Race: St Luke's VIA Marathon
Location: Allentown>Bethlehem>Easton, Pa
Race date: September 8th, 2019
Hope you are all doing well!
Here to review the VIA Marathon! :)
Going into 2019, this race was not on my calendar or even on my radar. I was working on a spring marathon (Flying Pig) and already registered for a fall one (Philly). It may have been in April, a college buddy mentioned to me they were thinking about doing this race. It's a flat and fast course,etc. My logic was.. If I didn't have this race, I would probably "just" be doing half training over the summer until it was time to restart the full plan for the fall. Figured training for a full all yr may help get me more in full fitness, someday that wall may be pushed back a bit for me. Someday.
Expo: Saturday, September 7th.
Held at the Steel Stacks in Bethlehem, Pa. Steel Stacks hosts a few other race expo's and races a year. I've been to the Steel Stacks for another race (Runner's World Festival). If you've never been to Steel Stacks, it's pretty cool! The Steel Stacks has auditoriums, expo rooms, banquet halls, and bars. The scenery outside the expo building is a few cool large buildings that remain from Bethlehem Steel factory with a stage for musicians to perform, etc. Factoids: Bethlehem Steel provided some of the steel used for the Golden Gate Bridge and Chrysler Building. Movie fact: some of the Bethlehem Steel buildings are in a fight scene in Transformers 2.
Packet Pickup: bib pickup inside Steel Stacks, shirt pickup outside in the courtyard. Both were a breeze! Less than 5 minutes, tops!
Vendors: small race. Not a ton of vendors. Maybe 15 vendors. Local race stands, running stores with clothes and shoes, etc, Design your own race shirts stand, salsa samples with recipe stand that also had Nature Valley Crunchy PB granola bars and Kind Oats & Honey bars.
Swag bag: Discover Lehigh Valley book, brochures, Vivarin Caffiene Gum, Honey Stinger Organic Waffle, drink koozies, race and running store stickers.
The race is point to point. Option to park at the starting line and get shuttled back after the race, or park at the finish area (Early!) and shuttle to the starting point. I opted to park by the starting area. (had a ride back, didn't require the shuttle after the race). Road closures at 6:40. I was there by 6:20, plenty of parking spots.
Pre race: the portable restrooms are maybe .2 miles (if that) from the starting area. Additional speakers by the rest area would of been nice. Did not hear the Pre Race announcements or National Anthem.
Map/elevation: The elevation attracts many fast runners, as this race is listed as a top qualifier for Boston! The overall elevation is actually a descent! Although I do see a hill and few inclines along the way. (images pulled from viamarathon)
Scenery: Beautiful scenery majority of the race! Race starts out by going around some of the parks around Allentown. A few neighborhood or warehouse district streets, but minimal. After 7 miles, majority of the race is packed gravel trails (few cement or dirt, but mostly gravel) along creeks or rivers. Pass by a few small waterfall cascades, cool bridges, etc.
Crowd Support: this is a smaller race. (from 2018: 750 marathoners, 600 half, 125 5k, and relay's) (couldn't find a good way to count relay, multiple categories) There is some crowd support by the relay exchanges, but overall crowd support is very sparse. Especially once you hit the trails.
Hydration Stations: seems to be more than ample amount of Water/Electrolyte stands along the street portion of the course, seemed to be longer gaps on the trail portion. May consider a hydration vest if I were to do this race again.
Portable restrooms: normal wait time pre-race. Didn't see any early into the race, and noticed someone asking at mile 5. (first one was around 5.5) Seemed to be an adequate amount after that.
Weather: The one factor you can't control.. Humid early. Humidity dropped along the way. Temps rose to real feel of 79 by my end time. Majority of the trail portion is well shaded. Towards the end there are some open areas with sun. Temps were great in the morning, but drenched due to the humidity. Many considered the temp to be pleasant, but I could feel it towards the end.
First half was comfortable. Took in all the beautiful scenery without thinking about pace. Had to force myself to slow down.
16-18 Could start to feel it, but manageable
18-20 Getting a bit rough for me. TMI time: Actually got sick for a minute! May have rushed water down, either the water with air or recent salt tab didn't agree.
20+ was a struggle. Was a long 10k for me. Once I started taking walk breaks out of water stations, started to tighten up. Too many walk breaks after that. Would try walk a minute/ run a mile, but would only go a few minutes. Very little crowd support. There wasn't pace groups per se, but as I fell back from the 4 hr groups it got to be very lonely. Just me and the voice in my head, gut check time to ignore the negative thoughts and not give up.
Flat and fast? Noticed a few of the early inclines and declines, but overall didn't feel downhill. Mostly flat. Did notice the few tiny inclines towards the end. lol..
Announcer announced names as they crossed the finish line! Not sure if he got everyone earlier then there were less gaps between runners, but was cool to hear being announced.
Banana, Bagel, Chocolate Chip cookies, Mike and Ike Berry Blast candy, Snyder's Snap Pretzels, Goldenberg's Peanut Chews, True Moo chocolate milk (not pictured), Wegmans Applesauce packet (not pictured), Wegman's Fruit and Nut bar cashew cookie, Wegman's Mountain Trail Mix.
Shirt: cotton blend. Very comfy! I do like repping tech shirts when I'm at my trail to show off to my other trail buddies. But I do like a good cotton tee when I'm out and about as well!
Front of the shirt has the St Luke's and VIA sponsor logo's and Marathon
Back of the shirt:"Go the Distance to Support People of All Abilities". Distances listed.
Medal: Sponsors St Luke's and VIA logo Marathon, year and distance.
Beer: Yuengling Golden Pils. My finish time was just under 4:30. I hung out at the post race for about an hr, passed the beer truck again as we were leaving and they were closed. I feel bad that some runner's won't get their hard earned beer.
Social Media: bumped into at least three followers along the way or after! Very cool being able to support one another during training and to actually meet (albeit brief) in real life!
Tracking: the race does not have an app or provide real time tracking sms alerts to supporters. If you have support at the race, they have not way to estimate when you'll be crossing the next timing mat, be by an area, or finish.
Summary: would I do this race again? Probably. End of summer race, there may be a chance of summer weather, which can be tough. May rethink hydration strategy. Beautiful scenery. Was more trail than I anticipated, but won't complain about that since I do most of my long runs on trails. The one set back is the lack of crowd support and if you fall behind the crowd there are gaps towards the end it can get lonely.
Sites and Social:
for more pics, please check my blog review below. ;)