event; today is hopefully the start of many. Along with the fun factor a do-good element was added as funds raised in sponsorships (estimated to be £2,000) will be used towards travel costs for a St Helena team to attend the Natwest Small Island Games in Gotland, Sweden, next year.

I wonder how many other airports hold these types of events?

Go-kart racing on the apron was another activity on the day at St Helena Airport's first ever runway dash.

Go-kart racing on the apron was another activity on the day at St Helena Airport’s first ever runway dash.

Winners of Runway Dash 2016:

Men-Martin Collins 11m 19s

Women-Megan Vass 13m 46s

PAS Boy-Scott George 12m 30s   PAS Girl-Danielle Fowler 18m

Primary School-Aiden Yon-Stevens 15m 14s

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