Mike and I were disappointed to have missed last year’s inaugural Dulles Runway race put on by Potomac River Running, so we made sure to sign up early this year since it sells out. We’ve done several PR races in the past and have been impressed. This race offered the cool and unique experience of actually running on an airport runway! Dulles closes a runway for Dulles Day to support Special Olympics, kicking off with the races and later having a plane pull competition. Unfortunately, we missed the plane pull later on in the day because we were running 11 more miles!
Our marathon training plan called for a 17 mile run so we decided to run the 10K then drive to the W&OD trail, park nearby, and finish up our miles on the bike trail. Quite a day of running!
We woke up at 4:45 am and left our apartment at 5:30 to drive to Dulles Airport. We wanted to get there early to be sure we had enough time to pick up our packets. Packet pickup was only offered until 7 pm at a hotel near Dulles airport on the Thursday and Friday before Saturday’s race. It’s pretty tough to get out to Dulles around rush hour so we decided to just pick up the morning of. It seems like many other people had that idea!
It’s good we allowed plenty of time before the 7:30 am start time. First of all, runners were directed to park in the parking lot at Udvar-Hazy Center, a companion facility to the National Air & Space Museum on the National Mall that features large aircraft in 2 hangars. We had to walk through the facility in order to get out the backdoor and on the runway access area. It was a pretty dramatic entrance to the race! Then we had a significant walk just to the packet pickup area by the start line. Good warm-up! It was a pretty chilly morning.
There was a short line for packet pickup when we got there but the line grew considerably as it got closer to 7:30 am. The shirt’s not a tech shirt but rather a super soft Gildan Performance brand shirt in both unisex and women’s fits. I do wish there was a giant airplane on the shirt rather than an outline of the airport.
We were given United tie bags for bag check; it would have been a long walk back to the car to drop off our shirts! I also checked my long sleeve I was wearing. Another pro for our early arrival – no portapotty lines! We did use the portapotty again around 7:20, right before the start of the race. There were lines then but they moved very quickly.
The 5K runners started a little bit in front of and 5 minutes before the 10K’ers. I hadn’t run a 10K in 2 years so was looking forward to the distance and hopefully a PR! We started off running on an access road until we got to the actually runway. It was so nice to be running on such a wide and flat course! You could really settle into your pace right away since there wasn’t any congestion.
Once we ran through the open gate onto the runway, I could see the whole “course” in front of me. It was gorgeous with the sun rising – and very bright! I was glad I had my sunglasses. Dulles had pulled an airplane out on the course for great photo ops. Some runners stopped to take their own photos along the course. PR races are very family friendly so there were 5K parents pushing strollers and taking photos of their children in front of the airplanes. There was plenty of room to do so, so it wasn’t a problem at all. There was also a helicopter circling low overhead with a photographer leaning out to take photos of the races. So far those photos haven’t been posted on Potomac River Running’s Flickr page.
I approached the 5K’ers around mile 1 at the airplane, but they soon split off to turn left and loop back to the start/finish line. After that, I could only see 2 women in front of me and I knew I wasn’t too far from the front of the pack. I was hoping for an award! I tried to keep my pace as consistent as possible and not push too hard, knowing we still had 11 miles to run after the 10K. But I was feeling good. I told myself that if I was still feeling good at mile 5, I’d pick up the pace. There was one water station for 10K’ers at the turnaround point. It was nice to have some people cheering at that point since there were no spectators allowed along the “course”/runway.
Mile 5 was a little bit slower but everyone around me slowed down. I was taking in the sights, with the airport just to our right. So at mile 6, I really picked it up. I was getting close to one girl in front of me and wanted to try to pass her. I sprinted and passed her with about half a mile to go.
I saw Matt right when I finished and we went to find Mike at our meeting spot, the DJ flatbed truck. I was hoping my stomach wouldn’t hurt since we still had a lot more to run and I really pushed myself at the end of the 10K. I figured a Nature Valley bar would be okay to eat. Marriott was giving out a variety of granola bars, Propel and water at their booth.
Mike checked out the results and saw that I had come in 3rd overall for females and 2nd in my age group. I won a $15 gift certificate to Potomac River Running!
The McDonald’s in Udvar-Hazy had opened by the time we were leaving and were giving out free iced or hot coffee to all runners! We used the bathrooms in the museum before grabbing our iced coffees. I wasn’t sure how it would affect my stomach, especially with the milk, but I needed a pick-me-up to get me through the next 11 miles!
Overall, a great and very unique race! I couldn’t find any cons, especially since we got there early and avoided lines for packet pick up and bag check.
+ unique race opportunity
+ portapotties, music, logistics
+ free race photos uploaded to Flickr the day after the race
We drove to Herndon and parked in a lot right near the bike trail. My stomach was gurgling and feeling weird so I used the bathroom in a nearby bike shop/cafe and felt better afterwards. The shops and restaurants near the path all seem very runner and biker friendly!
We strapped on our hydration vests, I ate some of my Picky bar, and we headed off towards Ashburn, VA. The W&OD is usually pretty busy on weekends, mainly with bikers. We hoped that by running away from DC towards Ashburn, we’d avoid some of the busier areas of the trail. We still had to be pretty careful to stay on the side and be aware of bikers approaching from behind us.
With the sun out in full force, with no clouds and pretty much no shade along the bike trail, it was H.O.T. I listened to a TED Talk and a couple of other podcasts. It was nice to have something to focus on and have a change from my usual music playlist. Listening to the podcasts also made the time fly! Before I knew it, we were stopping at the turnaround spot. We ran a bit farther than we needed to in order to stop at the rest area along the trail with portapotties, water, benches and, most importantly, shade! We rested for a bit, had our gels and talked about how we wish we could take rest breaks during the marathon. Mike and I used to bike along the W&OD trail quite a bit so we were familiar with water fountains, etc. which helped out!
It was hard to get going again! I was in a lot of pain from a hemorrhoid (apologize if TMI but it’s a common problem for runners) but was told by my gastro that running through the pain will just make it flare up, not cause any serious problems. Good training for the marathon to push through pain. Additionally, it was just so hot out and we couldn’t get any breaks from the sun.
We saw a little sign along the trail for Old Ox Brewery with an arrow pointing through the trees. We hopped off the trail (I was so excited I forgot to pause my watch as you can see) to check it out. What a cool place! A family-owned brewery, Old Ox has only been open 2 months. We decided we’d drive back after we finished our run – incentive to keep running.
We stopped running as soon as we hit 10.8 miles and walked the rest of the way back to the car. I had completely drained my hydration vest! We had forgotten to bring a change of clothes so we were glad to have our Dulles Day t-shirts since our shirts were drenched. First stop = Chick-fil-A for some refueling.
Then to Old Ox Brewery! I got the taster so I could choose 4 beers to sample. The tasting room is huge with a variety of seating including comfy couches and cushioned chairs. There was also a food truck setting up and some other patrons ordered pizza for delivery from a nearby pizza place.
Overall, it was a big day of running. I think it was good training to push ourselves during the 10K and then have to run 10.8 more miles on very tired legs. At the same time, I didn’t get the mental benefit of running 17 miles straight, if that makes sense. By breaking it into 2 chunks, it was easy to mentally do a 10K and then 10ish miles. Well we have a few more very long runs before the marathon to get us into shape, mentally!