Since I ran this, the course has been changed a bit. You can view the official course here.
I suppose this could be a continuation of my post back in March, Mt. Nittany Marathon Course – first half. As a reminder, this coming September, State College is going to have its very own full marathon. The Mt. Nittany Marathon will be a scenic 26.2 mile certified course winding around the area of its namesake – Mt. Nittany. Utilizing local bike paths and roadways, the inaugural marathon will be on Sunday, September 1 of Labor Day weekend. Historical average temperatures range from a low of 50 degrees to a high of 77 degrees Fahrenheit it will start at 8 AM and has a 7 hour course limit. Based on current qualifying dates, the Mt. Nittany Marathon will also serve as a last-chance qualifier for the 2014 Boston Marathon.
I decided to run a good portion of the second half yesterday. I cut off the first three miles that lead out of Boalsburg since I am really familiar with them from riding my bike and running that section for other long runs. I know the rolling hills along Atherton well and can imagine what they would feel like as miles 14 and 15. I decided to start after the course crosses Atherton St. and heads up University Dr. extended, just before mile 16.
I was concerned that, like much of the first half of the course, I would be running with traffic. Although I have lived in State College for over 25 years and biked much of it, I haven’t run out in this area of town at all. Jim dropped me on University Dr. extended and I started running against traffic. I noticed a paved walkway that was along the other side near Foxdale Village and remembered that it lead the whole way to State College Friends School. Not knowing that it continued well beyond that, I decided to stay on my side of the road until my turn onto to the unsigned Waupelani Dr.
I did say unsigned. My gut instinct had me turn right just after the YMCA and I figured if I had turned too early I would adjust down the block where I could see street signs. Being uncertain really slowed my pace and I felt like I was tippy-toeing along afraid to commit to my direction and I felt like this maybe 40% of my whole run. I guessed correctly and hung a left onto Stratford Dr. to navigate a few blocks through a residential area.
This lead me to a bike trail I had been on once when I had to bring some teaching notes to Arron and Amy at the ballet school. It snakes through a nice residential area and my 3rd and 4th miles were spent day dreaming about planting a series of 26.2 letterboxes on the route. When the bike trail dumped me out onto Research Dr. there was a series of signs warning that the pedestrian walkway was closed ahead. This slowed my pace again as I tentatively chose to stay on route and turn right onto Enterprise Dr. I have no idea what construction the signs made reference to and made it to Bristol Ave. just fine.
The intersection of Bristol and College Aves. had been a concern of mine but traffic was next to non-existent even close to 8AM on Sunday morning. I mashed the pedestrian cross walk button but was able to get across very safely even before it changed. My next turn was to be a right onto Saratoga Dr. and Jim was to meet me where it was a dead-end onto some unknown strip of walkway.
Sadly, I misread my tiny little map and was looking for something I swore said Stargate Dr. I made a turn and looped back a block adding yet another .2 of uncertain padding along to what was certainly going to be more than 10 slow miles. I kept looking for Jim, who I hoped had figured out that Saratoga and Stargate must be one and the same. He met me close to where I had expected to see him but the road never ended in a cul-de-sac as my 2007 Purple Lizard map showed.
I took a good swig of Nuun that Jim offered and we chatted about how we needed an up to date map. Jim showed me that Saratoga now met up with Auburn(sic). “Autumnwood,” I corrected him as I peered at my tiny map. Autumnwood Dr. it was and I was thrilled for a bit of a downhill to celebrate what would be mile 20 on the marathon course. Weeeeeeeee!
I sped downhill after I told Jim I would meet him on Park Ave. I buzzed right by where I was supposed to turn! I never saw any signs for Pine Cliff Rd nor the road preceding it and almost immediately I found myself again referencing my map. I rarely wear my glasses on any run but it was a must today. They were very uncomfortable the last half of my run but I was glad to find a way to loop around and get myself onto Science Park Rd as I should be.
The mile of Science Park Rd allowed me to get into a little groove as it traversed a few rolling hills. I never put my map away and glanced to see what roads I would pass before turning onto a long section of bike path that I was pretty ignorant of. As I got closer, I found myself again slowing with my uncertainty. I had made enough wrong turns that I didn’t want to miss it and was happy to see a walker on the path in the distance.
The section of what I think is referred to as the Circleville Bike Path to campus was very nice. I had geocached on sections of it at different times but it was quite a while ago. I was unfamiliar with where the one access point was after crossing under Blue Course Dr. and found myself running up Teaberry Ln. I remembered how we had accessed the path when geocaching and ran along a little wood chip path that had a short ridiculous downhill before popping out onto the paved bike path again. That made my third time of being clearly off route.
I picked up speed on the nice paved path but ended up putting on the brakes when it came to a T-intersection. I was to come out onto W. Park Ave and expected to see the golf course. The trees and hedges were dense enough that I had to pull look at my map yet again to verify that I took the left. I then did remember having run that section of trail years ago as part of the local Arts Festival 10k. The trees opened up and there was Jim waiting for me with another serving of Nuun.
I was happy to know the rest of the route without checking my map. There had been construction even on the bike trails so I wasn’t surprised to see the area in front of the Nittany Lions Shrine fenced off and a big back hoe almost fully occluding my view of the limestone mascot. Traffic was still amazingly absent and I took the liberty of running the tangents on Curtin Rd. past the library and Visual Arts building. I was tired of having made so many mistakes and dug in as I crossed Shortlidge. My last deviation from the marathon course was by choice and turned up Bigler to meet Jim rather than continue to the IM Building.
The second half of the Mt. Nittany Marathon course is much more residential and the last couple of miles on Penn State campus. Unlike the narrow shouldered road sections first half of the marathon, the second half will offer many pedestrian walkways and paths. Some of those walkways are concrete, some of them are macadam. I tried to imagine the course in the late summer and I think it will be quite pretty even being a less rural setting than the first half. Some sections will probably be quite warm because many of the trees are young and will not provide much shade and the Science Park Rd. mile(s) is a broad open multi-lane road.
I was glad to have only planned the last 10 to explore because it required my full attention. My pace was painfully slow and I added almost a mile of extra puttering around. Now that I am more familiar, I think I want to try it again and start at the half-marathon point.