Late race change sparks criticism

Runners head east on the Ben Franklin Parkway during the Gore-Tex Philadelphia Marathon in Philadelphia on November 17, 2013.

By Saturday, 201 days separated runners from the starting gun of the 2016 Philadelphia Marathon and Half Marathon.

Yet some are now claiming they don't have enough time to make proper arrangements for the November classic because of a change announced Friday.

Organizers disclosed that this year's marathon and half marathon - events traditionally held concurrently, on the same course through Philadelphia - would be held on separate days.

The marathon will be held as planned on Sunday, Nov. 20, but the half marathon is being moved up a day to Saturday, Nov. 19.

Coordinators heralded the change as a way to boost participants' experiences by decreasing the number of runners on the course each day.

"Half Marathon participants will be able to take on a challenging but scenic course on Saturday, and Full Marathoners will have the course all to themselves Sunday as they strive to set their own personal records..." Jim Marino, the events' new director, said in a release.

Evidently, separate days and smaller crowds aren't appealing to all runners.

"I'm surprised they did something like this," said Charlene Thambinayagam, 33, a longtime Philadelphia resident who recently moved to Washington. She has run the city's half marathon four times and the full race once. She considered traveling back this fall to run the half marathon.

Now, she might scrap those plans.

"I'm an out-of-towner; I would have to go to Philly on Friday," she said. "I might not be able to get that day off work."

In interviews and across social media, runners worried about smaller crowds of onlookers urging them on. Still, others complained that two days of races means two days of potential traffic problems and road closures in the city.

Nora Haefele, 59, of Stowe, said one of her chief complaints is that the change was not announced until after registration had opened for the full marathon last month. Registration for the half marathon begins Monday.

"A lot of people registered for the full thinking their friends would run the half," Haefele said. "This changes things: carpooling, hotels, time off work."

Marino could not be reached Saturday. He is directing Sunday's Broad Street Run.

cmccabe@philly.com

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