Friday, December 16, 2011

The Runway Runners

We don’t have much to boast about here, nothing much to put us on the international map. We briefly had the best handball team in the world, but it was sold this summer to a club in Madrid. All we have left is the new stadium which the ratepayer (me, that is) owns most of and can’t find a profitable use for. We like to make a fuss about Don Quijote even though he never came anywhere near the place, and we had the National Treasury and the HQ of the Inquisition back in the 16th C, but they were sent to Madrid as well. Thus the decline started.

We do, however, have one of the longest airport runways in Europe.*

It was supposed to be Spain’s first private airport (but guess who owns it now). One of the ideas mooted during the long, painful and ultimately still birth of the project was to use it as a depot for intercontinental airliners that have to rest for several days between flights while being thoroughly checked for missing wings and so on. Parking would be much cheaper than at Barajas.  A bright idea in its way, but no one was interested. It did get us 4kms of paved pachydermus leucos, though, and thus the Runway Runners were conceived.

Running is a boring business. Good for the cardiovascular system, great for making a little room for the weekend beer, and excellent at showing you how death is more to be welcomed than feared. But bloody tedious. It needs to be livened up. As I discovered by chance, one foggy evening, climbing the fence and running the entire length of that useless tarmac with a stopwatch in your hand, pursued by salivating Alsatians gives it just that bit of spice that makes all the difference.

I had to share the experience, naturally. It’s not something you can keep to yourself, and it’s much more fun in company. So I told a select few running acquaintances who were looking for a new challenge, and the Runway Runners were born.

Most airports do have actual planes in them, doing the stuff that planes do on airport runways, and they have security of kinds that most normal travellers know nothing of. It all takes planning, timing and the carefully measured assistance of a hipflask. It’s easier at night, and in some ways more fun- most things are at night. Whatever the people who plan the security protocols have in mind- protecting the public, covering their backs, exercising naked power, or just having a laugh- the actual blokes in uniform just want to get paid and go home. Especially the night shift. They put the leaner, fitter, brighter-looking ones on during the day. The fat and hopeless work at night when they can’t be seen and, let’s face it, no one ever breaks into an airport, do they?

Until now. Oh, the exhilaration. The tang of burning diesel and the freshly discharged contents of chemical lavatories in your nostrils, the wind from the exhaust of a 747 in your hair, the pulse pounding in your temples as for a moment the end of the runway seems to be getting further and further away (they are all different lengths and whoever’s turn it is to do the research always forgets to tell anyone else, and so we are running blind, not knowing exactly how our strength should be spent), the happy thought that there’s always someone slower than you (which is why we let Pablo ‘El Cojo’ join the club in the first place, of course) and the knowledge that if the police finally get to you they’ll probably treat it all as a big laugh (or possibly not).

I feel younger since I started the club, fuller of joie de vivre, esprit de l’escalier and moules mariniere. I drift over waters of the deepest blue and seduce diaphanous maidens by the light of the full moon. The club has no rules, except that I am the Law. We shall soon go international, intercontinental, and, when NASA finally builds a landing pad on the moon, interplanetary. We have no limits. We can do what we will.

*This despite the fact that we don’t have an airport in any but the purest technical sense. We have a fenced area with a control tower, flashing lights, terminals, baggage belts, posts for the police and customs to have a quiet fag between shifts- all the paraphernalia you associate with an airport, and the runway, of course. In many ways it looks just like an airport. But there are no staff, no passengers, and no planes. It’s a model of an airport, very useful if you want to show someone what an airport looks like, but it’s not going to let you fly anywhere, which is the defining feature of an airport, I should have thought.

NOTE: It’s possible that some of the above is not entirely accurate.

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