Don’t plan on a PR. Plan on the most beautiful (road) hill workout of your life.

I registered for the Runner’s World Half Marathon in lieu of running another full in 2012. After running Philadelphia in November and Boston in April, running a fall marathon would have put me through three marathon training plans (and one non-competitive 34.1 mile ultra) in one year, and it just didn’t seem smart to taunt my suspiciously-dormant ITBS with all that stress.

My dad and I signed up for the Runner’s World race thinking, “It’s relatively local, the pre-reg price isn’t more obscene than any other big half, and the medals double as bottle openers, so they clearly have their priorities straight.” It also fit into my schedule without knocking out a wedding or messing with a USATF team race. Miracle of miracles! The one thing we didn’t look at before registering was the elevation map.


It didn’t take long to read and hear that the course would be really hilly. I’m actually not sure how we didn’t realize this before registration, since the race website doesn’t hide the fact that it’s a challenging course. I was still under my PR delusion until I placed myself on the disabled list about a week before the race, and, while I’m obviously not happy about spending time on the DL, running it with my dad gave me a little peace of mind. There’s no freaking way I would have PR-ed on this course.

And that is exactly why I’m going back next year, and running… the Hat Trick!

  1. Saturday @ 8am: 5k
  2. Saturday @ 9am: 10k
  3. Sunday @ 8:30am: Half Marathon

I’ve adopted the “if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em” mindset. There has to be a reason for me to go back if I know I won’t PR. And this one, the Hat Trick, is an expensive, but worthwhile reason to go back. I’ll tell you why it’s worth it.


I want to meet Shalane Flanagan again.

Kidding! Well, I’d obviously love to meet her again, but what makes the Runner’s World Half & Festival worthwhile is the course.

Despite the constant hills, the course was absolutely gorgeous. Thirteen miles of historic Bethlehem, a beautiful town once known for active steel mills. Bethlehem Steel shut down in the 90’s, though some of the steel plants still stand. The rusting plants are absolutely breathtaking against blue sky and fiery fall trees. Bethlehem is also home to the world’s oldest continuously-running book store, prestigious Lehigh University, and the sixth-oldest college in the nation, Moravian College. All of this, combined with the rolling landscape of the town, makes for some seriously awesome scenery.

Now that’s a cool setting for a race expo.

Walking to the start.

Looking back toward the expo at Steel Stacks.

The streets were a little crowded, but beautiful!

Just after a waterstop in a quiet neighborhood.

The buzz around the expo was, “it’s all downhill or flat after mile 7!” Does that look downhill or flat to you? That was around mile 10.

Winding down past Nisky Hill Cemetery, which overlooks the steel plant in south Bethlehem.

The course packed a wallop in it’s constant long, winding hills, but runners can’t deny that the views were extraordinary. Thankfully there’s one last quick uphill at mile 12, then it’s downhill and flat to the incredible finish line.

One of the many bands on the course, just before the 13 mile mark.

Steel plants line the last .5 miles.

Have you seen a more unique finish line??

After getting our bottle-opener medals and our gear, we headed back toward the finish line to a very nice touch that runners always appreciate: the beer tent.


The Runner’s World Half & Festival will see me again, and I will be partaking in the entire festival. And I will be really, really, awesomely sore.


3 thoughts on “Don’t plan on a PR. Plan on the most beautiful (road) hill workout of your life.

  1. Haha… “That. Just. Happened.” cracked me up. Running the Edinburgh Half taught me what an elevation chart was, and why I should investigate it prior to race weekend. I suppose it’s a lesson worth learning!

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