Recently, my running friend and I were discussing marathons. Both of us were craving another marathon. We discovered our schedules were similar and started to look at marathons we might run together. I found the Harrisburg Marathon and we immediately signed up and started planning our trip to Harrisburg.
I knew that the trip to Harrisburg would be a quick one. I would be nearing the end of my crazy travel and running extravaganza. In fact, I would leave directly from the airport following my trip to San Antonio and head right to Harrisburg. Luckily, a last minute change in my flight schedule let us get an early start to Harrisburg. It was a pleasant drive through lovely countryside. We got to Harrisburg around dinner time, checked in to our amazing hotel, and headed to dinner. We stayed at the Raddison Harrisburg. For anyone planning a trip to Harrisburg, consider the Raddison. The staff were wonderfully kind, the hotel was clean, the beds were comfy, and they hotel staff offered to let us stay as late as we liked on Sunday after the marathon. We couldn’t ask for a better hotel. After dinner, we decided to ride down to the race start to get a sense of parking and race-day organization.
It was gorgeous. The race start was at the foot of a pedestrian bridge that lead from City Island to city center. The capitol was lit up for the night and the whole scene was lovely.
Race day morning dawned bight and early. It was clear, sunny, and really hilly at 35 degrees. Packet pick up was in a large building on City Island. Thankfully, the building was heated by huge heat fans. Food and drinks were plentiful and the volunteers were friendly.
The race was small and runners gathered inside awaiting the start of the race. Professional pacing was provided by MarathonPacing.com.
The race began on City Island and moved across the bridge to the city center. The course wound briefly through the city center, through a small park (a half mile or so were on a gravel trail) and paved trail along the river. Then, the course went across the Market Street Bridge back to City Island. The early miles of the course were lovely. The bridges are charming and the sun was shining. The course was well-marked.
The weather was fall weather at its finest. Unfortunately, the bliss of the early miles would fade. A few miles later, the course would curve along the river and the weather would turn. The sky clouded, the light darkened, and the wind picked up. What was pleasant, 45 degree running weather quickly turned into 35 degrees and cloudy with a significant windchill. The course went along the river for a while and then into a neighborhood. The residents seemed a bit perplexed as to why we were running through their neighborhood, but volunteers were on hand to direct traffic and help the runners move smoothly through the course. I had been running along well, hanging with a friend who was pacing for the race. We had a nice time chatting, and I enjoyed her group.
Unfortunately, things started to deteriorate around mile 15. Near the end of the neighborhood section, I had to visit the port-a-pottie. Not good. I wasn’t feeling the best and slowed my pace a bit. Around mile 16, the course moved into an industrial area. The industrial area was unpleasant at best. The road was bumpy, the scenery was terrible (distribution centers, barbed wire, and tractor trailers as far as the eye could see), and I struggled mentally. I knew some late hills were coming, so I conserved my energy and moved along at a steady pace. The course then passed into a community college parking lot. This part of the course was inexplicable. I don’t know why it was necessary to run through such an unpleasant area. Just when I thought things couldn’t get worse, we turned into a park. I was delighted. A park! Sadly, the joy was short lived. At mile 18, the hills began. And they were hills. With hills at the worst possible time, I struggled. I was freezing cold, mentally spent, and physically exhausted. The hills seemed relentless. Finally, at mile 21, we left the park and headed back to the neighborhood. I was done. Mentally, I was worn out. Finishing the rest of the race was a struggle. It was a lesson in the importance of
As we turned back along the river and the steady wind blew me around, I tried to stay positive. I was running a marathon and enjoying a fun trip with a friend. The course was challenging. Those hills just ate me up. It was difficult mentally. All in all, I struggled in this marathon. I enjoyed it, but it was difficult.
Overall, the race was well done. The organizers sent multiple emails before the race, outlining aspects of the race that are critical to runners. The pre-race food was nice, check in was organized, and bag check was easy to use. The course was well marked and the aid stations were well stocked. At the finish line, cheering fans greeted the runners. Each finisher got an attractive finishers’ medal and a mylar blanket (best blanket ever!) and was ushered into the warm building. In the post-race building, there was ample food and drink. There were sandwiches, chips, fruit, and candy. It was a nice spread.
With the excellent organization and big-race amenities and a small race field, the Harrisburg Marathon was a nice event. The course was challenging and I’m not sure I would run it again. I would have loved to have some of the race run through Harrisburg itself. It looked like a cute city with friendly people and clean streets.