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

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 th…

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


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.

My Chicago Marathon!

Hey Family and Friends!

I completed my 3rd marathon, the Bank of America Chicago Marathon last Sunday, October 9, 2016 and set a personal record of 4 hours and 20 minutes. My goal was to beat my first marathon time of 4 hours and 26 minutes (My previous PR was from the Philadelphia Marathon in 2012.) Whoo Hoo!! Goal accomplished!!


Post race Photo! ~ I was so happy to finish with my new PR!!

In addition to accomplishing my time goal, I’m pleased to share that I had a GREAT race.

Thank God my marathon experience was much better this year in Chicago, than Philly (2012) and New York (2015). ~ I did much better with my training and fueling which makes a big difference in a marathon. My last two marathons I had to walk a few times to complete 26.2, this time around, I completed the marathon with no walking.

*I must say that Chicago wasn’t on my radar, but my pace/business partner, Kendra Todd Dixon, Elite Access Running, LLC signed up for the Chicago Marathon lottery and I decided to follow her lead. I’m glad that I did!! 🙂

Me and Kendra 1.jpg

Kendra and Dawn, Marathoners and owners of Elite Access Running, LLC.

My question to those of you that ran Chicago is, who said the Chicago Marathon is flat? LOL! The course was not flat! I enjoyed the course and I was cool with it because I’m always prepared for inclines and I knew about the hill at the finish after attending the Course Review session at the Expo. 😉

I was happy throughout the race, despite my legs being tight most of the race and a weird foot pain in the later miles. My hydration and fueling the night before the race and race morning made a difference during this marathon. I alternated between water and Gatorade at each water stop and it helped!! Proud to say that I did not hit the “Wall.” Thanks to my long miles during training, the perfect weather, the Chicago marathon race organizers and the excellent crowd support, my only job was to keep a consistent pace, push through the pain and finish the race and I did just that without stopping. ~ During the course, one of my favorite signs was… “Pain is Temporary, Glory is Forever,” this statement is so true!

Thinking about my race experience overall, the Chicago Marathon was AWESOME! Very organized from the Expo to Race Day.


The nice couple in the photo offered to take my photo while we were in our corral, so I asked for a photo with them as well!! 🙂

Shout out to my Soror and fellow marathoner, Oui Brown for her hospitality. Thanks to Oui, I had the best and the closest lodging that I’ve ever had for a race. She made me feel right at home!! I walked out her front door and literally walked 5 minutes to the race location. I was so happy!!


Friday Night Fun with Oui!

My race weekend started early Friday morning. I took the first flight out from Philly to Chicago O’Hare. Upon arrival, I was able to connect with my good friend and fellow marathoner, Melanie Eversley at the airport.

Melanie and I took the train together. My ride was a little longer, but well worth it based on what I shared above about the close proximity to the race. Also, the train is great because you don’t have to sit in traffic.

If you are staying in the downtown area, near the starting line, which I highly recommend, take the train, due to Chicago traffic and it’s a good way to save money, so that you have more to spend on other things at the expo and of course pre and post race food. 🙂

Speaking of food ~ I had lunch at Meli Cafe my first day in Chicago and breakfast there my last day in Chicago.

Friday night fun, Thanks to Oui, we hung out with the Black Chicago Runners. What an AWESOME Fun Group. I felt at home from the start!!


Friday night Fun -w- the Black Chicago Runners!!

Saturday night, I attended the National Black Marathoners gathering at Bar Louie’s. It was a very nice gathering. A great opportunity to catch up with friends and sorority sisters that you see on Facebook throughout the year. ~ Always Great seeing my namesake Dawn Davis Calhoun. 😉


My lovely Sorors!!


BGR! DE & Philly


My NABJ Family: Melanie Eversley and Maria Reeve

More about the race, running a marathon is no small accomplishment, It’s tough! Running a marathon takes mental and physical determination. ~ The marathon teaches you to keep going despite the obstacles before you. “Life is a Marathon!”

Some of my thoughts during the marathon ranged from I Got This! Positive Thoughts… Keep smiling… And this is a nice tour of Chicago! Dig deep! At mile 13.1, I was like YES! I’m half way there. ~ Nice Half time! ~ Mile 20, I was at 3 hours and thought, yes.. sub 4, let’s do this! ~ I thought about everyone back home and the virtual cheers. ~ It was Cool seeing the board between mile 16 and 17  with all the cheers. The board came up so quick, I noticed Bart Yasso’s name a couple of times. ~ After mile 20 is when the race really begins, I thought about my Aunt Peggy back in Philly on life support and thought if Aunt Peggy can fight for her life, I can certainly fight past tight legs. ~ Push, push, let’s finish this race!

No promises for Marathon #4, but I am looking forward to pacing the Philadelphia Half Marathon next month with the Philadelphia Runner Pace Team and I am looking forward to racing my next Half Marathon after coming through at 2:07 with 13.1 miles to go. ~ I am looking forward to beating my 1:45 Half Marathon PR this Fall/Spring 2017 and becoming a stronger runner.

My Pre Race & Race Day Tips/Reminders include: 

  • Practice & Train with your race hydration and fuel during your longest runs, especially the 20 miler.
  • Practice your eating the night before a long run.
  • Practice your eating before your long run.
  • Practice running fast!
  • Nothing new on race day!
  • Get at least 7 – 8 hours of sleep prior and leading up to race week.
  • Pick one day to visit the Expo. If you really want to go for two days, go early and get back to your room, relax and stay off your feet.
  • Attend the Course Review session ~ I find it fun to hear course tips from the experts
  • Stay Positive during the race and trust your training!

*Please visit and LIKE my pages, Elite Access Running and Coach Dawn for Race Day Tips, Training and more.. ~ I love sharing and I am committed to health and wellness for individuals and families.

Back to my Chicago Fun!! Post race dinner was Sunday night at Lou Malnati’s Pizzeria with Erica and Adi, my BGR! Delaware Family. It was Great having deep dish pizza and pasta some of the things that I don’t eat much of during training. (I carb load after the race. LOL!)

Monday morning, I went out for a recovery walk/run and met up with BGR! Delaware Ambassador Damali Thomas for my favorite meal, breakfast.  Also, Fleet Feet Chicago was engraving medals for FREE, so I was able to get my name and finish time on the back of my medal.

Back home, I found out that my race day inspiration, Aunt Peggy passed away. Wow! She gave a good fight and she is no more pain.


My Aunt Peggy Corson – My race day Inspiration!

Lessons learned from Aunt Peggy include… Her love of family and to Live Life to the Fullest. She did just that!! She loved everyone and everyone loved her. Aunt Peggy enjoyed life and I plan to continue to enjoy my life of wellness and fitness, as a runner. And I plan to continue to love everyone as God loves us.

My post race recovery on Tuesday included a relaxing massage at Alternative Therapy Massage and lunch with Kendra.

Next up… I plan to get a well deserved pedicure this Friday as I continue to enjoy my days off from running.

If you are considering your first or your next marathon, I highly recommend the Chicago Marathon. Next year the Chicago Marathon is celebrating their 40th Anniversary, so I’m sure that the race will be even better than this year. In addition to Chicago, I enjoyed the New York Marathon last year as well as my hometown favorite, the Philadelphia Marathon.

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