Running a half marathon is no easy feat. 13 miles (21k) long, the half marathon pushes runners hard without them having to commit to the training required to complete the full marathon distance (26 miles).
However, despite its difficulty, it can also be an extremely enjoyable event, especially when the event is well managed and takes place somewhere good.
One U.S. state that has plenty to offer when it comes to half marathons in Pennsylvania.
Pennsylvania is one of the most historic U.S. states, but today it is better known for its incredibly diverse landscape and bustling cities.
As a result of its landscape, it’s no surprise to see Pennsylvania offering an incredible range of half marathon events.
With plenty of challenges and amazing sights to see, to show you just what Pennsylvanian half marathons have to offer, we’ve decided to list our favorites.
If you’re looking for a new and exciting challenge be sure to stick around!
Location: Elizabeth Township
Date: April 23rd
An out-and-back half marathon event, the Boston Trail Marathon gets its name from its start and finish line.
Starting and ending at Boston Ballfield Park in the Elizabeth borough, this small town race is a casual race perfect for first-timers or serious runners who want to get some mileage in.
With only 900 participants allowed to race, you can expect a relaxed environment with plenty to see on the way.
The course takes you along the Youghiogheny River Trail and a chunk of the Great Allegheny Passage where you’ll be treated to relatively flat crushed limestone trails that are nice and easy to run along.
Along the way, you will also find aid stations every 2 miles where you will be provided with Gatorade and energy gels.
Date: May 1st
If you’re looking for a busier event day with more competitors, you’ll love the Pittsburgh marathon and half marathon event.
With over 20,000 runners taking part, this race day has been created to give anybody the chance to take part. Runners, relay teams, walkers, and hand-cyclists all take part in what is a fun day out.
Despite being the smaller event, almost 14,000 out of the 20,000 competitors choose to take part in the half marathon.
This could be because of the mostly flat course and fast pace.
Running through the busy streets of Pittsburgh, the main features of the race include the crossing of Pittsburgh’s three rivers, amazing skyline city views, and charming neighborhoods with plenty of character.
You will encounter some steep hills during the race, but the elevation change is only about 50 feet, so most runners won’t find it too challenging.
Location: Sandy Lake
Date: June 4th
The Lake Wilhelm half marathon takes place on the beautiful shores of one of Pennsylvania’s largest lakes.
Famous for its impressive views, scenic cycling trails, and Bald Eagle sightings, once every year the lake runs a fun, yet challenging day of running events.
These two main events are of course the half and full marathon. Both looped races, from the half marathon you can expect a fairly easy race that encompasses the whole of the lake.
The flat, paved path around the lake gives you more freedom to compete to the best of your ability and focus on your running.
While the views and excellent running conditions are this race’s biggest draw, the overall management of the race and facilities on offer make it even better.
There are plenty of toilets, aid stations, and places to stay afterward.
Date: July 16th
Shippensburg has some of the best landscapes in Pennsylvania. As a result of its beautiful natural countryside, the area also has a great half marathon.
This half marathon takes runners through the lush landscape, making things more challenging than other races with rolling hills and tougher terrains.
While running, you’ll even come across some of the Amish farms that are dotted around the Pennsylvanian landscape.
A suitable race for those that want to explore somewhere new and take on a tougher challenge, the Great Appalachian Half Marathon also comes with some quite cool perks.
Every competitor who enters the race will receive a high-quality embroidered jacket that features a full zipper and double zip pocket.
Location: Bear Gap
Date: August 28th
Running every year in Bear Gap, Pennsylvania is the Hellbender Half Marathon.
Perfect for lovers of road running and trail running, this flat, fast out and the back race takes runners through the stunning Weiser State Forest and alongside the very scenic lakes it has to offer.
One great thing about this race is that any proceeds go straight back into keeping the area clean.
Interestingly, the race actually gets its name from the salamander native to the surrounding hills and mountains. It is this salamander the race aims to support.
The half marathon starts at the route 54 car park which lies between Elysburg and Mount Carmel. Runners then make their way along the roads and along the scenic reservoir lakes, before you head back to the finish line.
With a variety of terrains to run through, this race is full of excitement and challenges.
Date: September 18th
The Dam Half has grown from a small race with only 50 or so super runners, to an event that is now enjoyed every year by families and friends.
Despite being much more family-friendly now, don’t be mistaken, this race is still a very challenging event.
Competitors have to face rocky paths, muddy trails, fallen trees, large tree stumps, and maybe even the occasional forest creature.
The event is said to “leave your legs screaming for mercy” so we suggest you only take part if you truly think you’re up to the challenge.
Over the course of the race, runners gain 2,000 feet in elevation. They gain this elevation mostly on single and double tracks that are sure to test your balance.
The Dam Half Marathon gets its name from the dam found in R.B. Winter State Park which is where the race takes place.
If you don’t feel up to the task, it’s well worth visiting the 650-acre park to get some training in any way.
Date: October 1st
Those of you looking for a more laid-back, fun half marathon event, look no further than the Snack Town RunFest.
Taking place on October 1st, this event is a running ‘extravaganza’ suitable for all levels of runners from all age groups.
Every runner who signs up for the events gets given a USATF certified chip, a long and short-sleeved running shirt, a custom medal, a goody bag, a special shirt from the sponsor of the race, and much more.
In terms of race, the 13.1-mile course features a looping trail that winds itself around Hanover. Starting at the Hanover Y, runners can expect to see lush farmland and one-of-a-kind views of Hershey Heights.
The race has one tough hill to conquer but apart from that, the race is fairly flat, only gaining an elevation of 550 feet.
Date: November 19th
The first half marathon was added to the Philadelphia Marathon in 2006. Since then the half marathon race has become almost as popular as the full distance.
In fact, in last year’s event out of 24,000 runners, walkers, and wheelchair athletes who crossed the finishing line, 12,700 of them were competing in the 13.1-mile race.
It isn’t hard to see why this half marathon is so popular. It essentially takes runners on a tour back through American history.
Starting at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, during the course of the race, you can expect to see Benjamin Franklin Parkway, Philadelphia Old City where Independence Hall and Liberty Bell can be found, National Historical Park, and Columbus Boulevard.
The only expectation from runners, aside from to enjoy themselves, is that they run at a pace of 16-minute miles.
Considering how flat the paved paths are, this shouldn’t be a problem for anyone wanting to take part. This time frame actually makes the race a lot more welcoming, giving walkers and those with disabilities a great opportunity to race too.
Location: State College
Date: December 4th
The final half marathon on our list is the Nittany Valley Half Marathon. First taking place in State College in 1984, this half marathon has since become one of, if not the region’s most popular and biggest road races.
Open to any level of runner who wants to complete the challenge, this relaxed half marathon usually has approximately 700 runners.
While there may be a medal for the winner and runners-up, the atmosphere around this race is very friendly, with everyone seeming to be more focused on getting everyone across the finish line.
The course here might not be as exciting as other races on our list, but if you want something relatively easy and flat this course could be perfect.
The surfaces you run along are all paved and smooth, giving runners a much more comfortable and relaxed run.
As you can see from our list, there are great options in Pennsylvania when it comes to taking part in half marathons.
There are many more to choose from that aren’t on this list, but hopefully, we have given you a great taste of what’s on offer.
Whether you want to race competitively, push yourself to the limits, take part in an off-road nightmarish run, or simply enjoy a leisurely run in an attempt to complete a challenge you have never done before, we have something for you on our list.
Now that we’ve shown you what’s on offer, why not have a good think about which half marathon you want to try out.
We are confident that no matter which race you choose from our list, you’ll have an amazing time.