Scranton's Steamtown Marathon a surprisingly pleasant race

When most people think of a destination marathon, they might think of Miami, Chicago, London or Paris.

They usually don't think of Scranton, Pa.

Unless you're T.J. Dooling of Pawcatuck.

Last weekend, Dooling and Marty Cappiello of Old Saybrook made the four-hour drive down to gritty Scranton for the 17th annual Steamtown Marathon.

When I heard he was going there to race I had to ask him why, as Scranton has become the butt of jokes over the years, sort of like New Jersey.

One reason, he said, is that the course features a steady downhill most of the way leading to fast times if your legs survive the pounding.

And while he could have slept in his own bed and run the Hartford Marathon this weekend as he'd done before, Dooling said he's now reached a point "where I want to go somewhere and try something different."

Dooling said that from the race director e-mails in the weeks leading up to the marathon to the army of helpful volunteers, the race was a good one.

"They did a great job. I can't say enough about the job they do," he said. "I'd recommend it to anyone."

I asked Dooling, who is Groton teacher, if the point-to-point course that ends in downtown Scranton is scenic. A short bit of it is along trails.

"In a strange way it was," he said. "There was some beat up downtown buildings but it was surprisingly scenic," he said especially with the hills surrounding the valley where the city is located.

But he quickly added, "I don't think I'll be going there for a vacation."

Dooling, 54, said the downhill course is good preparation for the closing miles of the Boston Marathon, which he qualified for by running 3:29.

The tradition continues

Last October a contingent of 17 crewman assigned to the USS Hartford at the Naval Submarine Base in Groton ran the ING Hartford Marathon and were named by event organizers as part of their Elite Inspiration Team.

This year the submarine is deployed at sea so crew members have to miss the race.

But that has not stopped 20 friends and family members from running the 5K, half-marathon or marathon this Saturday morning. In addition, they have raised $3,000 for the Wounded Warrior Foundation.

Ali Fisher, whose husband is aboard the submarine, is running the half marathon.

"We thought it would be great that if they couldn't be there, we could continue the tradition," she said.

Joe Wojtas is The Day's running columnist

Joe Wojtas

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