The Newport News/Williamsburg International Airport (PHF) manages aircraft operations daily, and on September 14th beginning at 8 a.m., 800 runners will add to this activity as they propel down the taxiway where rubber soles meet the road during the area’s first “5K on the Runway.” This community-wide 5K run commemorates 70 years of commercial air service at the airport, which was originally founded as Patrick Henry Airport and later became Newport News/Williamsburg International Airport in 1990.
November 1949 saw the first commercial flights out of the old terminal building with Piedmont Airlines and Capital Airlines. The purpose of the 5K is to bring the community back to its airport in a fun and festive atmosphere to celebrate this milestone.
“Usually, people see the airport when they’re flying out or coming in. Seeing it from the ground-level and being able to see an aircraft come in and take off when you’re physically standing out there on the runway is really a cool experience. I’ve been here 12 years, and I never get tired of it,” says Melissa Cheaney, assistant executive director for the airport. “This event is engaging and gets the community out to the airfield to give them a different perspective and a different view.”
During the race, runway 725, at 8,000 feet in length, will be open and operational. Runners will enter by the old firehouse near the old terminal. With the starting lineup there, participants will run down taxiway “alpha” and cross over to runway 220, which is the shorter runway at 6,500 feet. Runners will continue to the end of 220, make a U-turn and come back up to the finish line. This race is considered a point-to-point race because runners start and finish at the same location. An area of the firehouse will be sectioned off for spectators and food trucks and vendor tables. Other attractions are also anticipated to be onsite.
Flat-Out Events has partnered with the airport to organize and execute the event. This local business organizes some of the region’s most popular running events. Says Jason Todd, race director and president of Flat-Out Events, “I think events like this are popular because they offer a unique experience. If you were to run on a runway any other day, you would find yourself in a lot of trouble.”
He continues, “I believe running events in general are popular because of the atmosphere and the camaraderie that takes place at these events. It’s truly a special thing. Runners are so encouraging and supportive of one another. Yes, there is a competitive side to it, but there is so much more of a ‘we are all in this together’ mindset, and running events bring that out in a very cool way.”
In addition to serving as a family-fun event, the run also benefits the airport’s charitable organization, the Downtown Hampton Child Development Center, (DHCDC). DHCDC provides assistance to low-income families that need help with childcare for children six weeks old until they start kindergarten. “In picking our charitable partner, we had 22 applications come in, and we made sure that they met our requirements. We put their names in a hat, shook it up and randomly pulled one from a hat. Even people who didn’t win were happy that the Downtown Hampton Child Development Center won because it is such a great organization,” says Cheaney.
Profit after covering the expenses to put on the race will go to the DHCDC. Since the race occurs near the beginning of the school year, runners and spectators are also invited to bring school supplies to the 5K to supplement what the children may need.
Rachel Kuchta, DHCDC development director, says, “I sat down with one of our classes of four-year-olds recently to talk about this event. We pretended to run a 5K in-place and the children were imagining the long runway, lots of grass, airplanes and a butterfly or two. Some of the children even began to wipe the pretend sweat from their foreheads! At the end of our pretend race, Mrs. Cox, the teacher, asked the children, ‘what do you think about people who come together as a community to help others?’ The first student shouted out, ‘They are working as a team!’ That student summed up our sentiments exactly. We are beyond excited to be on the airport’s team for this inaugural event!”
As all systems are “a go” for this commemorative event, runners, spectators and volunteers are in for a smooth and exciting experience as they enjoy the view from the runway. Visit the airport website to register for this historic event.
“For us, it’s a chance to have the community experience PHF, remember the convenience and high-quality air service we offer, all while helping a great cause!” Cheaney said.
TO THE POINT:
Newport News/Williamsburg International Airport (PHF)
Address: 900 Bland Blvd., Ste. G, Newport News, VA 23602
Contact: Melissa Cheaney, A.A.E., assistant executive director
Phone: 757-877-0221 ext 227