The Steamtown Marathon is a USATF-certified event and is an official Boston Marathon qualifier. The course features a net elevation drop of 955′. The point-to-point course runs through 14 communities and includes approximately 4.2 miles of paved rails-to-trails along the Lackawanna River. There are 14 official stations and several port-a-lav stations on the course.
In a Runner’s World online survey completed by thousands of runners, Steamtown was named the 6th best overall marathon. Runner’s World has also named Steamtown one of the nation’s 10 best for first time marathoners.
Steamtown has been consistently ranked as one of the nation’s fastest marathon courses by several running magazines and Web sites. On average, 22% to 25% of Steamtown finishers qualify for the Boston Marathon.
Although Steamtown’s course may be fast, it is not necessarily easy. The significant down hills in the first eight miles tend to beat up your quads making it a challenge to tackle the three notable up hills in the last three miles of the course. The up hills aren’t terribly long (one to four blocks each) or terribly steep, but their locations in the last few miles can take their toll on even the most experienced runners.
The 14 aid stations will have Gatorade and water. A few will have miscellaneous snacks. There will not be GU or gel on the course.
There will be port-a-lavs at the start, along the course, and at the finish.
All miles will be clearly marked. There will be only a few clocks on the course – wear a watch.
A cheaters mat will be at an undisclosed location to ensure that all athletes who cross the finish line have run the entire course.
Several bicycle clubs will ride the course seeking runners in need of assistance.
Click below to see an interactive map of the Steamtown Marathon course. Note: The main purpose of the interactive map is to show the route of the course, not to denote exact distances. Measurements are off a bit due to the difficulty of cutting the tangents online the way they are cut by the USATF-certified person who measured the course using a bicycle. He has certified the course at 26.2 miles. http://www.gmap-pedometer.com/?r=6724038
- Click here to download first half of Marathon Course Map
- Click here to download second half of Marathon Course Map
Turn-by-Turn Directions, Locations of Aid Stations, Port-A-Lavs, & Spectator Viewpoints
NOTE: Locations of aid stations and port-a-lavs are subject to change at a moment’s notice. The locations of all turns and course amenities listed below have been approximated.
START – 8:00 a.m. – Forest City High School (FCHS)
- Leave FCHS on Susquehanna St.
- 0.53 miles – Cross Dundaff St./247
- 0.77 miles – Turn right onto Caryl St.
- 0.83 miles – Turn right onto Hudson St.
- 1.05 miles – Turn left onto Dundaff St.
- VERY STEEP DOWNHILL
- 1.18 miles – Turn right onto Main St./Rt. 171
- 2.29 miles – Bear right to stay on Main St./Rt. 171
- 2.40 miles – PORT-A-LAVS
- 3.00 miles – AID STATION # 1
- 3.00 miles – PORT-A-LAVS
- 4.60 miles – AID STATION # 2
- 4.60 miles – PORT-A-LAVS
- 6.90 miles – AID STATION # 3
- 7.70 miles – Turn right onto N. Church St.
- 7.77 miles – Turn right onto N. Main St.
- 8.20 miles – Spectator Viewpoint #1 – Carbondale
- 8.29 miles – Bear slight right onto Pike St.
- 8.80 miles – PORT-A-LAVS
- 8.82 miles – At Y, stay left onto Gordon Ave.
- 9.00 miles – AID STATION #4
- 10.09 miles – Turn right onto Erie St.
- 10.12 miles – Turn left onto Lackawanna Ave.
- 10.15 miles – PORT-A-LAVS
- 11.10 miles – AID STATION # 5
- 11.34 miles – Turn right onto Poplar St.
- 11.34 miles – PORT-A-LAVS
- 11.47 miles – Turn left onto Main St.
- Main St. becomes S. Washington Ave.
- 12.30 miles – Bear left onto Bridge St.
- 12.30 miles – PORT-A-LAVS
- 12.40 miles – Turn left onto Delaware St.
- 12.41 miles – PORT-A-LAVS
- 12.43 miles – Turn right onto Rails to Trails
- 13.10 miles – PORT-A-LAVS
- 12.44 miles – AID STATION # 6
- 14.43 miles – Exit trail, turn left onto Gilmartin St.
- 14.45 miles – Turn right onto Church St.
- Church St. becomes Laurel St.
- 14.60 miles – AID STATION # 7
- 15.25 miles – Enter Rails to Trails via Laurel St.
- 15.80 miles – Exit Rails to Trails to River St.
- 16.01 Miles – AID STATION # 8
- 16.01 miles – PORT-A-LAVS
- 16.02 miles – Turn right onto Winton Rd.
- 16.07 miles – Turn left onto Rails to Trails
- 17.08 miles – Aid Station by Jessup 21st Century Association
- 17.09 miles – Cross Bridge St, continue on trail
- 17.15 miles – Spectator Viewpoint # 2 – Jessup
- 17.55 miles – Exit trail, turn right onto Depot St.
- 17.56 miles – Turn immediate left onto River St.
- 17.80 miles – Turn left into parking lot for Blakely Borough Park
- 17.86 miles – Once in lot, turn right towards park
- 17.93 miles – Turn right, run loop around basketball courts
- 17.94 miles – PORT-A-LAVS
- 18.05 miles – Turn left, stay on park path
- 18.06 miles – Turn right onto park path
- 18.19 miles – Exit park through gate.
- 18.20 miles – AID STATION # 9
- 18.20 miles – PORT-A-LAVS
- 18.23 miles – In parking lot, turn left towards footbridge.
- 18.28 miles – Off bridge, bear right onto trail.
- 18.65 miles – Bear left to exit trail
- 18.71 miles – Turn right when you reach pavement.
- 18.74 miles – Turn left onto Dolph St.
- 18.86 miles – Turn right onto James St.
- 19.01 miles – Turn left onto Jackson Street
- 19.05 miles – Make wide right onto N. Valley Avenue
- 19.06 miles – PORT-A-LAVS
- 19.10 miles – AID STATION # 10
- 19.47 miles – Turn right onto Lackawanna Ave. (Downtown Olyphant)
- 19.75 miles – At anchor, turn left onto Main St.
- 20.52 miles – Turn left onto Eagle Lane into Dickson City Ind. Park
- 20.63 miles – AID STATION # 11
- 20.63 miles – PORT-A-LAVS
- 20.66 miles – Turn right onto Enterprise St.
- 21.13 miles – Exit industrial park, turn left onto Boulevard Ave.
- 21.38 miles – Turn right onto Oak St.
- 21.48 miles – Turn left onto Dewey Dr.
- 21.50 miles – Turn right to stay onto Dewey St.
- 21.53 miles – Turn left to stay on Dewey Street
- 21.77 miles – Turn left onto Elm Street
- 21.82 miles – Turn right through park gate.
- 21.87 miles – Exit park through other gate.
- 21.95 miles – Turn right onto Boulevard Ave.
- 22.75 miles – AID STATION # 12
- 22.75 miles – PORT-A-LAVS
- 23.15 miles – Bear slight right to stay on Boulevard Ave.
- 23.65 miles – At T intersection, turn left onto Electric St. Tough hill begins here.
- 23.80 miles – At small “island”, bear right onto Capouse Ave.
- 23.82 miles – AID STATION # 13
- 23.82 miles – PORT-A-LAVS
- 23.83 miles – Bear left onto Sunset St.
- 23.97 miles – Bear left onto Wyoming Ave.
- 24.03 miles – Bear right onto Electric St.
- 24.07 miles – Turn right onto N. Washington Ave.
- 24.15 miles – Turn right onto Delaware St.
- 24.38 miles – Turn left onto Capouse Ave.
- 24.99 miles – Turn left onto Walnut St.
- 25.23 miles – Turn right onto N. Washington Ave.
- 25.24 miles – AID STATION # 14
- 25.24 miles – PORT-A-LAVS
- 25.59 miles – “Cooper’s Hill” begins
- 26.20 miles – FINISH at Federal Courthouse/Courthouse Square
Words of Widsom about the Hills of Steamtown
“A few years ago I was visiting my daughter in New Jersey and went for a jog and met this fellow and he asked if he could jog with me just for company. As we talked and I told him where I was from he said that he was thinking about coming to the Steamtown Marathon with four of his friends. Well he did, and he made sure to look for me after the race and he said he would never return because he thought it was a downhill race and he got fooled. I know from my own experience that I struggle the last 10K and I know about all the hills.”
Tony Cerminaro, Jermyn, PA (veteran of 15 Steamtowns)
“The Steamtown course, while billed as a downhill course, has some uphill sections. Not quite a mile into the course you have a right turn with the big drop followed by another right at the bottom of the hill. At this point everyone is still bunched up and full of adrenaline, which can make the bottom turn a little dicey. As you enter Vandling at about the 1½ mile mark you will actually have an elevation rise. This seems to catch a lot of runners off guard. This leads to the 4 mile stretch of downhill where you feel you can run forever. Unfortunately you can’t and when you cross the bridge in Simpson the course flattens out and you will start to feel it if you’ve taken the hill too fast. At this point the course will seem flat as you basically follow the Lackawanna River to Scranton. There will be some slight elevation gain, but for the most part you are going downhill, even though it may not seem like it.
The one part that always gets me is just before the second segment of the rails to trails. After you cross the bridge you have a short but nasty rise into the trail. Once you cross under I-81 into Scranton, look for Mike’s Scrap Yard on your right. This begins the last section of downhill to run. It ends at the stop sign where you encounter about 1,000 feet long section of uphill. This is where a lot of people run into difficulties. The grade of the hill will lessen as you go up. Not quit a mile later you run into another hill. There is a lot of crowd support, but this can be really challenging. After you make the turn you have a little drop that can really tweak your quads. You have a little over a mile reprieve before you get to Cooper’s Hill. While not as long as the other hills, it seems to take forever to get to the top. Fortunately at the top you can see the finish, and it is much smoother sailing.”
Frank Rainey, Scranton, PA (veteran of 11 Steamtowns)
“I go out easy, and since there are quite a few downhills in the first half, self discipline is important. I do not try to put “time in the bank”. I find a comfortable pace and do as little work as possible. I do not start passing a ton of people as they will pass me back on the hills at the end.
My work begins at the halfway point. Now that I am suitably warmed up, I will run a half marathon with a few hills at the end.
The trails are a significant break for my legs, which are fairly fresh because I have not pounded the $#*? out of them on the downhills. I take the opportunity to stretch a little and maybe pee, in anticipation of the hills at the end.
The real work begins at Mile 19. The scenery is a little less glorious and I am usually sweating. There are no more gliding downhills; there are a few steep hills especially at the end.
Miles 23, 24, 25 and 26 hurt. Not only am I tired, but there are hills. Short strides, passing walkers (who had passed me at mile 6) and pumping my arms keep me going. I know when I hit the 26 mile marker the climbing has finished. I can begin my descent to the finish line. I am still passing the folks who passed me at mile 8, because they didn’t save anything for the hills at the end.”
Ronnie B., Norwalk, CT (veteran of 9 Steamtowns)
“First of all there is far more downhill than uphill. I can attest after running Steamtown several times you definitely need to understand how hills play into running a marathon.
Steamtown is unique due to the fact that the course has a net elevation drop of 955′ feet. I have seen and have experienced first-hand what running these hills means to a runner. I have personally run way too fast for half of the marathon and hit the wall around the 16 mile mark, due to the fact that my quads were toast. Someone said 45 minutes of downhills is enough to cripple a person. I believe it. Lots of factors go into training for running down hills versus running a fast flat course such as Chicago. If you train right and don’t get sucked into how it good it feels going through the first 13 miles (fast and easy) of the race, then you will do fine, maybe even set a personal best for a marathon.
My suggestion is train for the hills. Go on and run down hills as fast as you possibly can to understand and know what it feels like to run too fast down hills. If you live at the beach then find a bridge and work at it. Remember on race morning that you need to maintain your pace. DO NOT RUN TOO FAST THE FIRST HALF. Enjoy the scenic views, fall foliage and spectators. Before you know it you will be hitting the last three miles of the race, which have two little hills, which is a welcome (somewhat) to the body to change up the muscles being used.”
Nathan N. Nudelman, Coach, USNA Marathon Team
“Well. Here is my take on the HILLS of the Steamtown Marathon. First, I don’t claim to be an expert on running. I have run Steamtown three times and as of yet have not been able to hold myself back. Do as I say not as I do. The first half of the marathon is mostly downhill. You look at the elevation chart and say, “Wow this is going to be easy.” Wrong. Running downhill beats up your quads and yes, you think you are going easy. Then you get a split and its 30 seconds faster than it should be. You will pay. The downhill at the start would make a great ski jump but for us runners, we have to turn 90 degrees to the right. There are other downhills in the first half that you will think are gentle but truth be told they are steeper than you think.
You have made it through the first half and onto the trails. The trails offer a little soft footing as compared to the roads. Your per mile pace is off by 20 seconds. No big deal.
Now comes the fun part, the real hills of Steamtown – the last 6.2 miles with hills the size of Mount Washington. Not really, but that is what they will feel like. If you were running just the last 6 or so miles these hills would be no big deal. However, seeing that you just ran 20 or more miles, each of the hills feels like Mount Washington and the downhills really hurt. Fear not, because there is a block party going on to watch all of us crazy marathoners suffer up the steepest and longest hill. With about .7 miles left you guessed it. You get to run up another hill.
You cross the finish line. And now the “fun” starts – if you use stairs. It will take about 5 days before you can navigate stairs normally.
A couple of last thoughts. Don’t believe any elevation chart. At least drive the course. Stop the car and walk a little, just to get a feel for what you will be running. I hope this helps. Steamtown is a great marathon.”
Douglas L., Sherman, CT
“I didn’t do enough downhill training on this course and it destroyed me. I knew I was in trouble when I easily ran the fastest first half that I’ve ever run by 3 minutes. By 17 my quads were getting sore, and by 22 I was in pure misery. At mile 22 I was at 3:00 flat, which was still way ahead of my PR, and I really thought I could wrench out the last 4 miles in 40 minutes for a BQ, but boy was I wrong. My quads were in such bad shape that those last 4 miles took me 54 minutes and I didn’t even finish with a PR. I completely screwed myself. I should have worked serious downhill repeats into my long runs. But, all of that is totally my fault and a ton of people walked away with PRs and BQs that day. Just prepare!”
A.B., New York, NY
“When they tell you not to go out too fast, LISTEN TO THEM. It’s easy to get carried away on the downhills and then pay for it in the second half. If you run it smart, it’s a good course.”
S.D., Boston MA
“I have never felt so much pain after a marathon! While this race is a great qualifier for Boston, beware, the downhills are killer! But I would recommend this race to everyone who loves marathon running and the crowd – and the hometown feel was unparalleled!!!”
P.O., Alexandria, VA
“The first half is mostly downhill, so you need to make sure you don’t go out too fast because you will pay later on when you find the uphills in the last 3 miles. I ran at an even pace throughout, and my quads were still aching. I would recommend this race to anyone looking to qualify for Boston, because it is FAST!!”
S.T., Commack, NY
“Be prepared to be sore because of the downhills, though, especially if you don’t live somewhere with downhills to train on. I have run a number of distance races, and the only other times I have been so sore is after running a 100-mile ultra in Colorado and a 56-mile downhill road race in South Africa. Totally worth it though.”
“Quads were heavy and screaming by mile 21. The last ascents at mile 24 and again at 25 were definite gut-checks. At mile 26, though, you are at the top of a hill looking down at the finish and a huge cheering crowd.”
G.S. Hermitage, PA
“The course was great. At times I thought I needed to be running slower, but with the elevation drop I didn’t have to. I was warned about downhills and uphills at the end. It was very manageable! I PRed by 12 minutes and qualified with 6 minutes in the bank. I’d do this race again and again.”
L.W., Raleigh, NC