Jo Piazza—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 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 year’s 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.
WATCH: My Six Minute Helicopter Ride to the Airport
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 affected 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.