The Running U.S.A. Annual Marathon Report is hot off the presses, and it features a breakdown of all sorts of fun figures related to U.S. marathons. Two things of local note: With 10,909 finishers last year, the 2013 Philadelphia Marathon was the eight largest 26.2-mile race in the country. Philly also crops up on a list of races with the most sub-four-hour finishers—we come in fourth, behind New York, Chicago and the Marine Corps Marathon in DC, with 4,162 hella-speedy runners.
Both of these figures are slightly down from 2012, when 4,927 runners finished with sub-four-hour times and 11,635 finished over all. But here’s why: That was also the year the NYC Marathon was canceled following Hurricane Sandy, and Mayor Nutter invited those runners, last minute, to run here in Philly. I’m thinking that probably threw us off a bit.
One of the things I discovered from reading the report (yes, I’m a nerd) is that there’s a marathon in PA’s Lehigh Valley called the Lehigh Valley Health Network Via Marathon—and it actually sounds really, really cool. It cropped up on one of the report’s more impressive lists—the Fastest Median Times list—where it earned second place, behind the Boston Marathon, for its average finishing time of 3:49:56. (Boston’s was 3:31:17, which could be skewed, of course, since that race was cut short after last year’s bombings.)
I'd never heard of the Lehigh race—it used to be called the Lehigh Valley Hospital Marathon—so I looked it up and discovered that the course was designed by Runner's World's Bart Yasso. It's a downhill course, which could explain the fast times, and is a Boston qualifier.
And doesn't it sound just lovely?
This downhill course starts at Lehigh Valley Hospital in Allentown, PA. Maybe an odd location to start, but it’s easy to find and has plenty of parking. It’s a quick trip to the Lehigh Parkway, past the Fish Hatchery, across a covered bridge and heading towards the Lehigh River. At mile 7, you enter the Delaware and Lehigh National Heritage Corridor. Mile 12 places you in Bethlehem, PA with a run through the 18th Century Industrial Quarter. Canal locks, a boat launch and several parks make up the run to Easton, PA. At mile 25, the confluence of the Lehigh and Delaware Rivers is right before you. Just 1 more mile places you at the finish line in Easton.
Has anyone run this race? It sounds awesome—I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments. If you're curious, the 2014 race date is September 7th. Details are here.
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