Remember when I was Ms. Crazy and decided to run three races just two weeks before my wedding day? That Runner’s World Hat Trick in Bethlehem, PA. Well guess what, not only did I run those three races but I finished all three under my goal times and had an absolute blast doing it. This is the first time I can honestly say that I enjoyed running hilly courses too!
Bethlehem, Pennsylvania and Runner’s World
Bethlehem, PA is a beautiful and historic city that just happens to be the home to the Runner’s World editorial offices. At one time, the city was the second-largest steel producer in the United States and now prominent fixtures in the city are the refurbished Steel Mill and Steel Stacks.
With Runner’s World wanting to host a race in its own backyard, they made an awesome decision by utilizing the huge blast furnaces located on the Bethlehem Steel campus along with the scenic campuses of nearby Lehigh University and Moravian College and downtown Bethlehem itself.
Runner’s World 5K
The 5k ran through the South Side of Bethlehem and passed by the Lehigh University Campus. One significant hill was close to the start of the race but afterwards it was all smooth sailing.
Brian and I started the race around the 9 min/mile pace marker and had a very congested start. For the first few minutes our pace lingered over a 10 min/mile pace but as soon as the course opened up a little, we were able to make up some time and finish strong.
As typical with 5K races, one water station and medical tent were set up and one cheer area along with one musical ensemble were along the route as well.
Official Time: 27:32; 8:49 min/mile
Runner’s World 10K
The 10K started in virtually the same location at the 5K and since I was already aware of the congested start, I opted for a spot closer to the front for this race. I wanted to be able to pace myself from the start and not have to worry about playing catch up to meet my goal of a 9 min/mile for my finish time.
Like the 5K, this race went through the South Side of Bethlehem and passed by Lehigh University Campus before passing over the Fahy Bridge into Old Town Bethlehem. Therefore, we battled the same hill as the 5K to start and then another on the far side of the bridge on our way through the original Moravian settlement. A third hill crept up on us before the mile 3 marker but after that it was downhill back across the bridge and to the finish line.
The finish under the flaming arch was flat and fast! My legs felt great when I was approaching the final mile so I pushed it out for another finish under goal time.
Two water stations were along the course along with music in two locations, two cheer squad areas and two medical tents.
Official Time: 52:45; 8:29 min/mile
Runner’s World Half Marathon
The half marathon started in a slightly different location than the 5K and 10K so you were able to cruise past mile one before hitting the same first hill as the previous two races. From there, the course followed the 10K course over the Fahy bridge and past Moravian College, through various neighborhoods, past local cemeteries and golf courses and through a scenic (hilly) Monocacy Park. The course was quite open and wide the entire way except for narrow paths along the Fahy Bridge and through a part of the park.
One look at the elevation profile for the course and you can see it wasn’t the easiest race but the beautiful scenery really helped to distract you from the changes in elevation.
The hill at mile 4.5 through Monocacy Park and the hill at mile 5.5 both were quite daunting but past mile 7 the mostly downhill course made up for them. Although, I will say that on the downhill and flat ground my quads were definitely feeling the work they that had put in on the hills – ouch!
Course support was awesome throughout the entire 13.1 miles. Eight total water stations, five medical tents, a variety of cheer areas and different musical ensembles were set up along the course with a Gu handout at mile nine. Spectators were very present and the vibe was really positive!
Official Time: 1:57:04; 8:55 min/mile
A huge convenience of the entire weekend was the opportunity to pre-purchase parking in key locations near the start and finish of all three races. Runner’s World did a great job of communicating to those entered in the races about available parking and Brian and I made sure to take advantage of the pre-purchase deal.
For $10 each day, we purchased parking in a lot about a block from the finish line of all three races and very close to the start of each as well. We had no issues entered or exiting the lots, every with race activities still taking place when we were leaving the area.
Other parking was available for $5.00 on the morning of the races (not to mention parking at the nearby Sands Casino) and besides some congestion waiting to cross over bridges in town, traffic was bearable for being in an old-time downtown area.
Overall I had a wonderful weekend running the Runner’s World Hat Trick. The courses were beautiful and well planned out and course support was plentiful. The employees of Runner’s World were so involved in the races, whether they were announcing at the start and finish lines or running along with us – you could tell that everyone was happy to be there and to be a part of the Runner’s World family. I absolutely loved the personal connection they were striving to make with their readers (well, runners that weekend!) and enjoyed that they were available and approachable even for conversations mid-races!
The only thing that may need to be addressed as this race grows is the start line. Even with the smaller size of the race this year, the start line was very congested and took a while to thin out. It was nothing that wasn’t able to be avoided with a start closer to the actual start line this year, but corrals may be the best bet for upcoming years if bigger crowds are expected.
Virtual race packets were emailed out a couple of days before the event so at packet pickup (read about the Expo here) each participant received their bib(s) and race t-shirt(s). The Hat Trick runners received both t-shirts and also a Runner’s World Hat Trick running hat.
Brian and I didn’t take advantage of everything that the Expo had to offer since we had other plans while in the area but it included plenty of seminars, autograph signings with Olympic runners, silent auctions, clinics, dinners and movies in addition to packet pick up and the usual vendor exhibition.
Awesome weekend. Awesome races. Awesome job Runner’s World!