2017 Harrisburg Marathon Race Review

Ooops I did it again! I ran another marathon a week after my last one but I promise I had a (sort of) good reason! More on that in a minute…

But first, the race recap.

Race Date: November 12, 2017
Time: 5:02:59
Weather: COLD! 20s-30s but partly sunny and no wind
Course: Mostly flat with a few very gently hills thrown in
Run Again: Sure, why not?

The Harrisburg Marathon is a surprisingly beautiful marathon that twists and turns its way on bike paths and through suburbs of this quaint PA city. Having grown up in Northeastern PA, I was kind of surprised to realize that I have never been to Harrisburg. It’s the capital after all – you would think I would have taken a field trip there with school or something, but nope. It’s a decent-sized town, with 50,000 people. But I was very happy to see that it while it had the culture and hip-ness of a big city, it had the vibe of a much smaller town.

The Harrisburg Marathon has about 1,500 runners, which I came to realize was about the perfect size for me. It was big enough to have that energizing buzz of lots of runners while not feeling overwhelming in the least. Logistically, it was a breeze.

The view from the race start..

I stayed at the Harrisburg Hilton, the host hotel for the race which was an easy 1/2 mile from the start and 2 blocks from the finish. I locked in an inexpensive rate by reserving a room through the marathon block and took advantage of the late checkout (3pm) offered to all runners!

I didn’t arrive in Harrisburg until 8pm Saturday evening, so I missed packet pickup on Friday and Saturday. But I had no problems at all walking right up to the packet pickup table on Sunday morning at 7am, grabbing my bib, and placing the rest of my goodies in bag drop to pick up after the race. I was particularly excited to see that the swag was a cozy hoodie instead of just your average race shirt. I pretty much live in hoodies all winter long (I’m totally wearing it right now) so this was huge to me. And just the fact that I could do all of this easily without lines or hassle on race morning was so perfect to me. Yet there was still race music pumping and runners everywhere chatting and stretching and spectators lining the whole course with fun signs and cowbells.

We ran over this pedestrian bridge twice and got to take in a great view of the city.

The race start, by the way, is on City Island, a small island in the middle of the Susquehanna River. There were no corrals but there were pacers so runners could self seed according to predicted time. Never once did I feel cramped or hindered by other runners around me.

The race winds it’s way through a mostly flat course that showed off Harrisburg’s miles of bike paths. One note is that there are a lot of twists and turns and I’m guessing why this course doesn’t usually make the list as a popular BQ race. Sure, it’s totally possible to PR and even BQ here, but I can see how all of those turns might be a negative if you’re trying to shave off every last second.

I’ve also got to give a shout out to the race organizers of the Harrisburg Marathon. There were water stations and porta potties (with no lines) a-plenty with most handing out water, Gatorade, and Honey stinger gels (this was critical for me after I dropped my GUs in the porta potty of mile 18. Ew). The course was super well marked with volunteers at every turn, police stopping traffic at every intersection, and lots and lots of high-energy spectators along the way.

And the race food was plentiful and delicious. It was catered by Panera and included bagels (lots of yummy varieties) with cream cheese), sandwiches (ham and cheese, turkey and cheese, or vegan) and the most delicious mac and cheese I have ever had (or maybe it was just the fact that I was cold and starving but seriously, this mac-and-cheese was nirvana.)

This is what most of the race looked like..flat and wonderfully scenic.

After my PR last week, I was not after time for this race. I ran it because it would be my 25th marathon. And it seemed like getting half-way to my goal of running 50 marathons by my 50th birthday would be an awesome way to end what has been a great year of running for me.

I picked this race because of the timing (after my PR race) and logistics (even if I didn’t live so close, this one was super-easy). But the plus is that I got a tour of the capital city of my home state and I now have a new appreciation for Harrisburg and it’s amazing spectators and race organizers.