This past Sunday, the day after running the Jaguar 5k and getting a new 5k PR, I set out to earn a new 10k PR at the Manassas Runway 10k. I first learned about this race from Jenny, and when I saw how flat this course was (what airport runway isn’t flat?), I knew that this would be a great choice for going after a new PR. And boy did this race live up to the expectations, not just in achieving a new PR but being a great race all around!
The race was held at the Manassas Regional Airport, which is about 20 minutes west of Preston and I live. For a total of $36 (I missed the early registration window of $35 so my registration was $40, but I had also come across a discount code online), I found this race to be of a great value for many reasons:
- The field of runners was small (about 250 people ran the 10k, and less than 600 people ran the 5k
- There was plenty of on course volunteer support
- There were two water stops for the 10k, but the placement of the second one made it so that runners passed through it three times
- Zero crowding on the course due to the small number of runners and the wide course during the first half of the race
- Gender specific race shirts
- Finishers medals for all runners
- Plenty of porta potties (and the bathrooms inside of the airport terminal were also available for use)
There were two options for packet pickup: Saturday afternoon and the morning of the race. I opted to pick up my bib the morning of the race, so Preston and I left our house early and with plenty of time to account for the small amount of traffic we encountered as we approached the airport. There was only one entrance into the parking area, and only a couple of police officers directing traffic. Preston made the joke that they could learn a thing or two from Disney World about directing traffic (Disney does seem to have it down!), but because we left early enough we didn’t find the traffic to be much of an issue.
Upon arrival at the airport, we headed straight inside a back area of the small airport terminal to pick up my bib and shirt. Since Preston didn’t run this race, he held onto my shirt for me instead of us having to run it back to the car. I hit up a porta potty after securing my bib to my shirt (I waited in line for less than five minutes), and then headed to the start line where I met up with Jenny and her boyfriend Cliff, who ran the 5k.
Right at 7:30 a.m., the National Anthem was sung, and then we were given directions about the race split. The 5k and 10k races were run simultaneously, with runners sharing the course until the course split just before mile 3 of the race. We were instructed that at the split 10k runners were to stay to the left and 5k runners were to stay to the right.
The first half of the race was on the runway itself, which provided for ample space on the course. Even though the field was about 2 5k runners for every 1 10k runner, the course never felt crowded and I never felt as though I couldn’t run at the pace that I wanted to. Prior to the start of the race I debated whether I should run the first couple of miles at a 3:15/0:45 interval, or kick it immediately into high gear at 4:15/0:45. Since I felt great I used the longer interval from the start, which I’m confident contributed to my PR. The only obstacle to my race during the first half of the race was a strong headwind as we ran north on the runway between miles 1.5 and 2.5 of the race.
After the course split, the course took 10k runners back towards the airplane hangers and towards a service road. It was here that 10k runners encountered the only “hill” of the race (according to my Garmin my total elevation gain was a mere 83 feet). Although the second half of the 10k course was on service roads, which were much more narrow than the runway itself, I continued to have plenty of space on the course and never once felt crowded. Because there were only about 250 10k runners, I liked that the course was narrower and that there were several areas that the course doubled back. It made it feel as though I was never by myself.
The closer that I got to the finish line, the more confident that I became in my ability to PR. Throughout the race, I noticed that my Garmin was always slightly off from the mileage signs on the course and that I approached mile signs just before my Garmin said I had completed another mile. I wonder if this was due to the smaller number of runners than I’m used to at a race, or if I had been really good about running the tangents, especially at turn around points on the course. My Garmin logged only 6.13 miles during the race.
As I approached the finish line, I saw Preston, Jenny, and Cliff cheering just to the left of the finish line. Preston motioned for me to run faster, and I put everything I could into the last hundred feet or so of the race. I crossed the finish line at 1:01:56 (9:59 pace), and PRed by just shy of 4 minutes!
After receiving my medal, Preston and I decided to stick around and wait for the official race results to be posted. Although it was chilly (46 degrees at the end of April is not the norm here!), we were able to wait inside of the airport terminal. About 30 minutes after crossing the finish line the official 10k results were posted, and I learned that not only did I PR but that I also placed 5th in my age group!
Overall, it was a great race, especially for the low registration cost. Although I have loved my two Dulles Day race experiences (the 5k in 2013 and the 10k in 2014), I also loved this race experience. Both races were held on airport runways, which makes for fun and speedy races.
QOTD: Have you ever run on an airport runway?