She’s known as the “Runway Junkie.”

And, on Saturday, May 20, Carol Thomas took part in the Tuskegee NEXT charity 5/10K run at the DuPage Airport. It was her 19th “runway run.” And at the ripe young age of 71, the Schaumburg resident says she has many more runway runs planned.

Thomas retired from the American Airlines ticket counter eight years ago after spending her career at O’Hare. You can understand how aviation is in Thomas’ mindset.

“One day I went into REI and saw a post card that said ‘Run O’Hare,’” recalls Thomas. “And, I thought, I worked there 41 years and how come I didn’t know you could run the runway? So I signed up to run O’Hare.”

It was her first time running a 5K.

After running O’Hare, she started researching and taking part in other runway runs.

As part of her slew of runway runs, last year Thomas took part in the Inverness Airport Midnight Run in Scotland — a run that is done in the middle of the night so runners aren’t exposed to active runways.

“Somehow the BBC found out they had a ‘Runway Junkie’ coming from the States,” Thomas said. “And that’s how I got my name.”

Thomas has also has run airports in Grayslake, Rockford and has done a run at the Oshkosh Air Show. She calls running JFK her most thrilling run because of the planes landing sideways over the runners’ heads.

And, Thomas’s American Airlines travel benefits have assisted in her running runways in Tulsa, Kona, Hawaii, and Luton Airport in London. She even ran the largest airplane boneyard at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Tucson.

Expanding on the aviation theme, in October, Thomas is running with more than 1,000 different airline employees in Singapore. It’s part of the World Airline Road Race, where there they don’t run the runway, but run the streets together as a charity endeavor.

And through research, the “Runway Junkie” found her way to the Tuskegee NEXT run at DuPage Airport.

So, on a raining, cool morning, Thomas joined a few hundred others to run 2R-20L benefiting Tuskegee NEXT — a program that provides at-risk youth with the opportunity for a career in aviation.

“It was an absolute honor to have Ms. Thomas join us in the run,” said Stephen Davis, chairman of Tuskegee NEXT. “It’s runners like her that help grow our important charitable efforts.”

As Thomas clipped past the timing block at a brisk finishing time of 32:31, she gave a review of the run.

“I thought it was fabulous. The rain picks up your speed. The tail winds were great.”

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