Traversing taxiways, crossing hangars and sprinting alongside landing aircraft could all be in store for runners and walkers attending the Allegheny County Airport Authority's first Airway 5K on Saturday.
The inaugural 3.1-mile event is likely a "dry run" for a full-scale foot race at Pittsburgh International Airport next year, spokeswoman Alyson Walls said.
"We have seen a lot of other airports, even larger airports, conducting runway runs," she said. “They have one in Denver. I think they just had one at Dulles in Washington (D.C.), so it’s not totally unheard of, and we’ve seen other airports have success with it. We just wanted to give it a shot.”
Walls said it took a lot of pre-planning to map the course route and figure out where to situate essential race day accouterments like volunteer stations for water, snacks and start and finish lines. Organizers' biggest challenge, she said, was figuring out where up to 400 people would park.
“We had maps (and) drawings to try to find the best location that would not interfere with anything but still be convenient for the runners," she said. "Security is obviously the other issue at an airport."
West Mifflin volunteer firefighters, county police and a few firefighters from Pittsburgh International will all be on hand to help volunteers and maintain order.
The runway itself is another matter.
Organizers, including a handful of experienced runners and one veteran race planner, decided against strategically scheduling the 5K around arriving and departing aircraft, Walls said, so runners will be next to all the action.
“The airfield will remain active during the race. You never know," she said. "They may get to see some of the aircraft land out there.”
Registration is still available at the airport during packet pickup from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Friday and from 8 to 10 a.m. the morning of the race using cash or check only.
Sponsors include Macy’s, JetBlue, HDR, Jordan Banana Co., PA American Water, Eat’N Park, Parsons Brinckerhoff and the Allegheny County Airport Authority.