“A mile of highway will take you just one mile… but a mile of runway will take you anywhere!” – a popular pilot quote
The Port of Portland is celebrating its 125th anniversary and the Portland International Airport (PDX) is celebrating its 75th anniversary. Both are celebrating in style this year. Part of the year-long celebration included hosting a PDX Runway 6K run and walk on the airport’s north runway Saturday, September 24, 2016. This one-of-a-kind opportunity was extremely well organized thanks to the partnership with the Hood to Coast race series who managed race registration, event management, and administration.
Gary picked me up at 7am for a 9:05am start. We parked in Economy Lot Parking and walked a short distance to the registration and screening area.
Both participants and volunteers had to undergo a background check in order to be a part of this event. This is the only event I’ve participated in over the past 11 years where I needed to carry my passport, although, we learned later any valid, government-issued photo identification would have worked. No one under the age of 12 was allowed to participate and kids 12 to 15 had to be accompanied by a parent or guardian. Everyone who had access to the runway was subject to an adapted set of TSA screening protocols. No liquids, water bottles or bags of any kind were allowed through security. Our IDs were checked by TSA personnel but we did not have to go through metal detectors.
Throughout the airfield and along the runway were very helpful and informative PDX educational displays.
The race started on the eastern end of runway 28R. The number relates to the compass heading with which the runway aligns. Since PDX has two parallel runways the “R” indicates it is the runway on the right as the pilot approaches the airfield.
There were approximately 2,500 participants who were given exclusive access to this out and back course on the grooved pavement normally only reserved for aircraft. The “”Threshold stripes” help pilots determine the width of the runway.
The time passed quickly as Gary made new friends in the US Air Force while the rest of us were in awe of the F-15 fighter jet on display near the starting line. A second F-15 was brought out on display at the race turnaround point. Good thing there was a F-15 selfie station.
Gary introduced me to several of his race walker friends. Even they were impressed with his outstanding performance today. He’s trained up to 20 miles for the upcoming Portland marathon which lands on October 9th and happens to be a milestone birthday for him this year. Doing a 6K was easy compared to his full marathon training.
The course closed at 11am so participants were given just under 2 hours to finish the 6K. The Portland Taiko Asian American drumming ensemble http://portlandtaiko.org/ was performing at the mid-way point on the out-and-back.
It was easy to know when you were at the turnaround point when the runway ended. The other nice thing about doing a race on a runway is that you don’t have to worry about any potholes!
Unfortunately, the clouds didn’t lift until later in the day. Otherwise, I would have gotten a great picture of a plane taking off on the South runway over the airport terminal. The planes simply disappeared into the clouds too fast to capture. Fortunately, the North runway that we were on was well marked with a brightly lit “X” and the runway lights were turned off so planes were not tempted to land on us while we were out there during the race.
The finish line was cleverly hung with the aid of two mobile staircases from Atlantic Aviation.
For this race, I didn’t even leave the airport area! The weekend was comprised of flying into PDX and staying at an airport hotel Friday night, doing the race on the airport runway Saturday morning, eating lunch near the airport, and shopping at the airport before heading back home Saturday afternoon. Regardless, it was possibly a once-in-lifetime experience and certainly my first ever 6K!
Travel + Leisure has named PDX as the best airport in the United States for the fourth year in a row. All proceeds from this race were donated to the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Portland Metropolitan Area whose mission is to enable all young people to reach their full potential.