“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