Every year, over 20 million passengers traverse Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport’s (DCA) runways, making it a critical gateway to…
These Airports Let You Run on Their Runways
Would you take a walk or run on the same strip of pavement that a 250-ton airliner just traversed? At some airports, you can, while also raising charity funds.
So-called ‘runway runs’ have taken hold at some airports in the U.S. These events open the door for avid runners to access an intentionally-flat surface, while also allowing individuals to experience the breadth of large airports. Depending on the locale, commercial airport runways can be upwards of 16,000 feet, or just over three miles. The longest commercially used runway in North America is at Denver International Airport (DEN) and is itself exactly 16,000 feet.
Runway Run Concept
Typically in partnership with a charity, several airports do runway run events, in which participants can get up close and personal with the otherwise off-limits airfield. In most cases, the runs are time-limited so that regular operations can be planned around it.
A common theme is for these events to take place in the Fall/Spring on Saturdays when air traffic is often at a lower point. Airport operators work closely with local air traffic control to coordinate runway and taxiway closures.
Where Are These Runway Runs?
Most runway runs seem to take place in the U.S. at larger airports with multiple runways. Of course, traffic conditions and other factors can change these events on short notice.
Here is where you can find regular runway runs:
Miami International Airport (MIA)
Up to 2,500 participants are able to run MIA’s runway 8L/26R in October. Despite being the busiest airport in the U.S. for international traffic, MIA continues to host this community engagement event. The airport partners with both the American Cancer Society and the Miami Cancer Institute to raise cancer awareness.
Philadelphia International Airport (PHL)
Partnering with the March of Dimes organization, PHL just recently held its annual 5k runway run. This is the sixth time that the airport has hosted such an event. “Participants will get to see commercial and general aviation aircraft taking off and landing (on different runways!) and a display of airport equipment such as fire apparatus, various types of snow removal equipment and airline ground support equipment. This is truly a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” the airport said in an event announcement.
Washington Dulles International Airport (IAD)
Similar to PHL, Washington’s Dulles airport also recently conducted its annual runway run event. Interestingly, this run actually starts at the Smithsonian’s nearby Udvar Hazy Center, which is connected via a single taxiway to the Dulles airfield. After being able to walk through the air and space museum, runners head out to runway 1R/19L.
The run benefits the Special Olympics Virginia charity, according to the airport. The most recent runway run was Dulles’ 11th annual event.
Charlotte Douglas International Airport (CLT)
Charlotte is set to host its 16th CLT Runway 5k on Oct. 21, 2023. “This certified run is in one of the nation’s most unique locations and is certainly one of the smoothest and flattest around,” the airport says in the run’s announcement.
Proceeds from CLT’s run fund Airport Opportunity Scholarships at Central Piedmont Community College (CPCC), which aims to create career opportunities in aviation. The 2022 run raised over $38,810 for scholarships with 1,214 participants.
John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK)
Put on by the JFK Rotary Club, JFK’s runway run is perhaps one of the longest-running in the U.S. at 50 annual events. Per the JFK Rotary Clubs, funds from the run are distributed across various charities. The run typically takes place in the Spring.
Until 2000, the race took place on public roads, but that created traffic control issues. Thus, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey opted to move the race airside.
Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport (ATL)
Despite being the busiest airport in the world, Atlanta does its own runway run event, hosted by the city’s mayor. Aptly named the ‘Mayor’s 5K on the 5th Runway,’ this race is scheduled to take place on Oct. 14, 2023. Registration is open for up to 2,000 participants.
This is by no means an all-encompassing list of all runway run activities; airports that are both large and small host different variants. You should certainly check local listings to see if your local airport does its own runway run.
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