They won’t come close to matching the speeds of the planes normally using the runways at Pittsburgh International Airport. But next month, people will be sprinting as fast as they can down the tarmac in one of the region’s most unique running races.
The airport’s FlyBy 5K and 2-Mile Fun Run-Walk, presented by CNX Resources, takes place Saturday, Sept. 21. The event benefits the Allegheny County Airport Authority Charitable Foundation, which provides aid to members of the military, families and other airport travelers.
“We like the community to be involved in the airport, and this is one way to do that,” said Francie Sukitch, an airport operations supervisor and the authority’s race director. “It’s certainly a different kind of race and people seem to love it.”
Sukitch says the airport’s work on the race starts about six months beforehand.
“We have to coordinate with the FAA and the airlines to let them know about the [runway] closure, and then notify all of our partners impacted by the race or interested in being involved in it,” she said.
The opportunity to race down a runway has proved popular. About 1,000 people finished the first race in 2017; that number increased to more than 1,300 in 2018 and this year could be as high as 1,500, said Troy Schooley, the CEO of P3R, the organization that partners with the authority to stage the race. The nonprofit manages many races, health and fitness events in southwestern Pennsylvania, including the Pittsburgh Marathon.
“In our industry, we’re always wondering how we can give people a new and different experience,” Schooley said. “People like mud runs and glow runs these days, but this is even better. It’s not every day you can go out on an airport runway and run three miles past aircraft and snow removal equipment.”
Schooley believes the race’s family-friendly nature is one of the key reasons why it continues to draw more participants each year.
“Last year, close to 20 percent of the people who registered were 13 or younger,” Schooley said. “That shows that people are signing up as whole families, and that’s great.”
The 5K race begins at 10 a.m. and costs $25. The two-mile fun run and walk starts at 10:10 a.m. and costs $20. There’s no cost for children under the age of four.
All participants receive a finisher’s shirt and medal, and there will be food and entertainment following the race. A potential added bonus: it’s possible that a plane could land on a different runway during the event.
“We had a plane land once while everyone was out on the course and that was super cool,” Schooley said. “We can’t promise it, but it’s a really great element to have as a possibility.”
(To register for the race, click here.)