Late last year I was looking for unique 5k opportunities in the New York Area. Via Active.com I came across the JFK Runway 5k. A 5k on a busy airport runway? This sounded fantastic. So I kept up and registered a month or so prior.
I woke up at 5:30am for the run - as I don't have a car, I utilized New York's various public transportation methods. First: the R to Atlantic Avenue. From Atlantic Avenue I switched to the LIRR and took it 3 stops to Jamaica Station. From there I walked to the Aitrain and took it exactly one stop to Federal Circle where a free bus that circles the perimeter dropped us off at building 14 for check-in. (Including a wait for the first and second train, the ride took an hour and 10 minutes. Not bad. The return was nearly half that since we didn't have to wait for anything). I walked in at 7:23 - 7 minutes before check-in began.
The race benefited the local rotary club which provides scholarships and as such there were high school age kids who did the bag check etc. It was nice to see this pocket of a community in a part of New York I seldom make it out to. After checkin it was a short bus ride to the airport runway. The temperature was perfect for running (in the high 40s to early 50s). The run started right at 9am. We were grouped by estimate mile averages. We moved up to 9 minute. I did want to beat my result from a previous 5k.
And then we were off. The runway felt so long that you couldn't see the end at first. The first mile was hardest but the most exciting. Running on adrenaline the first mile I did in 9:45. As we got further on the runway you could see the lighting the planes use to guide them on the ground. As we looped around to head back a stomach cramp kept threatening to manifest but never quite did. Hitting mile two I was still making good time at around 20:45 minutes. As we made the final stretch you veer left at the giant X light (not clear what the purpose was - probably to tell the pilot the plane is going the wrong way?). At this point I turned around for a moment. Seeing all the people running all along the runway was an awesome site.There was a security vehicle. You could hear the CB from inside mentioning what runways planes could land on.
Periodically we'd see planes take off from nearby runways providing a dramatic backdrop.
I overpaced myself and ran on an empty stomach which wasn't my smartest idea. Still I achieved my two goals, which were to beat my time from my the last 5k several years ago and to not be the last person to finish. (Previously, I did around 35 or 36 minutes. This one I did 10:15 pace / 31:50). Certainly not something to brag about but an improvement for me. In total there were just over 600 runners.
At the end of it we got bagels, bananas, juice and water. On a silly note, in another bag there were flyers for a golf tournament, a free gym pass and for some strange reason, a fly swatter.
The JFK run reflected a small community because people seemed to know each other. And yet their was the type of diversity you see around the New York area. A small contingent was even raising money for the recent quake in Japan. I would definitely do this run again.