Today is the 18th Annual running of the Steamtown Marathon in Scranton, Pennsylvania. Good luck to any of my readers who are running this great race today!
I decided to run my first Steamtown Marathon in 1999 after reading that Runner’s World listed it as one of the nation’s top ten fastest marathons. Take a look at this elevation chart and you’ll understand why. Those first six miles of steep downhills take a toll on your quads, but allow for some serious gliding and putting minutes in the bank. Don’t underestimate those two final climbs at miles 24 and 25, though!
In October of 1999, my friends Miles, Ed, Todd, and I met in Maryland on a beautiful sunny morning to drive to Scranton, PA for the race. While driving up I told them about an article I’d just read in Runner’s World by Jeff Galloway about gliding. Jeff wrote about resting your running muscles on downhill parts of the race course by relaxing and allowing gravity to pull you down the hill. Once hitting the bottom of the hill, he instructed that you should let momentum continue and to not engage the running muscles until necessary. I had decided that since this course had a lot of downhill sections, I was going to use this strategy for my race and see how it worked out. Others in the car questioned whether or not this was the best idea. In the race I tried it, and I’m glad that I did!
Our first stop when we got into town was the race expo. For a mid-size race, they always had a pretty good expo. There was a trend for long sleeved cotton t-shirts for marathons back then, so I wasn’t surprised or disappointed when I got this shirt.
Here’s a close-up of the 1999 t-shirt logo with a locomotive on it. Scranton is home to the Steamtown National Historic Site, a railroad museum.
While at the expo, I also picked up this comfy sweatshirt.
After we picked up our packets, we drove the race course to see exactly what we were in for. I picked out that race with a PR in mind and I didn’t want any surprises on race morning! That night, for our final carbo-load we went to a nearby Holiday Inn and I ordered Mona Lisa pasta. The fact that I remember the name of the dish amazes me. Anyway, it had either chicken or shrimp with wilted spinach and pine nuts over pasta and a light sauce and it was delicious!
Bright and early the next morning we caught the race buses for a ride to the start of the race. By the time we got to the race starting point it was pouring rain, but luckily the high school gym was open for us to relax in and wait for the start of the race. We agreed in advance that we would each run our own races, but started together… for about ten seconds. Within the first mile I caught up with three guys running together who were friends, and joined them for several miles. They were named Paul, Paul, and Paul; so naturally I told them my name was Paulette. AND they believed me. 🙂
Through the pouring rain I ran and ran. I was impressed with the number of people out cheering us on, despite the dismal weather. The local newspaper ran a list of all runners and their numbers, so as we approached, spectators would look up our number and cheer us on by name. It was both impressive and very motivating!
Around mile 20 I started running with a younger guy – pacing him and him pacing me. We hardly talked, but did acknowledge that we both wanted to run a sub 3:30 race. He got me up that last tough hill that never seemed to end. We crossed the finish line, and immediately embraced in a huge hug, both relieved for the race to be over and thrilled that we had broken 3:30. After I collected my medal and Mylar blanket, I had to find a place to be alone because I was so overcome with emotion for running a 3:29:04 (7:59 pace) which was a ten minute PR for me.
- Cumulative Time at Mile 5 – 37:43 (7:33 5-mile average pace)
- Cumulative Time at Mile 10 – 1:16:25 (7:44 5-mile average pace)
- Cumulative Time at Mile 15 – 1:56:28 (8:01 5-mile average pace)
- Cumulative Time at Mile 20 – 2:36:35 (8:01 5-mile average pace)
- Cumulative Time at Mile 25 – 3:19:37 (8:37 5-mile average pace)
- Cumulative Time at Mile 26.2 – 3:29:04 (7:51 1.2-mile average pace)
I finished third in my age group, and of course didn’t stick around for the awards ceremony because I had no idea I’d placed. The race officials were kind enough to mail my plaque to me, although they mailed the fourth place plaque. An interesting thing about races back in the early days of chip timing is that race officials used the clock time over the chip time on most of their results.
I next returned to run Steamtown in 2005 with Bill, Miles, several of our Cruiser friends and Miles Run friends. Once we all got into town we met to chill before heading out to dinner. As you can see, our little out of town marathon trips are very social for us!
Once we arrived at a local Italian restaurant for a fun pre-race dinner, Miles snapped a picture of us.
Early before the race, we got our obligatory pre-race group photo in the high school gym staging area! Don’t you just love Miles’ bedhead? I ran a 3:44:25 (8:33 pace), and several of us ran Boston qualifiers.
I only have one word for this post-race photo… Ouch! BTW, guess which one of these guys just qualified for his first Boston. Don’t let their expressions fool you!
The 2005 shirt was a baseball style cotton shirt. Here my friends Rich and Miles (with Martin) are modeling the 2005 marathon shirts.
By my return for the 2006, 2007, and 2010 races they had switched over to technical shirts. Yay! In 2006 I ran a 3:48:52 (8:44 pace) and in 2007 I ran a 4:22:24 (10:00 pace).
In 2006 Bill and I got this poster and had the artists sign it. It still hangs in our basement with other race posters and running related items.
The 2010 Steamtown Marathon was the only time that I truly hit the wall in a race. I rode up with my Cruiser friend Terri (we’d done other girl’s weekend races together and always had a blast). We met another Cruiser friend, Beth, her brother and a couple of runners from Miles Run group at a little Italian restaurant for our pre-race dinner.
Terri and I looked in all three gyms (that looked like this) and the porta-potty lines for our other running buddies the morning of the race but couldn’t find them. We decided that while we were entering one gym looking for them, they were exiting and entering another gym looking for us!
Terri and I started out together, but got separated when she almost immediately had to stop to use the bathroom (surprise, surprise that it wasn’t me). At mile seven, yes seven, I mentally didn’t want to finish. I started run/walking until Terri caught me and it was by sheer gutting it out that either of us finished. My finishing time was 4:55:02 (11:15 pace), my slowest marathon ever.
Here’s my collection of finisher’s medals…
My friends and I love the Steamtown Marathon and I would highly recommend it to anyone thinking of running it, especially if you’re hoping to qualify for Boston! It’s a well run race with a fast course, friendly volunteers, and great crowds.
- Have you ever run the Steamtown Marathon or been to Scranton?
- What’s your opinion on point-to-point races and getting bused to the start?
- Did you race this weekend?