The Via Marathon — billed as one of the fastest races in the country — is altering its course for 2019 with the addition of St. Luke’s University Health Network as its new sponsor.
Scheduled for Sunday, Sept. 8, the marathon, half marathon and relay marathon will all begin at 7:10 a.m. at the St. Luke’s Allentown campus with the marathon and relay wrapping up in Easton and the half marathon finishing in Bethlehem. When the race was sponsored by Lehigh Valley Health Network, it began on its Salisbury Township campus.
“We see this as an incredible opportunity to serve our community in more than one way," said William Moyer, president of St. Luke’s west region and the Allentown campus. "By supporting the marathon, we not only promote health and fitness but also benefit Via’s wonderful work on behalf of children and adults with disabilities.”
Now in its 13th year, the Via Marathon is popular with runners looking to qualify for the storied Boston Marathon because it is flat, shaded and boasts an average race time of 3:59:48. The marathon is considered the sixth-best Boston qualifier in the country and is held right before Boston registration opens.
The 2019 Via race introduces a new starting line in Allentown and a new course design over the first three miles. Much of the race is run on the D&L towpath.
Via promises to offer an expanded pre-race expo and activities on Saturday and offer workshops for runners throughout the year.
The race is Via’s largest annual fundraiser.
“Via is thrilled to extend our collaboration with St. Luke’s University Health Network to include this event,” said Jessica Moyer, vice chair of Via’s board of directors. “Their unwavering commitment to excellence mirrors Via’s determination to provide the best services available to people with disabilities in the Lehigh Valley. We look forward to working together on this event to make our community stronger and healthier, while simultaneously raising funds for Via’s vital services.”
The race experienced controversy in 2016 when a train crossed the course path around mile eight, delaying runners chasing a BQ for several minutes.
Qualifying for Boston is the holy grail among many long-distance runners. And it seems some of the 2016 marathon runners weren’t willing to let that dream go. They began trying to jump over the train between cars, several race participants reported. No one was hurt.
To get into the Boston Marathon, participants must run a qualifying time based on their gender and age in another marathon on a certain type of course. But in recent years, just hitting the target hasn’t been enough. The race has been so popular runners have had to best their qualifying times by a changing target.
Via brought on a new race director in 2018, Andy Deschenes of DMSE Sports, which has produced more than 1,000 events nationwide since 1981, including Boston.
“When DMSE contracted with Via for their 2018 race, we were blown away by how the community embraced this event, and we were inspired by its potential,” said Deschenes. “We’re excited to continue to work on this race’s growth and evolution with St. Luke’s as the title sponsor.”