Yesterday I participated in the 10th running of the Lehigh Valley Marathon, a point-to-point race that takes runners from Allentown to Easton, Pennsylvania. For anyone who is tired of the crowds and hassles of big-city racing, and who would trade spectators for trees and a city skyline for a natural landscape, this is the race for you. With a cap of 2,500 runners, this race is the antidote for the elbow-to-elbow conditions that you find in New York, Chicago, and Boston.
The weather was unseasonably hot and humid on race morning, which was all the more reason for runners to go slow and enjoy the scenery. They would not be disappointed by doing so, because the first 4 1/2 miles were some of the most scenic marathon miles to be found anywhere. After starting at the Lehigh Valley Hospital, where there was ample free parking, we ran through verdant parkland, past the historic ruins of an iron furnace, and across a covered bridge built in 1841, on our way to the Lehigh River and the Delaware and Lehigh National Heritage Corridor. We spent miles running on a flat, hardpack dirt canal trail, exiting briefly at Mile 12 places in the town of Bethlehem, where we ran past the colonial-era the 18th Industrial Quarter. At the finish there was food and free beer, live music, and shuttles back to the start.
Support on the course was fine, with plenty of Gatorade and water, along with a wide variety of sports gels, although runners who are used to having refreshment at every mile need to go elsewhere. With a net elevation drop of 240 feet, this course can easily deliver a BQ or PR, weather permitting.
The only dark cloud on this otherwise fine racing day was the brief delay to the front pack of runners caused by a train that crossed over the route early on in the race. This was resolved after a few minutes, but hopefully disruptions like this could be avoided in the future with some coordination between the race committee and the local rail carriers.
Overall, I give this race a big thumbs up as a fast, mostly flat and beautiful race.