Airport Runway Races

If your goal is to take up running and you are looking for some unique races, look no further than the runway.

PTI Run on the Runway [Courtesy: PTI Run on the Runway]

Your goals for the new year may be to finally pursue an instrument rating, take a flight in a seaplane, or mentor those just beginning their aviation journey. And for many of us, another goal is to lose a few pounds and improve our ability to carry more payload in their aircraft, either by eating healthier or exercising. 

If your goal is to take up running and you are looking for some unique races, look no further than the runway. Each year, a handful of airports around the country host biped races, making a memorable setting for pilots, aviation enthusiasts, and the general public to run or walk on taxiways and/or the runway. 

Below is a collection of these races, some with confirmed dates for 2024. There are nearly a dozen other airports that held races in 2023, pending dates for this year’s event—including the EAA AirVenture Runway 5K.

Ontario International Airport (KONT): Ontario, California

On February 4, runners can participate in the 5K at the Runway, which is followed by a one mile long family walk. When much of the country is battling through harsh winters, the weather at the Southern California city is palatable and predictable—perfect for an aviation-centric running event.

Like many other fun runs, the day is made enjoyable by more than just the race itself. Participants in the 3rd annual event also receive one-of-a-kind complimentary swag items, as well as interact with a variety of vendors, fellow racers, and airport partners (this community portion of the event does not require registration). The race also serves a benefit for a local charity, the USO at Ontario International Airport. 

Piedmont Triad International Airport (KGSO): Greensboro, North Carolina

PTI Run on the Runway [Courtesy: PTI Run on the Runway]

The PTI Run on the Runway event features both 5K, 10K, and one mile options. On the morning of March 23, participants will line up before beginning their journey down Runway 5L/23R. Those who choose the 10K race will also get to run on the adjacent taxiway. All races promise unequaled views of the airfield, which serves a variety of commercial and general aviation traffic. 

The 9,000-foot-long runway (Piedmont Triad’s second longest) is 150-foot-wide, adjacent to the future home of the Boom Supersonic Supersonic Overture Superfactory. Like many of the other runway races, pets and wheeled objects are prohibited due to safety concerns, although jogging strollers are allowed at the PTI run. 

Lakeland Linder International Airport (KLAL): Lakeland, Florida

Pilots know the Sun n’ Fun Aerospace Expo as one of the year's most highly anticipated airshows. But what is less known is that there is a 5K race, Sun ‘n Run, that coincides with the Aerospace Expo. In 2024, the race is being held on April 13, the next-to-last day of the annually held fly-in. 

Starting at the Terminal Ramp where the United States Air Force Thunderbirds are parked, runners are promised views of arriving and departing aircraft. The course transverses Runway 5/23 and various taxiway/ramp areas. Proceeds from the event benefit two aviation causes, the Lakeland Aero Club and the Women in Aviation Lakeland Chapter. 

Chicago Executive Airport (KPWK): Wheeling, Illinois

Aviators in the Chicagoland area may have heard of the Run the Runway at Chicago Executive Airport event before. This year, the event (5K run, 1 mile walk, and kids dash) is scheduled for June 29. This is the ninth year the races have been held at the airport. 

Following a guided stretch, the starting gun sounds at 8:00 sharp—prompting runners to take to the runway and fight for their best finishing time. The course map for 2024 will not be released until the Spring. Another to be announced detail is the benefitting organization for the race, with aviation related scholarships being entrusted in years past. 

John Glenn Columbus International Airport (KCMH): Columbus, Ohio

The John Glenn International Runway 5K Run & Walk is scheduled for September 14. Photos from 2023’s event shows the field of participants photographed with airfield maintenance equipment, the air traffic control tower, airline terminal building, NetJets’ corporate headquarters, and other notable airport points of interest in the frame. The event even had a DJ to help pump up runners. 

Proceeds from the race benefit the nonprofit organization Honor Flight Columbus, which provides senior veterans the opportunity to visit Washington D.C. On average, nearly $70,000 has been raised for this charity per race. 

Stearman Field (1K1): Benton, Kansas

Stearman 5 Mile Race & Kids Trot [Courtesy: Stearman 5 Mile Race & Kids Trot]

The Stearman 5 Mile Race & Kids Trot is typically held in November each year. At the time of publication, a specific date has yet to be confirmed for 2024 but will be communicated on the race’s website once known. 

The starting line for the race is positioned outside the acclaimed Stearman Field Bar & Grill, where diners can watch aircraft landing at the approach end of Runway 17—only a few feet away. The five-mile course (two, two and a half mile loops) leads participants down the 5,106-foot-long paved runway at Stearman Field, a privately owned airport northeast of Wichita. A portion of the course is through the Stearman Estates neighborhood, a residential fly-in community. 

Races with Confirmed Dates in 2024

DateAirport / TownName
January 6KBXK / Buckeye, ArizonaBuckeye Race to the Runway
March 16KTUL / Tulsa, OklahomaRoute 66 Runway Run
April 6KTPA / Tampa, FloridaTPA 5K on the Runway
April 27KLYH / Lynchburg, VirginiaUnited Way 5K on the Runway
June 1KGRR / Grand Rapids, MichiganGRR Runway 5K
November 16KBTR / Baton Rouge, LouisianaRun the Runway 5K Run and Fun Walk
*All dates are posted for reference only and are subject to change and verification.
Grant Boyd is a private pilot with eight years of experience in aviation business, including marketing, writing, customer service, and sales. Boyd holds a Bachelor's and a Master's of Business Administration degree, both from Wichita State University, and a Doctor of Education degree from Oklahoma State University. He was chosen as a NBAA Business Aviation "Top 40 Under 40" award recipient in 2020.

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