O'Hare International Airport's new runway proved true to its name Sunday morning as more than 3,000 runners took to the pavement for the "Run on the Runway" 5K and 10K runs to benefit the Wounded Warrior Project.
The new runway will open for air traffic Oct. 17, but on Sunday it was clear for foot traffic, as the runners enjoyed not only flawless weather, but also the chance to gaze at and pose for pictures with aircraft belonging to United Airlines, which sponsored the run with the Chicago Department of Aviation.
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That brought a thrill to airplane enthusiasts like Mundelein resident Glen Mortensen, who brought his 17-year-old son Mark with him. Both stopped their running to admire one of United's 777-200s.
A number of runners, including Lindenhurst resident Devin Murray, took part to show support for the Wounded Warrior Project, an organization which provides services and programs for wounded veterans.
"I come from a military family and I also have a lot of friends who are in the military," Murray said.
Mari Uribarri, a volunteer coordinator with the Wounded Warrior Project in Chicago, said, "I think it's great. Lots of people are appreciative of our soldiers, and this is a good way to show it."
Sunday's run was fun also for airline industry insiders.
"I was a flight attendant for 20 years, so I thought it would be a unique experience to actually be on the runway running, instead of on a plane," said Barrington resident Sandy Fawkes.
Carol Elliott, an air traffic controller who lives in Woodstock, said she "wanted to set foot on the runway before the airplanes did."
As the runners gathered for the start, Aviation Commissioner Rosemarie Andolino called the moment historic.
"This will be the first and last time this runway is open to you, the public, and able to be utilized in this fashion. Otherwise, it will strictly have airplanes on it for the rest of its future," she said.
It was the third runway run, but the only one on the new runway.
"We have heard about it for a couple years. My son works for United, and he kind of encouraged us to do it," Lisle resident Barbara Poblocki said. "I put that on my bucket list when I heard about it, and I'm going to cross it off this morning."