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A Conversation With Mark Sullivan, Philadelphia Marathon LEGacy Runner and Course Expert

by Dawn Angelique Roberts,  USATF Certified Coach, Co-Founder of Elite Access Running @eliteaccessrun

Hey Philly Running Community, Happy Race Week!

I had the pleasure of discussing the Philadelphia Marathon and the course changes for both the Philadelphia Half Marathon and the Full Marathon with the Philadelphia Marathon course expert himself, Mark Sullivan, owner of

Sullivan has run every Philadelphia Marathon race, making him one of the two original Philadelphia Marathon LEGacy Runners. This year will mark Sullivan’s 23rd Philadelphia Marathon and his 172nd marathon.

“It’s always fun to come back to Philly. I look forward to it,” said Sullivan. “Philly has maintained a hometown feel, a personal touch, thanks to the commitment of local people that work and volunteer with the race, added Sullivan.

Speaking of course changes, Sullivan had the opportunity to run the half marathon course earlier this year and he ran the marathon course changes and he approves the changes. He goes on to share that the half marathon is faster than it looks on paper, so be ready to have good race. The full marathon has minor course changes.

Half Marathon

The major change this year is the Half Marathon is now on Saturday, in previous years it was on Sunday along with the Full Marathon.  This year it will be a clean course with no marathoners. The focus of the race organizers will be totally on the half marathoners, so you don’t have to compete for space.

In the early stages of the race, you will be running in the city for the first 3.5 miles and will have the opportunity to pass historic landmarks along the course. You will actually be running the same 1.5 miles as the marathoners on Sunday. The first part of the course is flat with fewer ups and downs than the previous course. And you get a nice taste of the downtown area.

For those of you concerned about hills, you have the same amount of hills as last year’s course, but the hills on this course are more challenging than the previous course.

Other points to mention about the new half marathon course include:                                   (See the course map below..)

  • Spectators and Fans will be out early to see the Half and 8K runners (Marathoners will be out to cheer you on as well)
  • Large open stretches on the course
  • You get a good perspective of how well you are doing during points of the course when you see how many runners that you are ahead of during two stretches on the course (Greenland Drive and Strawberry Mansion Drive)
  • Pretty Course (A good mix of the city and the park)

Once you finish mile 9, it’s flat and downhill, allowing for faster times. “It’s a net gain with more downhill at the end of the race,” said Sullivan. Of course if you are familiar with the Art Museum area, you know that there is a slight incline as you come around to the finish. This is the time to push to the top and then you are done.



 Again the marathon changes are very minor. The changes at a glance are:                           (See the course map below..)

  • The 15 – 20K is a little different (Landsdowne to the Avenue of the Republic) ~ The area in front of the Please Touch Museum will be stretched out for a loop and doing this eliminates the little hill at mile 18.
  • No running across the Falls Bridge (You will make up the difference in advance – Please Touch Museum area)
  • After mile 11, the second half has no more major hills
  • The biggest spike in the second half is a short incline at mile 15
  • The finish is different. It’s moved near to where the former 26 mile mark was, so it will seem like less distance to run.


Spectators and Fans

This course is family friendly. Sullivan’s advice includes:

  • Instead of your family being with you at the start of the race, they should go to Logan Circle (Longer view of the runners around the circle)
  • Parkway to Arch Street
  • The Parkway is the best area for people that want to be at the finish as well
  • 16th & Arch – A good place to see the runners twice
  • There will be bleachers at the Finish this year and it’s open to the public

Special note for Half and Full Marathoners: At the start of the race, please throw your clothes to the left, so that it will be away from the course, making it easier for the volunteers to clear the course.

Would you like to hear more about the course, hear tips on running the course? Do you have questions? Is this your first marathon? Join Sullivan this Friday and Saturday at the Pennsylvania Convention Center and hear for yourself.

Sullivan will present a half marathon and marathon course overview seminar this Friday, November 18, 5 – 5:45 p.m. and a marathon course overview on Saturday, November 19, 3:15 – 4:00 p.m. at the 2016 Philadelphia Marathon Health & Fitness Expo. This is a popular session and a must attend session, so please arrive early for the best seating.


Mark Sullivan presenting the Marathon Course Overview to a standing room only crowd of Marathoners.


Mark Sullivan presenting the Marathon Course Overview to new and experienced Marathoners.


Mark Sullivan and I last year at the Philadelphia Marathon Reception for Runners and Special Guests

In addition to Sullivan speaking about the course, I will be there with our other speakers and presenters from 2 – 6:45 p.m. on Friday and 11:15 a.m. – 5 p.m. on Saturday.

For more information about our other speakers click here. 

The Philadelphia Marathon weekend, organized by the Office of the City Representative and Philadelphia Parks and Recreation, welcomes nearly 30,000 runners, 60,000 spectators, and 3,000 volunteers each year. Race Weekend 2016 features the Philadelphia Marathon on Sunday, November 20; the Half Marathon, Rothman Institute 8K and Kids Fun Run on Saturday, November 19; and a free two-day Health & Fitness Expo on Friday, November 18 and Saturday, November 19. Race participants pass many of Philadelphia’s famous attractions on the swift and scenic USATF-certified course, which is a Boston qualifier.

Dawn Angelique Roberts is a USATF Certified Running Coach training athletes in Philadelphia and around the country.  Dawn is co-founder of Elite Access Running, LLC, a full service running company that specializes in coaching services, pace team coordination, race management, public relations, social media and runcations for athletes and organizations. Dawn serves as volunteer endurance coach for the American Cancer Society, DetermiNation program in Philadelphia.


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