Thursday, September 21, 2017

Race Recap & Review: 2017 Harrisburg Half Marathon

Two weeks ago, on an almost perfect Sunday morning, Matthew and I ran the 2017 Harrisburg Half Marathon.

We're always smiling at the end of a race.

Since first running this race three years ago, a new course route was adopted and I loved about 85% of it. What didn't change was the easy packet pick-up, the small, not-at-all crowded field, and the awesome food/swag at the end of the race. 

On race morning, Matthew and I arrived on City Island around 6:45 am. With an 8 am start time, we wanted to make sure we got a good parking spot and were able to get our bibs without feeling rushed. Packet pick-up was a breeze and we got a primo spot in the lot- mission one accomplished. 

After hanging out in the car keeping warm for a bit (it was a little breezy and cool), we walked to the start at 7:45 am. Because this is a small field (less than 800 runners), there weren't any corrals- we just lined up towards the back. There were pacers available for several finish times up until 2:30.

View from the back of the pack.

Before the race, I had connected with Matt (on instagram as @tallguyruns) as he was training for the Harrisburg Half as his first-ever half marathon. Because this is such a small race- and because Matt is like seven feet tall- I spotted him waiting for the start and we were able to wish each other luck before the race. 

Matthew and I decided to run this race separately so we could use the results as proof of time for our upcoming races in Walt Disney World. My race strategy was pretty simple- finish under 2:40. As pneumonia had kicked my ass all summer, my thoughts/plans for a sub-2:30 went out the window months ago. I hoped to keep my pace hovering between 11:30-12:00 minute miles and finish feeling strong and under 2:40. 

With the new course, we started out on the market street bridge and actually ran on the other side of the Susquehanna River for about a mile. Coming back across another bridge (no clue of the name) into downtown, we had a stunning view of the Harrisburg skyline for at least another mile. It was one of my favorite parts of the race. 

The course took us along Front Street and into the Greenbelt- a trail that runs through part of the city. I was thankful for the shade- as the morning went on it started to heat up quite a bit. Just before we entered the trail, I got to see my friend Scott handing out beer at mile 4. Of course I stopped and had some. 😄

Friends with beer are the best.

This was a nice change of pace from the city streets.

After the greenbelt, we headed back downtown along the river to my least favorite part of the course. Basically, this was an out and back that felt like it went on forever. I hate courses like this because they really mess with your head. You watch all the runners going in the opposite direction for miles knowing that you have to eventually reach the turn-around point and then come alllllll the way back. 

My lack of training also showed up around this point in the race- my legs and hips were just screaming at me to stop. That's what a summer of barely-running and battling lung issues will get you. 

But there was one cool aspect of this part of the race- I got to see Matthew flying down the road! He was in between the 2:10 and 2:20 pacer and I knew he was going to be close to reaching his goal of 2:15 (he finished in 2:17). 

Heading towards the long stretch of the out and back section of the course.

Hi, Matthew!

Eventually, I made it to the turn-around and finished those last few miles along the river. Scott showed up again around mile 12 with more beer. Obviously I drank some more. 😄

Is there really anything better than mile 12 beer?

With my sore legs and aching hips, I was ready to be done with this race. I had been watching my time and knew that I would be able to finish well under 2:40 as long as I didn't give up and kept pushing.

Another back of the pack benefit? No crowded race pictures! Photo: Penn Images

I rounded the last corner and headed onto the Walnut Street Bridge back to City Island and the to the finish- my official time was 2:35:53 with an overall pace of 11:54/mile. 

Last bridge!

Beer me.

Directly after getting my medal, I was able to stop at a computer/printing station and get a little print-out of my results from the timing company- that was pretty cool. After catching my breath and finding Matthew in the crowd, we headed back to the pavilion (where we'd picked up our packets) for a full-spread of Panera sandwiches, cookies, and other snacks. We also bumped into my blogger friend Lindsay who I've known for about four years but never officially met in real life which was pretty neat. 


Check out that bling. And those shoes! 😍

After hanging around for a bit, Matthew and I left the race for a visit to Troegs Brewery for a celebratory beer and ridiculously large soft pretzel.

A post shared by Sarah (@sparklyrunner) on

All in all, this was a really well-organized, fun race. I love the small field, the ease of parking and packet pick-up, and the relatively flat course. While the out and back section isn't my favorite, it was still pretty cool to see the runners in front of you. And of course, when you've got friends on the course with beer, that makes it a good race all around. 😉

This is a great, small, simple half marathon so if you ever find yourself in south central PA in September, you should definitely check this one out.

Do you have a favorite local race? What do you love about it?


  1. This looks like a fun race! I love the feel of local races, definitely different than large city or Disney races. My favorite local race is the Flower City Half Marathon in Rochester, NY!

    1. oooh that sounds like a fun one! I'll keep it in mind if we ever make it to Rochester!

  2. This is my hometown! well, Hershey is. I've never ran the Harrisburg Half - but would love to someday! Nice food spread for post race! I ran the Hershey Half in 2015 & did Troegs for post-celeb as well =) Great job!! PS: I love being the back of the pack runner for non crowded photos too =)

    1. Right??!?! I love how it looks like I'm the only one in the race :-) Harrisburg Half is really a great race- you should absolutely check it out one day!

  3. So much fun meeting you finally!!!

  4. I love races so much. So good to see that you are doing this activity. I love the medal you got. Great job and good luck.