The Steamtown Marathon is a USATF-certified (PA12034WB) event and is an official Boston Marathon qualifier. The course features a net elevation drop of 955'.
The point-to-point course runs through 14 communities and includes 2.2 miles of dirt rails-to-trails along the Lackawanna River. There are 13 aid stations on the course.
In a 2009 Runner’s World online survey completed by thousands of runners, Steamtown was named the 6th best overall marathon.
In its January, 2011 issue, Runner’s World named Steamtown one of the nation’s 10 best for first time marathoners.
Steamtown has been consistently ranked as one of the nation’s fastest marathon courses by several running magazines and Web sites. From 2003 to 2010, approximately 27% of all Steamtown finishers posted qualifying times for the Boston Marathon. Steamtown consistently places in the top 10 in the nation for its annual percentage of Boston qualifiers. 
Although Steamtown’s course may be fast, it is not necessarily easy.  The significant downhills in the first eight miles tend to beat up your quads making it a challenge to tackle the uphills at miles 23.07, 23.83 and 25.50. The uphills aren’t terribly long (one to three blocks each) or terribly steep, but their locations in the last few miles can take their toll on even the most experienced runners.
Course Route and Photos
The map was created at www.gmap-pedometer.com/. Please note that while the course is accurate, some of the mile marks and the overall distance are off by a hair due to the difficulty in cutting the tangents exactly right using an online mapping program.
The race starts with a cannon blast at 8:00 a.m. at Forest City High School (100 Susquehanna Street, Forest City, PA 18421) and finishes at Courthouse Square in Downtown Scranton (209 N. Washington Avenue, Scranton, PA, 18503).  
Here are the turn by turn directions: 
  • 0.0 miles – Forest City High School (Boom! A Civil War re-enactment group fires a very loud cannon to get you started)
  • 0.5 miles – Right turn onto Dundaff Street (this is the really steep two-block downhill you may have heard about) 
  • 0.7 miles – Right turn onto Main St. (Rt. 171). The residents of Forest City line several blocks of Main St. and cheer you on! Lots of downhill once you leave town – beautiful fall foliage too!
  • 0.7 miles to 6.9 miles - Although this long stretch of the course is a bit rolling and even has a few uphills, it's also the section where you'll experience much of the overall elevation drop.  Scenery changes here from "Main Street USA" to rural highway back to Main Street again.
  • 6.9 miles - Main St. (Rt. 171) becomes Belmont Street
  • 7.3 miles – Right turn onto Canaan St. 
  • 7.35 miles – Right turn onto N. Main St. (Welcome to Downtown Carbondale and its large enthusiastic crowd!)  
  • 7.7 miles – N. Main St. becomes S. Main St. (Aren’t you thrilled to know that?)
  • 7.8 miles – Bear to right onto Pike St. (See ya Downtown Carbondale!) 
  • 8.3 miles – Pike Street becomes Gordon Avenue
  • 9.6 miles – Right turn onto Erie St.
  • 9.62 miles – Left turn onto Lackawanna Ave.
  • 10.85 miles – Right turn onto Poplar St. 10.95 miles – Left turn onto Main St. (Welcome to Downtown Mayfield Borough) 
  • 12.1 miles – Bear left onto Washington Avenue (Welcome to Jermyn Borough, home of The Windsor Inn, maker of the world’s second greatest hot wings!) 
  • 14.27 miles – Turn left from Main St. onto Monroe St. (Gas station/mini-mart on left)
  • 14.38 miles – Turn right onto S. Laurel St. (You’re now in a traditional Archbald Borough neighborhood)
  • 14.79 miles – Laurel St. becomes first segment of Rails to Trails. Sorry, you can’t drive this part of the course, but you’ll love running it. An absolutely beautiful, tree lined dirt trail (hard compacted dirt, perfect for running). Fantastic fall foliage and the Lackawanna River just a few feet to your right! 
  • 15.35 miles – Dirt trail becomes River St. (paved road). Road winds for a few blocks past a few small houses.  
  • 15.64 miles – After crossing Lackawanna River over small bridge, make an immediate left back onto Rails to Trails (hard dirt surface again – river now on your left). 
  • 16.63 miles – Cross Bridge St. (paved street, Cousin’s Market ½ block to your left) then continue straight onto trail. A nice crowd is expected to gather here.
  • 16.84 miles – You’re still on the trail here and you’ll see the back of Santarelli Oil on your right. 
  • 17.10 miles – Trail ends, turn right on Depot St.
  • 17.13 miles – Turn quick left onto River St. 
  • 17.35 miles – Turn right onto Keystone Ave.
  • 17.49 miles – Turn left onto Main St.
  • 17.69 miles – Turn left onto Riverside Drive 
  • 17.95 miles – Turn left into Blakely Borough Park at main gate, bear left inside park on paved pathway, do loop around soccer field, pass bandstand on left, bear left at fork and continue alongside chain link fence, curve clockwise around the basketball courts, then head back and exit park back through main gate (yes, you’ll have a chance to see the runners that are trailing you here!) 
  • 18.51 miles – Exit park and turn left over wooden foot bridge – cross Lackawanna River into Condella Park, Olyphant Borough. 
  • 18.59 miles – Turn right onto wood chip trail in Condella Park. 
  • 18.97 miles – Bear left on side trail and run towards Condella Park exit.
  • 19.03 miles – Exit park, running a short distance on Susquehanna Ave.
  • 19.05 miles - Turn left onto Dolph St.
  • 19.13 miles – Turn right from Dolph St. onto James Ave.
  • 19.25 miles – Turn left onto Jackson St, then make an immediate right onto N. Valley Ave.
  • 19.73 miles – Turn right at "train station" bandstand onto W. Lackawanna Ave. (Welcome to Downtown Olyphant and its cheering fans!) 
  • 20.08 miles – Turn left onto Main Ave. at the ship’s anchor (yes, there’s really a ship’s anchor at the intersection). Keep a sharp eye for vehicular traffic while on Main Ave. 
  • 20.83 miles – Turn left onto Eagle Lane and enter the Dickson City Industrial Park.
  • 21.06 miles – After crossing railroad tracks, turn right on industrial park road
  • 21.47 miles – Exit industrial park and turn left onto Boulevard Ave. (road meanders through Dickson City and Throop boroughs)
  • 22.52 miles – Stay on Boulevard Ave (that’s Lackawanna County’s exciting recycling center on your right…oh boy!)
  • 23.07 miles – You’re now crossing Parker St. on Boulevard Avenue (Yikes! A nasty little uphill starts here, but don’t worry, it’s only about one block long).
  • 23.29 miles – Bear right at the Convenient Store and stay on Boulevard Ave. 
  • 23.77 miles – At the T- intersection at the funeral home (how appropriate), turn left from Boulevard Ave. onto Electric St.
  • 23.82 miles – The dreaded Electric Street hill begins! 
  • 23.90 miles – After just a few blocks, the Electric St. hill ends! At base of traffic island, bear right then left and run two blocks on a slight uphill on Sunset St. The crazy neighbors from Green Ridge love to cheer the runners on here!
  • 24.12 miles – Turn right onto Wyoming Ave. and run one block. 24.21 miles - turn right onto Delaware St., run two blocks, and make a left onto Capouse Ave.
  • 24.44 miles – Cross Green Ridge St. on Capouse Ave. (Enjoy the little downhill!)
  • 24.59 miles – Follow Capouse Ave. through the little "S" curve at the Marion St intersection.
  • 24.94 miles – Turn left from Capouse Ave. onto Walnut St.
  • 25.09 miles – Cross Wyoming Ave. on Walnut St.
  • 25.30 miles – Turn right onto N. Washington Ave. (can you see Downtown Scranton in the distance?)
  • 25.50 miles – Arrgh! Who put that two-block uphill here by Coopers Restaurant and why is Cooper’s shaped like a boat?
  • 25.90 miles – And down the stretch they come!
  • 26.20 miles – The finish is at N. Washington Ave., about 250 ft past Linden St. It’s a downhill FINISH! Relax with a snack on Courthouse Square and cheer the other runners home!
 
     

        

         

          

            
 
            

The Hills
Words of Wisdom About the Hills of Steamtown
* A few years ago I was visiting my daughter in New Jersey and went for a jog and met this fellow and he asked if he could jog with me just for company. As we talked and I told him where I was from he said that he was thinking about coming to the Steamtown Marathon with four of his friends. Well he did, and he made sure to look for me after the race and he said he would never return because he thought it was a downhill race and he got fooled. I know from my own experience that I struggle the last 10K and I know about all the hills.
Tony Cerminaro, Jermyn, PA (veteran of 15 Steamtowns)
* The Steamtown course, while billed as a downhill course, has some uphill sections. Not quite a mile into the course you have a right turn with the big drop followed by another right at the bottom of the hill. At this point everyone is still bunched up and full of adrenaline, which can make the bottom turn a little dicey. As you enter Vandling at about the 1½ mile mark you will actually have an elevation rise. This seems to catch a lot of runners off guard. This leads to the 4 mile stretch of downhill where you feel you can run forever. Unfortunately you can’t and when you cross the bridge in Simpson the course flattens out and you will start to feel it if you’ve taken the hill too fast. At this point the course will seem flat as you basically follow the Lackawanna River to Scranton. There will be some slight elevation gain, but for the most part you are going downhill, even though it may not seem like it.
The one part that always gets me is just before the second segment of the rails to trails. After you cross the bridge you have a short but nasty rise into the trail. Once you cross under I-81 into Scranton, look for Mike’s Scrap Yard on your right. This begins the last section of downhill to run. It ends at the stop sign where you encounter about 1,000 feet long section of uphill. This is where a lot of people run into difficulties. The grade of the hill will lessen as you go up. Not quit a mile later you run into another hill. There is a lot of crowd support, but this can be really challenging. After you make the turn you have a little drop that can really tweak your quads. You have a little over a mile reprieve before you get to Cooper’s Hill. While not as long as the other hills, it seems to take forever to get to the top. Fortunately at the top you can see the finish, and it is much smoother sailing.
Frank Rainey, Scranton, PA (veteran of 11 Steamtowns)
* I go out easy, and since there are quite a few downhills in the first half, self discipline is important.   I do not try to put “time in the bank”. I find a comfortable pace and do as little work as possible. I do not start passing a ton of people as they will pass me back on the hills at the end.
My work begins at the halfway point.   Now that I am suitably warmed up, I will run a half marathon with a few hills at the end.
The trails are a significant break for my legs, which are fairly fresh because I have not pounded the $#*? out of them on the downhills. I take the opportunity to stretch a little and maybe pee, in anticipation of the hills at the end.
The real work begins at Mile 19. The scenery is a little less glorious and I am usually sweating. There are no more gliding downhills; there are a few steep hills especially at the end.
Miles 23, 24, 25 and 26 hurt. Not only am I tired, but there are hills.   Short strides, passing walkers (who had passed me at mile 6) and pumping my arms keep me going. I know when I hit the 26 mile marker the climbing has finished. I can begin my descent to the finish line. I am still passing the folks who passed me at mile 8, because they didn’t save anything for the hills at the end.
Ronnie B., Norwalk, CT (veteran of 9 Steamtowns)
* First of all there is far more downhill than uphill. I can attest after running Steamtown several times you definitely need to understand how hills play into running a marathon.

Steamtown is unique due to the fact that the course has a net elevation drop of 955' feet. I have seen and have experienced first-hand what running these hills means to a runner. I have personally run way too fast for half of the marathon and hit the wall around the 16 mile mark, due to the fact that my quads were toast. Someone said 45 minutes of downhills is enough to cripple a person. I believe it. Lots of factors go into training for running down hills versus running a fast flat course such as Chicago. If you train right and don't get sucked into how it good it feels going through the first 13 miles (fast and easy) of the race, then you will do fine, maybe even set a personal best for a marathon.

My suggestion is train for the hills. Go on and run down hills as fast as you possibly can to understand and know what it feels like to run too fast down hills. If you live at the beach then find a bridge and work at it. Remember on race morning that you need to maintain your pace. DO NOT RUN TOO FAST THE FIRST HALF. Enjoy the scenic views, fall foliage and spectators. Before you know it you will be hitting the last three miles of the race, which have two little hills, which is a welcome (somewhat) to the body to change up the muscles being used.


Nathan N. Nudelman, Coach, USNA Marathon Team
* Well. Here is my take on the HILLS of the Steamtown Marathon.  First, I don't claim to be an expert on running. I have run Steamtown three times and as of yet have not been able to hold myself back. Do as I say not as I do. The first half of the marathon is mostly downhill. You look at the elevation chart and say, "Wow this is going to be easy." Wrong. Running downhill beats up your quads and yes, you think you are going easy. Then you get a split and its 30 seconds faster than it should be. You will pay. The downhill at the start would make a great ski jump but for us runners, we have to turn 90 degrees to the right. There are other downhills in the first half that you will think are gentle but truth be told they are steeper than you think.
 OK. You have made it through the first half and onto the trails.  The trails offer a little soft footing as compared to the roads. Your per mile pace is off by 20 seconds.  No big deal.
 Now comes the fun part, the real hills of Steamtown - the last 6.2 miles with hills the size of Mount Washington. Not really, but that is what they will feel like. If you were running just the last 6 or so miles these hills would be no big deal.  However, seeing that you just ran 20 or more miles, each of the hills feels like Mount Washington and the downhills really hurt. Fear not, because there is a block party going on to watch all of us crazy marathoners suffer up the steepest and longest hill. With about .7 miles left you guessed it. You get to run up another hill.
 You cross the finish line.  And now the “fun” starts - if you use stairs. It will take about 5 days before you can navigate stairs normally.
 A couple of last thoughts.  Don't believe any elevation chart. At least drive the course. Stop the car and walk a little, just to get a feel for what you will be running.  I hope this helps. Steamtown is a great marathon.
Douglas L., Sherman, CT
* I didn't do enough downhill training on this course and it destroyed me. I knew I was in trouble when I easily ran the fastest first half that I've ever run by 3 minutes. By 17 my quads were getting sore, and by 22 I was in pure misery. At mile 22 I was at 3:00 flat, which was still way ahead of my PR, and I really thought I could wrench out the last 4 miles in 40 minutes for a BQ, but boy was I wrong. My quads were in such bad shape that those last 4 miles took me 54 minutes and I didn't even finish with a PR. I completely screwed myself. I should have worked serious downhill repeats into my long runs. But, all of that is totally my fault and a ton of people walked away with PRs and BQs that day. Just prepare!
A.B., New York, NY
* When they tell you not to go out too fast, LISTEN TO THEM. It's easy to get carried away on the downhills and then pay for it in the second half. If you run it smart, it's a good course.
S.D., Boston MA
* I have never felt so much pain after a marathon! While this race is a great qualifier for Boston, beware, the downhills are killer! But I would recommend this race to everyone who loves marathon running and the crowd - and the hometown feel was unparalleled!!!
P.O., Alexandria, VA
* The first half is mostly downhill, so you need to make sure you don't go out too fast because you will pay later on when you find the uphills in the last 3 miles. I ran at an even pace throughout, and my quads were still aching. I would recommend this race to anyone looking to qualify for Boston, because it is FAST!!
S.T., Commack, NY
* Be prepared to be sore because of the downhills, though, especially if you don't live somewhere with downhills to train on. I have run a number of distance races, and the only other times I have been so sore is after running a 100-mile ultra in Colorado and a 56-mile downhill road race in South Africa. Totally worth it though.
M.D., MA
* Quads were heavy and screaming by mile 21. The last ascents at mile 24 and again at 25 were definite gut-checks. At mile 26, though, you are at the top of a hill looking down at the finish and a huge cheering crowd.
G.S. Hermitage, PA
* The course was great. At times I thought I needed to be running slower, but with the elevation drop I didn't have to. I was warned about downhills and uphills at the end. It was very manageable! I PRed by 12 minutes and qualified with 6 minutes in the bank. I'd do this race again and again.
L.W., Raleigh, NC
 

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