Marathon? 5K? The Airports That Let You Run on Their Runways

by SharonKurheg

The 52nd New York City Marathon is this Sunday. Running every year since 1970 (except for 2012, due to Superstorm Sandy, and 2020, due to the pandemic), it’s the last of six World Marathon Majors events scheduled for this year (the other five were Tokyo in February, Boston and London in April, Berlin in September, and Chicago in October).

The NYC Marathon is interesting because the 26.2 mile route runs through all 5 boroughs (although its presence is Staten Island is admittedly pretty flimsy LOL. It starts there and runners immediately cross a bridge into Brooklyn, and BOOM, that’s the end of Staten Island. Story of its life. I grew up on Stat ‘Nylan, BTW).

Anyway, the only reason I bring this up is because a couple of weeks ago I read about a 5K that was held on a runway in North Carolina. About 1,000 runners took part in Asheville Regional Airport’s annual Runway 5K, where they get to watch planes take off and land on other runways, as they race on Taxiway Bravo, beside their active Runway 17-35. Funds from the race went to support local aviation scholarships administered by both the A-B Tech Department of Aviation and the Western North Carolina Pilots Association Educational Foundation.

But that go me to wondering if any other airports allow running? Turns out there are! Take a look:

Atlanta Harstfield-Jackson International Airport (ATL)

Held each October, the “Mayor’s 5K on the 5th Runway” accepts the first 2,000 registrants. The race welcomes runners as young as 10 years old and of all abilities and proceeds are given to local non-profit organizations.

Charlotte Douglas International Airport (CLT)

a group of people running on a runwayOctober 21st was the 16th CLT Runway 5K (and they say to follow their page for upcoming info on the 17th annual).

The CLT Runway 5K is on a course entirely on the airfield with two miles of runway and taxiway and a close-up look at aircraft landing and taking off. Of course, there is an amazing view of the CLT terminal complex and the Uptown Charlotte skyline.

This certified run is in one of the nation’s most unique locations and is certainly one of the smoothest and flattest around. The course is wheelchair-accessible and baby-stroller-friendly.

Proceeds from the Runway 5K fund Airport Opportunity Scholarships at Central Piedmont Community College (CPCC). The scholarships were created in 2018 to promote careers in aviation, as well as economic opportunities in Charlotte.

John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK)

a group of people running in a raceThe JFK Runway Run may be the granddaddy of them all – It’s been running since 1972 – over 50 years! Also known as the “Run on the Runway,” it’s become one of the major fundraisers for the JFK Rotary Club.

The run’s history is pretty interesting:

Until 2000, it was a 10K race that started at the Ramada Plaza JFK Hotel parking lot to the runway and back to the hotel. Due to problems with traffic control on the public roads, the Port Authority of NY & NJ (the airport management) requested we take part of the race off public roads and contain it to the runways. In 2002, it was decided to change it to a 5K race. It is a unique race as one of the active runways is actually closed to aircraft landing and taking off for a couple of hours or so. Airplanes are routed to land and take off from a secondary runway during the race. During its history, the race has never been canceled except for the pandemic of 2020-2021 (and even during these times, they held virtual races).

Miami International Airport (MIA)

The MIA Runway 5K is pretty new. The inaugural MIA race was in October 2020, and the first Runway 5K, which included Miami International, Miami-Opa locka Executive (OPF) and Miami Executive (formerly Kendall-Tamiami) (TMB) airports was in March 2022. Besides offering the unique opportunity to run on a runway, participants have the opportunity to raise money to benefit the American Cancer Society’s Making Strides Against Breast Cancer campaign.

The 5K is run in 3 airports. For 2023, the routes included:

  • OPF Runway 5K (March 18)
    a map of a runway
  • TMB Runway 5K (April 8)
    a map of a runway
  • MIA Runway 5K (October 21)
    a map of a runway

Over 5,000 participants and observers were in attendance at the 3 events this year.

Philadelphia International Airport (PHL)

a group of people running in a fieldThe 6th annual PHL Run/Walk occurred this past September. Info from the event:

Join us on September 23 for the 6th PHL 5K Run/Walk!  Participants will get to experience running on an actual runway used by commercial aircraft, while supporting the March of Dimes, Eastwick Friends & Neighbors Coalition and Eastwick United CDC.  Along the course, 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 (click here for a recap of last year’s 5K). This is truly a once in a lifetime opportunity!

Tampa International Airport (TPA)

an aerial view of a runwayTPA 5K on the Runway (I love the sound of this one!), which is limited to the first 2,000 participants, is run on Runway 10/28 in April. It’s been running since 2013. Registration typically begins in January.

Washington Dulles International Airport (IAD)

a group of people running on a runwayAlso held in September, IAD actually has TWO races: a 5K AND a 10K (the 10K runs the entire length of the runway 1R/19L).

All race proceeds  in 2023 benefited Special Olympics Virginia, the Committee for Dulles Community Outreach, and the Washington Airports Task Force, all 501c3 nonprofit organizations closely affiliated with Dulles Airport.

And more!

As I searched, I found more and more airports that had runway runs:

  • Casper/Natrona County International Airport
  • Chicago Midway International Airport
  • Corpus Christi International Airport
  • Fernandina Beach Municipal Airport
  • Fort Lauderdale Executive Airport
  • Gerald R. Ford Airport
  • Laredo International Airport
  • Naples Airport
  • Northampton Airport
  • Manassas Regional Airport
  • Mobile International Airport
  • Pensacola International Airport
  • Pittsburgh International Airport
  • Shenandoah Valley Regional Airport
  • And more!

I’m not a runner. But if I was, you can bet I would be involved in 5Ks where I could run on an airport’s runway. How cool is that?!?!?!

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