Course Map: The Nittany Valley Marathon (1972-84)
- Written by Martin Mazur Martin Mazur
Many of you remember the Mount Nittany Marathon, which was run in our area from 2013 to 2015. The Mount Nittany Conservancy put on the race, and the Nittany Valley Running Club provided advice and support. Marathons are hard to put on (and expensive) because of the logistics of setting up a course, providing directions, and adequate water stops, especially if the race is run in the summer as the Mt. Nittany was. Those were among the reasons that the race was only put on for 3 years.
What you may not know is that a long time ago, the area regularly held another marathon, the Nittany Valley Marathon. That race was run from about 1972 through 1984. The Nittany Valley Marathon was put on by the Nittany Valley Track Club, which is what the NVRC was called back then. The last running of the marathon in 1984 corresponded with the first running of the Nittany Valley Half-Marathon, which is still with us (and is one of the Club’s most successful races).
The Nittany Valley Marathon was, in many ways, the “polar opposite” of the Mt Nittany Marathon. While the Mt Nittany was run in the hot days of Labor Day weekend, the Nittany Valley Marathon was run in the winter. It started out in February and later migrated to December, which is when the NVHM has been pretty much ever since. While the Mt Nittany Marathon was run largely in the countryside on the east side of town (under the gaze of Mt Nittany itself), the Nittany Valley Marathon was run in the countryside on the west side, largely near the Scotia Game Lands and Barrens. The first runnings of the Nittany Valley Half-Marathon were thus on the west side of town. (The course for the Half was moved to the east side of town in something like its current form in 1987.)
Occasionally, people ask about the old course. What was it like? How tough was it? The race’s last running was before I moved to State College, and before many of our local marathoners even entered the game, so it was hard to find someone who has run it and remembers it in detail. But, because of these inquiries, we were able to get a description of the old course from Dave Felice. Dave is currently the boys' distance running coach at State High. He is himself an accomplished runner (he was the State Champ in the mile back when he went to State High in the mid-70s). And for someone who is the same age as I am, he’s got a pretty good memory! Here is the course, per Dave’s recollection:
Since getting Dave's course description, we've received other recollections of that race. Despite the time of year that the race was run, with its potential for cold, windy weather, people have fond memories of the race. Fond enough to cherish their beat up old race T-shirt.
Note that the distance as given on MapMyRun is a tad long. It may be because I didn’t quite get all the twists and turns right, or it may be that Coach Harry Groves (who put on the race with the NVTC) didn’t wheel measure it. The course is largely on roads that are favored by local bicyclers: Whitehall, Tadpole, Marengo, and Gatesburg should all ring a bell to bikers. It is relatively lightly trafficked, and there are not too many hills, though it’s certainly not hill-free! The next time you need a long training run, consider taking on part of the old course of the Nittany Valley Marathon.
Michael Goldfine's very well-worn race T-shirt from the 1978 Nittany Valley Marathon.