Friday, July 4, 2014

#15 - Monocacy Way 5K, a trail run with a twist

Happy Father's Day!  Thank you, my husband Eric, for letting me do this on your special day.  To let me finish my quest, Eric stayed home with our son, who had a tonsillectomy 3 days earlier.  Isn't he the best?

I started writing this post on June 15, after the race, but I had troubles finishing it because I had a tough time finding good things to say. I don't mean to offend the organizers who graciously refunded my money when I accidentally double paid for the event. This is not going to be pretty, but here we go.

Finding the location of this race reminds me of a scene from the movie "Journey to the Center of the Earth". The main character, Trevor Anderson and his crew were trapped in a cave, then found a way out and into a hidden prehistoric world.

A different world
Monocacy Way 5K was a trail run, so I expected to see bountiful trees and green grass when I arrived.  Instead, Waze (GPS app) took me to an empty parking lot of the abandoned Martin Tower building - the tallest building in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. Huge concrete barriers lined the cold hard asphalt roads. The race was scheduled to start at 9:00 AM. It was already 8:20 and 1461 Schoenersville Road was deserted. Where were the posters? Or better yet, where was everyone?

I drove around the parking lot a bit and followed a small road that seemed to go nowhere. Finally, I saw a car coming from another direction. It parked next to other cars in a lot on the other side of the building. A woman in running clothes stepped out, crossed the street, and disappeared into the bushes.  I was bewildered.

As I approached the thick hedge, I saw a sign that said "MW5K this way," pointing towards a very shaded descending stairway.  I reluctantly walked the path until I saw one of the most beautiful and lushest places ever.  A stark contrast from the parking lot I just came from.

Registration was surprisingly inefficient considering this was their 4th race. Two of the organizers approached each participant and asked for their names, wrote them on bibs, and then doled them out. I was pre-registered and it still took me 15 minutes to get my bib.

I then headed out to find the starting line. The race wasn't ready yet, but I heard it was starting on grass. Sigh, I don't like grass. I easily hurt myself on it.

We started on the right side of this field

We started a little late because they had to reroute the course due to some flooding caused by heavy rains a couple of days earlier. Uh oh - that means mud. Guess what I despise more than grass?  Double sigh! 

One of 4 mud pools
Mile 2, Monocacy Creek Park

A volunteer stopped the race to explain the route changes, and warned us of muddy patches. This was very helpful. Good thing we found ways around them - not enough to protect my new shoes but just enough to keep 
my feet dry.

An interesting twist to this race was that we had to run through 3 sets of stairs.  Two to cross the creek, and 1 to get out of the park. The course ended where it started. 

There were no water stations along the route but they provided bottles of water at the finish line. To get post race nourishment, we had to walk about 1/4 mile back to the registration tables where they served a unique variety of wraps, including banana and peanut butter wraps.

Results were available immediately after we finished the race, and they declared a winner for each age group and gender.  Age groups included 18 and younger, 19-39, 40-59, and over 60.  How can a 59 year old runner compete with a 40 year old?

There were actually more pros than cons in this race, including ample parking space and porta potties.  It was relatively cheaper than many races - only $18. No shirt.

Would I run this again? This is a good trail run. It's flat, shaded, and provided nice views. I just don't like grass because I've hurt myself many times on it. So probably not.

I was pleasantly surprised when my new friends Julianne and Jessica joined me for this race. I hope to see them again soon.

Right to left: Julianne, Maya, Jessica, and me

About the race

Location: 1461 Schoenersville Road, Bethlehem, Pennsylvania

Date and Time: Sunday, June 15, 2014 at 9 am

Course: grass, trail, asphalt, and lots of mud

Shirt: none

Runners: 92

Timing: traditional

Post Race Food: bananas, oranges, wraps of funky flavors, and water

Prizes for different gender and age groups:

  • 18 and under 
  • 19-39 
  • 40-59 
  • 60 and over 

Organizers website:

Results were available immediately after the race. Online results were published a week later.


Horses of the Bethlehem mounted police

A volunteer takes bottom part of the bib at the finish line.

One of 92 runners who finished the race.

Post race snacks.


  1. Looks like a great course, minus the mud. I'm looking to incorporate more trail running into my training.

    1. It's a shame it rained heavily 2 days before the race. If you don't mind running on grass, you'll definitely enjoy this scenic course. The race happens every year on Father's Day.