The inaugural Runner’s World Half-Marathon & Festival, held last October in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, was a big success. More than 6,000 runners joined us from 44 states and 5 countries. They had perfect fall weather and got to run and mingle with the RW editors and Olympic medalist Shalane Flanagan. As great as last year’s event was, this year’s (October 18–20) will be even better, thanks to the following changes and improvements:
* Packet pickup and the expo will be held inside the ArtsQuest building. (Last year they were inside a tent. It got a little dark in there.)
* We have applied for Gold certification with the Council for Responsible Sport, which promotes environmental innovation in races and events. We earned Silver last year—the first half-marathon to earn that distinction in its first year. If we earn Gold this year, we’ll join an exclusive club of just six other running events to have ever earned gold certification.
* New finisher’s medals for all three distances. The half medal will still double as a bottle-opener but won’t require the ribbon to be removed first.
* Prerace dinners on Saturday will be provided by Rodale Catering, which specializes in organic, locally sourced food, in a space inside the ArtsQuest Visitor’s Center that is smaller and more intimate than last year’s space.
* We will award prize money to the top three finishers of each race, men and women. Winners of the half-marathon will receive $300. For other details, see rwhalf.com.
* Both the 5K and the half courses will be flatter and faster. Rather than climbing Webster Street toward the Lehigh University campus as in last year’s race, the 5K will cross the Fahy Bridge and wind through the historic neighborhoods on Bethlehem’s North Side. The half course has been changed slightly to avoid the hill on New Street at mile 10 of last year’s race.
* Based on the popularity of the Hat Trick, we added a Five & Dime event (runners do both the 5K and 10K; finishers get a pair of running gloves).
* We moved the Kids Races from Saturday to Friday evening, putting all the focus on the young runners and their events, all sponsored by Capital Blue. This year, there will also be a competitive mile for kids ages 12 and under. A concert by Kira Willey and Friends will follow the races.
* Technical Editor Martyn Shorten and Gear Editor Jeff Dengate will once again be administering gait profiles. But in our efforts to further bring the magazine to life, we added a Shoe Genius bar, where anyone can ask our experts any gear- or shoe-related question.
* Altra, our presenting sponsor, will have a much bigger booth on the first floor of ArtsQuest, where Runner’s World Half & Festival merchandise will be for sale.
* Another sponsor, Capital Blue Cross & Geneia, will offer free health screenings in their booth on the second floor of ArtsQuest.
* A new and improved running hat for all finishers of the Hat Trick!
* We added a Dog Run on Saturday at noon, sponsored by Eukanuba. A one-mile course, pooches and their owners must cross the finish together.
* To reduce the inconvenience for local residents who may have trouble getting to their churches on Sunday, we worked with local churches to set up an ecumenical service on Saturday afternoon at 4PMat the landmark Moravian Church that will be open to everyone.
* All 5-K and 10-K finishers will receive technical T-shirts (last year’s were cotton).
* There will be two starting-line villages for the half on Sunday, compared with one last year. This will be more convenient for runners and will open up more bathrooms.
* Summer Sanders is an Olympic gold medalist, a TV commentator, a mom, a wife, and a dedicated runner. She will join us to run the Hat Trick this year and take part in two seminars on Women’s Running on Saturday. Her husband Erik, a former Olympic skier, and children Skye and Spider will run the 5K together.
* Dave McGillivray is perhaps best known for serving as the race director of the Boston Marathon. But his personal story is much broader than one race. Dave has run in and organized many endurance events to benefit charities, helping to raise more than $100 million. He will be giving the keynote address this year, discussing his genesis as a runner and his involvement with the Boston Marathon, including the tragic bombings this past April. For more on Dave McGillivray:
* Bethlehem favorite Craig Thatcher will be playing the headliner concert after the half-marathon on Sunday. For those looking to celebrate, the Michelob Ultra Beer Garden will be open, too.
* We have cloned Bart Yasso, who now can be in multiple places at the same time.