Route:  The Nittany Valley Half-Marathon
Mileage:  13.1
Hillage: Long stretches of relatively flat ground, with a gentle, hubris-inducing downhill near the beginning at mile 3, a long, steep downhill (the great Rock Road Ravine) after mile 7; two tough little uphills after mile 9 and 10, and a final, soul-crushing climb to finish the race.

Total elevation change: Over 300 ft.
Average Grade: 2%. But that's average. Here are some of the local grades:

Fox Hollow Rd.
A gentle drop of 77 ft in 0.55 miles to the Rte 322 Bypass bridge, a 2.6% downward grade.
Toftrees:  A 193 ft rise from the Big Hollow/Fox Hollow intersection to the curve at Fox Hill Rd. (1.6 miles): a 2.3% long upward grade.
Rock Road Ravine: A 308 foot drop over 1.8 miles: 3.2% downward grade.  The steepest part has a 6% grade over 0.8 miles. That'll hurt your quads.
Houserville Rise: A 96 ft rise into Houserville over half a mile: 3.6% grade.
Final Rise: A 160 ft rise in 1.24 miles: 2.5% grade. The steepest third of a mile is a 5% climb. This is where the praying starts.
Description:  The course mixes mostly suburban and rural road running on mostly macadam surfaces. The Nittany Valley Half-Marathon starts on the northeast end of the parking lot of the Ag Arena on the north side of Park Avenue near Beaver Stadium. The first nearly 3 miles of the course is done by traversing a loop of the University service roads behind the Ag Arena twice. This section of the course is fairly flat and has a couple of sections of gravel road. Start at the east end of the paved Ag Arena lot. Proceed north on the gravel road to Orchard Rd, which is an east-west road at this point. Turn right on Orchard, then left on Wiley Place, then right on Pasture View Rd. Take Pasture View Rd and follow it, staying right until it bends left for about 50 ft and then as it bends right in front of some farm buildings. Do not head downhill! Then go right on Farm Ten Rd and then zig-zag right-left onto Orchard Rd, which is heading south here. Continue south on Orchard and then make the right onto the gravel road that passes a nursery. Continue on this road until it meets the gravel road the race started on, then make a right. This is one loop. Repeat, then continue on the gravel road north to the east-west part of Orchard Rd. Make a left.  The course then heads west out Orchard Rd onto Fox Hollow Rd, turning north. The course heads down a gentle hill on Fox Hollow, goes under the Rte 322 Bypass, and makes a slow climb toward Toftrees. The course then takes the big bend near Toftrees as Fox Hollow becomes Fox Hill Rd. From here the course continues straight, onto Airport Rd, past the airport all the way to Rock Rd. This section is mostly a long, gradual uphill. The course then goes right at Rock Rd. and heads down the Rock Road Ravine. Note to Clydesdales: You need to train for this section by doing leg presses, or your quads will be killing you later in the race. The terrain starts sinking on Fox Hill Rd, but really gets going a bit past the turn onto Rock Rd. From this point, it's nearly a 300 ft drop, most of it pretty steep!

At the bottom of the hill, there is a bridge over Spring Creek. The route does not cross the bridge, but goes right and follows Rock Rd., which follows the creek for a while and later becomes Houserville Rd. Just before the point where Houserville Rd. crosses Trout Rd. is the 10 mile mark. Only 5K to go! At the "Y", the route bears left and goes up a steep hill into Houserville. This is the first hint of the final torture ahead. In Houserville, the route takes a right on Puddintown Rd. The route continues on Puddintown Rd. to the intersection with Orchard Rd., making  a right. Here begins the final excruciating climb. Over the course of 1.24 miles, the course climbs 160 ft up Orchard Rd, making a left on Park St. (still climbing), and a left on Porter Rd. (still climbing). In spots, the grade on Orchard is over 5%. While you're staggering up Orchard Rd., the Centre Community Hospital is on the top of the hill to your right. You'll wish you were there! After cresting the last short hill on Porter, the course makes a left on the road next to the new baseball park, then another left onto a road into the Centre County Vistor's Bureau parking lot, where you'll see the finish line.

Remarks: The Nittany Valley Half-Marathon began in 1984. That year, the Half-Marathon was run concurrently with the final running of the Nittany Valley Marathon. In the last few years, due in part to great promotion and excellent weather, the race has grown to nearly 700 runners. This puts it among the largest races in the region. The Half's course was redesigned in 2005 in order to make traffic control near the start and finish a bit easier. The first 3 miles of the current course are a bit flatter than the old course and the 'gift' of a sprint down '4 Hills' is gone, but the truly challenging parts of the course are all still there. Some of the following remarks are plucked from the NVRC Nittany Valley Half-Marathon web site:

"I thought the course was good and challenging. I wouldn't change a thing."
  --- Rob Guissanie

 "You have redefined the meaning of 'somewhat challenging'."
--- Jerry Heinz

"It's a very tough course, especially after about mile 7. 
The last mile is designed to make you see God." 
--- Marty Mazur

"I was looking for God during the last mile, but I didn't see him. I guess he finished ahead of me too."

          --- Albert Mabus, last male finisher at the 2001 NVHM


(Click for a much larger zoomable image)
There is also a very good map of the course at, including a satellite view.


Added: 11/00
Updated: 11/07