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Published: April 16, 2015 on Yahoo Travel (Yahoo Travel)
By Jo Piazza
Managing Editor

This is How You Can Legally Run Around on the Runway at JFK Airport


One day out of the year you can actually run on the JFK runway.
(Photo: JFK Rotary Club)

When I was six I flew on a small commuter plane to Florida with my parents. It was the kind of flight that landed about a football field away from the terminal which meant that we were allowed to de-board right on the tarmac. Instead of staying within the designated lines that lead you on a conservative path to the actual airport I took the opportunity to dash off in an attempt to touch the outside of the plane. I recall being swiftly descended upon by baggage handlers.

We didn’t board another plane for five years.

It is rare to have the opportunity to even walk on the runway of a major airport, much less have the freedom to explore. This weekend affords a rare opportunity to do exactly that on the main runway at JFK Airport in New York City during a 5K race put on by the JFK Rotary Club.


The idea for the race was created by JFK Airport Rotary Club in 1972 as
fund raiser for the Rotary’s global projects.

“We were one of the first to ask permission to use a runway at a major international airport,” said Rudy Auslander, the Executive Secretary of the Rotary Club. “Our attendance at last years race was about 1,500 runners.”

Currently there are about 22 airports in the US and Canada that allow these type of races on their runways. The airport in Budapest launched the newest runway race last year.

Today, the main runway is actually closed to aircraft that are landing and taking off. Planes are routed to a secondary runway during the race.

Funds raised from the race go to a variety of charities including, Airline Employees Children’s Cancer Victims, Easter Seals Walk, Queens Boy Scout Air Explorers and Thanksgiving Dinners for Airline Employees needy families.

This year GothamAir, the new commuter helicopter company, will be matching the funds of anyone racing on their team to support LES Ready, a charity benefited those most effected by Second Avenue explosion in March.

“A lot of our customers live in the lower east side and we always want to do our part in being philanthropic for New Yorkers and New York businesses. JFK is one of our new homes and we look forward to doing more with the Rotary club in the future,” GothamAir CEO Tim Hayes told Yahoo Travel.

The runway race is intended for all ages and running levels. They allow walkers to come and enjoy the scenery, but discourage pets. No bags can be carried during the race. This includes fanny packs and camera bags. All extraneous items must be checked prior to the race start at 9 am.

So far, no one has told me whether or not I will be able to run up and touch one of the planes.


January 23, 2015 – on YouTube by Picha Dis


Published: April 6, 2014 on Conde Nast Traveler (www.CNTraveler.com) under The Daily Traveler section

JFK Airport Runway Will Be Taken Over By Runners Today

We’ve raced through plenty of airports in our days. Running to make a connection is practically a rite of passage at Charles De Gaulle in Paris. But sprinting down the tarmac? It’s usually the stuff of movies, of James Bond and Cary Grant chases—except for one day a year at JFK International Airport in New York, when fantasy becomes reality.

Today, one of the world’s busiest airports will shut down its main runway for the annual JFK Runway Run, a 5k fundraiser for the JFK Rotary Club. Participants will lace up and race down a portion of the 14,000-foot airstrip while planes are diverted to a secondary runway. It’s a flat, fast course, the kind that last year’s winner, 50-year-old Alan Wells, finished in a blistering 17:04. (He paced 5:30 minutes per mile, for anyone trying to do the math.) The event has been held rain or shine every year since 1972, despite rising security concerns post-9/11. Runners will be asked to check their backpacks, bags, purses, and fanny packs—yes, even the fannypacks—and expect the unexpected. The 2010 race was the only one ever rerouted off the runway, but it’s not every day that volcanic ash from Iceland changes flight plans.


“A Different Way of Taking Off at J.F.K.”

By MARY PILON, New York Times
Published: April 15, 2013 on www.NYTimes.com website and in printed newspaper (page D8)

As a pilot, Alexander Richards spends a fair amount of his time on runways. But as he arrived at John F. Kennedy International Airport in Queens early Sunday morning, he had a different flight plan in mind: he was going to run on the runway.

Those looking forward to the Boston Marathon on Monday may have missed a lesser-known event that drew Richards and 1,011 others to the airport for J.F.K.’s Run on the Runway 5K.

“When I heard about the race, I knew I had to run it,” Richards said. “I’m surprised they let us do it. When else am I going to do this?”

The race takes place on a runway — Sunday’s designated stretch was not revealed to runners until they arrived — at J.F.K., one of the world’s busiest airports, creating the unusual sight of spandex-clad passengers mingling on the AirTrain with luggage-toting travelers unsure why they were surrounded by runners.

Sponsored by the J.F.K. Rotary Club, the event began in 1972 as a 10K, with part of the race run outside the airport grounds. The proceeds from the event go to scholarships and numerous charitable efforts, including the Rotary’s Gift of Life program.

Such flat-racing is not limited to New York City. Several airports have hosted such races, including Toronto Pearson, Chicago O’Hare and Teterboro.

“There’s a uniqueness to running on a runway because usually, you don’t get to do it,” Scott Bassett, who organizes a runway race at the Piedmont Triad Airport in North Carolina, said. “You’re not going to find a street that’s as flat as a runway.”

The aviation history of North Carolina, where the Wright brothers staged the first manned plane flight in 1903, is on display at the race, in Greenpoint, as old planes decorate the runway.

But the race at J.F.K., true to the nature of the airport, was sprawling and distinctly urban, with buildings visible in the distance. Runners were instructed to allow extra time for the AirTrain. Then they took a bus to the parking lot outside Building 14, the hub of prerace activity.

Runners then boarded another set of buses bound for the starting line. They rode around the terminals and through the cargo lots, alongside Gate Gourmet trucks and beneath planes soaring overhead.

“Even when you’re used to coming here, you forget how big it is,” said Susan Jensen, of Long Island. Jensen, who said she planned to walk the course, also recruited her husband, who works at the airport; her sister-in-law; and a friend who works for Lufthansa.

At the start line, runners bobbed up and down across the concrete prairie, stretching, giving pep talks and pointing to the flight control tower. The weather was crisp and clear, perfect for running, the odor of jet fuel aside. Some runners waved at passengers on the planes above — morning travelers who were probably baffled by the sight of runners trotting along the tarmac.

The event was far enough away from J.F.K.’s typical bustle, but thumping wind socks and the difficulty in securing the finish line tape were reminders of the challenges of holding a race on a runway.

“That might be turbulence,” Rashid Dolor, a college student studying aviation, said.

Runners never set foot inside the airport and were spared having to go through metal detectors. They were permitted to carry water bottles — and keep their shoes on — but they were also under the watchful eye of security guards on foot and in cars that traveled alongside the runners.

“We maintain a strong security presence,” the event’s organizer, Rudy Auslander, said. “It helps that when you’re running, you don’t have much baggage; it’s not like going on an airport normally.”

While many of the runners were connected to the rotary group, according to Auslander, there was a strong contingent of frequent fliers and general aviation enthusiasts.

“We couldn’t get on standby,” joked Mary Showstark, a 33-year-old physician assistant who had her platinum Delta credit card with her at the start line.

With the ceremonial sound of an air horn, the race was off, the runners staying to the right down the runway, guided by orange cones, hooking back to the finish line, many stopping to take photographs with their cellphones of themselves on the tarmac or jogging as planes flew overhead, a scene that was part action film, part major studio comedy.

“I remember the old days, when you could do the ‘Wayne’s World’ thing and watch the planes come in,” said Phil Lederer, an electrician who was cheering on his wife and daughter in the race. “I guess this is kind of like that.”

The runners crossed the line to the theme from “Chariots of Fire.”

The unusual course was a welcome change for Ramon J. Goni, a 31-year-old filmmaker who has seasonal allergies. “No trees, no plants,” he said. “It felt great out there.”

The race also drew many from out of state. Geoffrey Palcher, 28, works at the State Department in Washington, but as a US Airways frequent flier was drawn by the unusual running opportunity, and he also gained airline miles.

“I’m in airports a lot,” he said.

Palcher finished in 28 minutes 38 seconds and planned to head back to Washington on Sunday night. His flight, however, was scheduled to depart from LaGuardia.

Participants aboard the Air Train heading to the J.F.K. Runway Run, an annual 5K race held on a runway at Kennedy International Airport in Queens. (Credit: Piotr Redlinski for The New York Times)

The starting line of the race, which remains unknown to the participants until they are driven there. (Credit: Piotr Redlinski for The New York Times)

Runners taking off. (Credit: Piotr Redlinski for The New York Times)

The race, sponsored by the airport’s Rotary Club, was first held in 1972. (Credit: Piotr Redlinski for The New York Times)

Jets passing over the race. The odor of fuel is one of the downsides. (Credit: Piotr Redlinski for The New York Times)

Participants are kept under the tight watch of security personnel because of the proximity of aircraft and passengers. Some of the security workers are on foot; others monitor the racers from cars riding beside the course. (Credit: Piotr Redlinski for The New York Times)

A couple of younger participants at the finish line. (Credit: Piotr Redlinski for The New York Times)

Fifty-year-old Alan Wells of Orlando, Fla., was the first finisher, in 17 minutes 3 seconds. (Credit: Piotr Redlinski for The New York Times)


By Irving Dejohn / New York Daily News
Thursday, March 28, 2013, 6:00 AM

“Runners take to JFK Airport tarmac for 5K race”

Athletes get to sprint on runway during 31-year-old charity race hosted by JFK Rotary Club

By Irving Dejohn / New York Daily News

(Courtesy of JFK Rotary Club) The JFK Runway Run 5K, hosted by the airport’s Rotary Club, gives athletes access to the same lanes that are used for commercial jet departures and landings. Its popularity has spawned copycat races at other airports.

(Courtesy of JFK Rotary Club) Attendance for the Runway Run 5K, which was started in 1972 with mostly airport employees, has topped 1,000 people in recent years. Runners come from as far as Connecticut or the Hamptons to pace themselves amongst the jumbo jets — some for the novelty, others for the oddly ideal conditions.

Some people race to the airport, these folks race at the airport.

Instead of running to catch a departing flight, a group of airport enthusiasts have been taking to the tarmac of JFK Airport for the past three decades for an annual outdoor charity race.

The JFK Runway Run 5K, hosted by the airport’s Rotary Club, gives athletes access to the same lanes that are used for commercial jet departures and landings.

The casual 3.1 mile course has gained popularity over the years from runners looking to break the monotony of pounding the asphalt or jogging in a park.

“That’s what makes it special,” said Frank McIntyre, president of the rotary club. “You can run in a park or around a track — this is unique.”

Participants are shuttled from a location outside of the airport directly onto the runway.

The race has endured despite the increasing constraints of airport security over the past decade. Each year the charity has to meticulously coordinate the event with the Federal Aviation Administration and the Port Authority.

“With everything that’s gone on since 9/11 it’s pretty special that they’re willing to accommodate us,” said McIntyre, 70. “That it is for charity is a huge factor.”

Proceeds from the April 14 race will go to several organizations, including the Gift of Life, a borrow marrow disease group.

Unlike an outbound flight, it’s unlikely this race will be delayed. A late start could compromise hours worth of departures and arrivals.

“They have to adhere to a tight schedule,” he said. “The biggest obstacle is making sure the race starts on time because that throws their whole schedule off.”

(Daniel Acker/Bloomberg) Participants of the JFK Runway Run 5K, said they get an adrenaline rush from sprinting alongside 747s. “To be out there and running and having the planes fly overhead is really a fun moment,” said Janice Holden, an employee of Terminal 4’s management company. “It’s exhilarating.”

Attendance for the Runway Run 5K, which was started in 1972 with mostly airport employees, has topped 1,000 people in recent years.

Runners come from as far as Connecticut or the Hamptons to pace themselves amongst the jumbo jets — some for the novelty, others for the oddly ideal conditions.

“It’s a nice flat service,” McIntyre noted. “The runway has to have a smooth surface.”

Longtime participants said they get an adrenaline rush from sprinting alongside 747s.

“To be out there and running and having the planes fly overhead is really a fun moment,” said Janice Holden, an employee of Terminal 4’s management company. “It’s exhilarating.”

Karate instructor Chris Iavarone, who has run the race six times, said the novelty never wears off.

“I like to run places that are unique,” said Iavarone, 34, of Flushing. “That roar of the engines gets you going while you’re running.”

The quirky competition has caught on at other local airports.

LaGuardia hosted its first 5K on its runway last October in support of the Wounded Warrior Project.

Long Island MacArthur Airport in Ronkonkoma has scheduled a race for June 1, also to raise money for local veterans.

“Who knows, maybe there are people whose goals are to run on as many airport runways as possible,” mused McIntyre. “At one time it was a unique thing — it’s becoming a popular event.”

For more information, visit jfkrunwayrun.org or call (917) 945-8888. The race starts promptly at 9 a.m. on April 14.


March 18, 2013 on Blood, Sweat and Cheers