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Run over the river and through the woods


Scranton Half a new tradition

We will be going over the river and through the woods, literally on April 6, when 2,500 runners compete in the first Scranton Half Marathon. That is the clever tag line that describes what will be happening in two months in Scranton. The crowd will leave Memorial Stadium on Providence Road to traverse a 13.1 mile course that runs through city streets and finishes the last six miles on the Lackawanna River Heritage Trail.

The runners will travel through North Scranton, Green Ridge, the Plot, Central City and South Scranton where it will enter the Heritage Trail on Elm Street, run south to and around the spur where the oak sculpture of a Native American Indian Chief stands guard, and continue north past Elm Street, Broadway, 7th back to Memorial Stadium.

This will be the exciting kickoff of a new annual event that is attracting a growing number of runners who use the Heritage Trail for health, fitness, recreation and socialization. The Half Marathon was the brainchild of Matt Byrne, proprietor of Scranton Running Company, who has won the Steamtown Marathon and other long distance competitions, and former Mayor Chris Doherty who also runs the Lackawanna River Heritage Trail on a regular basis.

After the remarkable popularity of the Run Around Scranton, which was initiated in 2013, the duo conceived of the more ambitious plan to conduct a half marathon with proceeds to benefit the further development of the Heritage Trail.

They recruited other committed runners from the business and medical community to jump on board to form a planning committee which has morphed into a board of directors and the formation of a new 501(c) 3 organization. And they have received support from Police Chief Carl Graziano, assuring that the run will be safe and properly supervised. The committee meets regularly at LHV Headquarters.

Registration fees and sponsorships are payable to Heritage Valley Partners Inc., a 501(C)3 entity. Net proceeds will benefit the Lackawanna River Heritage Trail which also plays partial host to the Steamtown Marathon and numerous other running events.

As of the last week of January, when this article went to press, more than 2,300 runners had registered for the event, which will max out at 2,500 runners. But that number is only a small part of the crowd expected at the Scranton Half!

A typical distance run attracts at least two or three spectators for each runner, estimating that at least 10,000 people will attend the race. In this case, however, with more than 1,200 registrants (more than half of them women) reporting that this will be their first half marathon, and with mostly local participants, it is likely that many friends and family members will be on hand to watch and support them.

The Scranton Half Marathon is a great event for many reasons. Even its name holds a double meaning, since the event occurs half a year after the Steamtown Marathon and, accordingly, half a year before the next one! It is purposely timed, not only as a challenge for first time and moderately committed runners, but also as spring training for marathon runners tuning up for Steamtown and other marathons that are held in the spring, summer and fall.

It is heartening that there has been so much local interest in this event, without any paid advertising to date.

With so many runners and spectators involved, it is now time to reach out to the community to help make this event a success. Geisinger Heart and Vascular Institute has committed to being the presenting sponsor for three years, and Peoples Bank is sponsoring the Kids’ Run to be held at Memorial Stadium prior to the start of the Scranton Half.

Hundreds of volunteers will be needed to make the day run smoothly. We hope that many more businesses, financial institutions and individuals will become sponsors at varying levels, showing that the community appreciates and supports the development of the Heritage Trail and its value to the region as a recreational, health, fitness and socialization amenity, as well as an engine for economic development. People who use the trail spend money for food, equipment and bicycles, lodging and repair shops. It is a mutually beneficial relationship.

If you would like to be part of this wonderful event, go to or for sponsorship opportunities, call 570-903-9084.