Overnight Delivery: PTI Run the Runway Race Report (2016)

Last Saturday we had our first running adventure as a family. We had been looking for a 10k/5k that would be interesting for the kids, good for pushing a stroller, and have a mile run that the two oldest kids could do.

The Airport or the Zoo?

We gave the kids two choices. They could run the 5k at the NC Zoo in Asheboro or we could tackle the PTI Run the Runway 5k/10k in Greensboro. After a brief description, they chose the latter.

The race takes place on a pair of parallel runways at the Piedmont Triad International airport in Greensboro. The 5k course sends runners up and back on one runway, while the 10k does the same but on both runways. It’s straight and relatively flat (although there is a long, slow, slight incline one way on both).  I chose to run the 10k. I figured if I was going to run on a runway, I might as well get my money’s worth.

Stuck on the Tarmac

The day of the race, neither Andrea nor I were sure how enjoyable the experience would be. We had slept in a hotel so neither of us slept well, and we had to get all of the kids up earlier on a Saturday than normal. We expected temperatures in the high eighties by nine o’clock along with a healthy dose of humidity, full sun, and limited shade on the tarmac.

After we arrived Monkey and Cottontail argued and took whacks at each other, and Coach demanded snack after snack after snack. I had bought a small fan for the kids to try and keep them cool, but this was like throwing a single chicken leg into a pack of hungry hyenas and led to a lot of screaming. It looked like it might be an early day.

Andrea and I stared at each other with wide eyes, told each other good luck (she had to entertain the two oldest while I pushed Coach on the 10k) and went our separate ways.

Wheels Up

I don’t run with a stroller often, and I had never run a race with one before. I wasn’t sure what my pace would be or if Coach would stay happy, but I looked forward to the experience.  I lined up at the back of the pack (that’s appropriate stroller etiquette for a race, right?) and then we were off.

Right before the first turn onto the second runway.

If you’re not concerned about your pace, running a race with a jogging stroller is a lot of fun. For one thing, you get a lot of positive comments from other runners. I have never gotten as many “Good job”‘s , “Way to go”‘s, or cheers at the finish as I did this past Saturday. It’s also fun to pass people with a stroller, especially when they groan or shake their heads (I’ve been there).

Coach was a trooper. He went into his stroller trance for most of the run, and our first two legs of the race passed uneventfully. We had a smooth run down the runway working our way through the pack. It was hot, but manageable.

We’re Experiencing Turbulence

In the second leg we faced into a headwind, which makes the stroller more like a parachute than a sail, but we kept a good pace.  As we approached the halfway point, though, I was tired. To give you something to look at, the airport had parked two large jets there (these also provided shade to spectators). My wife and older kids were there to cheer us on, and I seriously contemplated letting the stroller glide over to them and then finishing the race on my own. But I didn’t.

The alignments out. Note the two-handed hold to keep the stroller going straight.

Coach liked seeing his mother and the planes. I figured that would happen. What I didn’t expect was that he would misinterpret what was happening. In his mind, the only reason to be at the airport was to get on a plane and go somewhere; that must be what his mother and siblings were doing, and now his idiot father had turned around and was going the other way. Cue meltdown in 3, 2, 1…


This is when pushing a stroller in a race is not much fun. Especially when you forget snacks. And the front wheel of the stroller goes out of alignment. Did I mention it was hot?

Most of the looks I got from other runners at this point conveyed sympathy. At the time I interpreted it as sympathy for me, but it probably was for Coach. Who drags a toddler out for a run on a day like this?

Beginning our Descent

On the way back up the runway for the third leg the 5k runners began their run across the way on the first runway. It’s rare that you get to see the long line of people we as runners form in a race, stretching out for a mile in the multi-colors available in modern running apparel to form a giant rainbow millipede. It was something to hold on to while I plodded back up the blacktop, and something to distract Coach.

Pushing to the finish. Sweaty, grimacing, but kinda happy.

We struggled along and made the turn onto the fourth and final leg,
entering the flow of the 5k runners. In most races I am used to being behind the lead pack and in front of the middle, so when the field inevitably stretches out I am usually running by myself. Today was an exception, and it was invigorating to get that boost from running with others.

Coach pointed out runner after runner and we weaved through the crowd, picking up the pace as the finish came into view. We ran as hard as we could to the finish, and a lady in the chute told us we were the first stroller across the line. There’s no official category for that, but it felt pretty good.

Connecting Flights

After I laid in one of the few patches of shade around and sweated
through a recovery, it was time for the mile to start. Monkey launched himself into the one mile run and we didn’t see him until the finish (8:09). Andrea tried to get Cottontail to run but she wouldn’t, even with the offer of bribes.

Andrea went ahead, and after some additional discussion I finally got Cottontail out on the course walking, then shuffling, and then running most of the last 800m. Playing red light, green light got us through one section, and then I borrowed a motivational tactic from one of Andrea’s friends the last time I caught her (“I’m not stopping, Cottontail”). I hadn’t planned on running the mile but it was good to see my daughter cross the finish line.

Both kids also did the kid’s dash, a little more than a 100m sprint down the runway to the finish line, as well. Monkey has no fear in these types of races and doesn’t worry about racing older, faster kids. He’s quick to ask about times and where he might have placed in his age group. Cottontail runs at her own pace and stops more frequently to take in the sights, and doesn’t seem to care about results.

Thanks for Flying with Us

Andrea and I were very proud of the kids. We didn’t know how the morning would go given the heat and humidity. We didn’t know if the course would hold my interest or be monotonous and a struggle. But it turned out to be a fun trip for our first overnight running adventure as a family.

This was a very well organized race. It was easy to park and get out to the course, and even though it was hot it was nice to have so much room to mill about at the start but still have everything close together.

As a bonus, they posted race photos on Facebook and didn’t make you pay or include a watermark on them. The photos were better than most other races where they were only for sale.  Most of the pictures you see here are from them (thanks!).

That wasn’t the only race we ran on the fourth, but I’ll cover the other in the next post.

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