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From the start on Smith Street at the Rhode Island State House to the 6 mile mark on Memorial Boulevard, the new PROVIDENCE HALF MARATHON, with the exception of one minor change, is the same as the 2003 Ocean State Marathon and Half Marathon. The 2004 course loops through the Mount Pleasant section to the Providence Place Mall, and runs along the Riverwalk & Water Place Park on Memorial Boulevard to the intersection with Exchange Street in the same way it did last year.

The "Mount Pleasant" Loop - a repeat of previous OSM and half marathon editions
From the start at the Rhode Island State House, the opening Mt. Pleasant loop heads west on Smith Street (Route 44) for 2.1 miles to a left on Old Road, just one block after Compton Street where the 2003 course turned left. Old Road, like Compton, cuts through for about 200 meters to Mt. Pleasant Avenue, but adds about a tenth and a half mile to the course, as it wraps around St. Augustine Church.

In the first 0.35 miles to the intersection with Orms Street, runners have full use of the entire road, then are restricted to the left half of Smith Street. The first mile to Elmhurst Extended Care on the left is flat. With Providence College off to the right, the second mile goes uphill for about a quarter mile, climbing 60 feet, and then gradually back downhill to LaSalle Academy on the left at 1.7 miles. Approaching the left turn onto Old Road the course rises gently about 20 feet. At the end of Old Road at 2.2 miles, the course turns left onto Mt. Pleasant Avenue and slopes gradually down to Rhode Island College at 2.5 miles and then rises gradually to the intersection with Chalkstone Avenue at 3.15 miles, and continues flat to its highest point (152 feet elevation) just before the left at Atwells Avenue at 3.65 miles.

Then the course begins a roller coaster descent - a 140 feet drop in the next half mile to the intersection with Valley Street (4.15 miles), and bottoms out to Eagle Street at 4.35 miles. From here, the course turns left and quickly curves to the right onto Kinsley Avenue for a flat one mile straightaway along the Woonasquatucket River, underneath the Route 95 overpass to the Providence Place Mall parking garage at 5.4 miles. The course then turns left and up Park Street for a challenging 220 yard hill. Runners can soon catch their breaths as the course turns off the Park Street hill to a right on Hayes Street which intersects Francis and Gaspee Streets (train station straight ahead on the right) at 5.65 miles with the Providence Place Mall on the right. This point is excellent for spectators, as it is only two-tenths of a mile down Francis Street from the start at the State House.

A Quick Tour of "Down City"
From the Providence Place Mall, the course drops 40 feet in the next two-tenths of a mile on Francis Street to the intersection with Memorial Boulevard. Here the course turns left, as it did last year, and runs alongside the Riverwalk to the 6 mile mark. Although the rest of the half marathon includes sections that overlap last year's marathon route, the 2004 course is different from this point on.

Instead of turning left at the Citizens Plaza as in 2003, the new course continues straight on Memorial Boulevard for just three blocks to a right on Westminster Street at 6.25 miles, then a quick left on Weybosset Street through the Financial District and past the Arcade on the right. (For those driving the course, these are one-way roads with traffic going against the direction of the race, so alternate roads must be used.) On Weybosset Street, runners will pass Johnson & Wales University, and then the Providence Performing Arts Center (PPAC) and continue straight through the intersection with Chestnut Street (left) and Empire Street (right) at 6.7 miles where the road now becomes Broad Street. The "Down City" tour comes to an end as Broad Street crosses Route 95. With the exception of mildly sloping uphill from PPAC to the YMCA, just after the Route 95 Bridge, the brief "Down City" tour is completely flat.

On to and past Roger Williams Park entrance
From the intersection with Cahir Street at the 7 mile mark, with the Classical High School athletic fields ahead on the right, to the entrance to Roger Williams Park at 9 miles, the course runs in the left parking lane on Broad Street through South Providence on completely flat and smooth road. The new course eliminates the hilly loop through the park, and continues straight and flat on Broad Street for a little more than a half mile to a left Montgomery Avenue at 9.55 miles. From here, the course overlaps part of the 2003 marathon course to the intersection with Point Street at mile 12.

Let the homestretch begin!
On Montgomery Avenue, the course bears to the left onto Alabama Avenue which comes out on Narragansett Boulevard at 9.9 miles. At the intersection with New York Avenue (10.15 miles) where a view of the Providence skyline can be seen ahead, Narragansett Boulevard changes to Allens Avenue, as the course then drops downhill for a quarter mile to the intersection with Ernest Street. While the general consensus is that the next 1.6 mile stretch on Allens Avenue to Point Street at mile 12, just before Davol Square, is not particularly scenic, most will agree that it is exceptionally fast. After the initial downhill, the recently repaved road is straight, flat, and ready to be tested.

From Davol Square, the old marathon course went right and over the Point Street bridge and worked its way to the East Side. The new half marathon course goes straight at this intersection onto Eddy Street, through the jewelry district, and bears right onto Dyer Street, just after the Rte. 195 overpass, with less than a mile to go. At the intersection with Pine Street on the left, Dyer Street becomes Memorial Blvd. and runners continue straight for about a quarter mile to a final left at Steeple Street for the last 0.35 mile to the finish on Sabin Street alongside the Rhode Island Convention Center.

Overall the course has a net loss of 62 feet in elevation. In the Mount Pleasant loop, there is a mild uphill then downhill combination after the first mile. The course drops 140 feet on the roller coaster downhill from 3.65 to 4.15 miles. The uphill behind the Providence Place Mall is challenging but fairly short, and the 2-tenths downhill on Francis Street gives back to the runners. The remainder of the course, from 5.85 miles to the finish, is flat with the exception of a mild uphill on Broad Street from PPAC to the YMCA, and a nice quarter mile downhill on Allens Avenue from the intersection with New York Avenue. With the hilly loop around Roger Williams Park and the challenging hills on Providence's East Side gone from the course, the new PROVIDENCE HALF MARATHON promises to be fast.

Ray Nelson
USATF Certifier

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