Why Runners Are Upset About the Philadelphia Marathon Course Changes 

It seems two main issues are bugging runners when it comes to the race’s changes to the half marathon course.

Philadelphia Marathon | Photo by M. Fischetti for VISIT PHILADELPHIA

Philadelphia Marathon | Photo by M. Fischetti for VISIT PHILADELPHIA

Back in April, the Philadelphia Marathon announced that they’d be making some big changes to the November race this year: For one, Jim Marino, race director for the Broad Street Run, would be coming on as race director for the Philadelphia Marathon. Two, the half marathon and the full marathon would be held on different days — the former on Saturday and the latter on Sunday — as opposed to running concurrently, as they have in past years. And three, both distances would see some course changes.

Back then, they outlined the race changes in a press release, saying the most notable change to the full marathon would be the nixing of the out-and-back portion on East Falls Bridge. They outlined some serious changes to the half marathon course—long story short: significantly less time spent in Center City, more time spent in Fairmount Park—but there were no maps of the courses available then. Well, now there are. The race recently posted the map for the full marathon course (here) and the half marathon course (here)—and runners have quite a bit to say.

Runners have been chatting about the changes, primarily the changes to the half marathon course (the marathon course is mostly untouched, and many people are actually very happy about the fact that the East Falls Bridge portion was cut), over in the Facebook group Run215. Reading through the comments, there seem to be two main issues upsetting runners when it comes to the half marathon course changes.

1. Runners are worried about crowd support during the half marathon.

The new half marathon course takes runners through less of Center City and cuts the stretch through University City, spending more time in Fairmount Park instead. With less of the race taking runners through those crowd-packed neighborhoods, a good chunk of runners are worried about crowd support—oh so necessary when you are pounding the pavement for 13 long miles—along the course. As many runners note in their comments on Run215, a huge part of the fun of the half marathon in years past has been feeling the overwhelming energy from spectators, especially in the Drexel area.

2. The half marathon course seems “cookie-cutter” now.

It’s no secret: Philadelphia is home to many races that run through Fairmount Park. Now, with the course trading in time on city streets for time in Fairmount Park, a running theme in runners’ comments (see what I did there?) on Run215 is that the half marathon course looks just like all the other races out there. A few ways runners have described the new half marathon course on Run215 are “cookie cutter,” nothing special” and “no longer unique.”

After seeing what folks were saying over on Run215, we gave race director Jim Marino a ring to see how the race landed on the new course for the half marathon. Marino told us he couldn’t comment on the course changes right now.

It should be noted though, that there are definitely some upsides to the changes made to race weekend. First off, with the races held on different days, there’s room for more runners to join in. Back in May, Marino told Philly.com they expected to be able to fit 2,000 more half marathoners in on the big day. And for all those half marathoners worried about crowd support, one nice thing is, all the marathoners who aren’t running until the next day will be able to spend the day as spectators. Guess we’ll just have to wait until race weekend to see how everything actually plays out.

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