Runway Race Hosts Record Number of Participants

Late-summer heat doesn’t slow 4th annual Fly By 5K event on PIT’s airfield

By Matt Neistei

Published September 23, 2019

Read Time: 3 mins


There’s something about a runway that attracts runners.

More than 1,500 runners and walkers took part in the 2019 FlyBy 5K race as well as the 2-mile run/walk on Saturday, the fourth annual event on PIT’s runways – and the most participants ever, and the latest in a string of races held on runways across the country.

All races on airport runways must be approved by the Federal Aviation Administration although the agency said it doesn’t keep a list of airports that have races. Still, airports including Atlanta, Nashville, Columbus, Washington Dulles and Philadelphia are among those that host races on their runways.

The race at Pittsburgh International Airport has grown every year.

Eline De Jong, 22, capped it off by setting the women’s course record, finishing in 18:16 under a blazing sun that pushed morning temperatures past 80 degrees on the last weekend of summer.

“My favorite part was the second half of the course,” said De Jong, a native of the Netherlands interning at the University of Pittsburgh. “It was getting hotter as the sun was facing us, and all I wanted to do was cross that finish line strong.”

With a start and finish line next to one of the airfield buildings, runners ran down and back up the airport’s northern runway, which was lined with unique aircraft, including a KC-135 Stratotanker and a C-17 Globemaster on loan from the Pennsylvania Air National Guard’s 171st Refueling Wing and the Air Force Reserve’s 911th Airlift Wing, respectively.

Other sights along the course included a medical evacuation helicopter and some of PIT’s huge snow removal vehicles.

Andrew Zentgraf, 22, of Oakmont, was the men’s winner, with a time of 17:00 in his first time out on the runways.

“It’s a unique course,” he said. “It started getting pretty hot out there, but it was a lot of fun. I’d definitely do it again.”

Runners from across the U.S. participated, including people from California, North Carolina and Texas. Everyone received T-shirts and finisher medals. Booths set up by Fleet Feet, Dick’s and others dotted the “runners village” set up at the finish line.

Among the participants were the Seto family of South Fayette. Manson Seto and his children Connor, 13; Kaylee, 11; Abby, 9; and Dylan, 6; have participated in all four FlyBy events to honor Manson’s late wife Kristin, who died of cancer in 2014.

The Seto family poses for a photo after the race. (Photo by Beth Hollerich)

After the race, the children munched on free Smiley cookies from Eat ’N Park.

“We enjoy coming out here every year,” Manson Seto said. “This one was a lot warmer than last year, but we do some training for it so it wasn’t too bad.”

Sponsored by CNX Resources, the event generates proceeds that are donated to the Allegheny County Airport Authority Charitable Foundation, a nonprofit organization that assist members of the military and their families and awards local scholarships.

The record turnout was a welcome sight for Christina Cassotis, CEO of the airport authority, who spoke to runners before the race and held the finishing tape for De Jong and Zentgraf.

“Each year we try to change this event up to make it more special for every participant,” she said. “Participants are able to see what is going on at the airport, and, as this event continues to grow, more of the causes we support are able to benefit.”

For complete results, click here.

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