The best way to describe the original route would be the ‘Cedar Street Route’ as 8 of the 26.2 miles were run on Cedar Street. The second course would be the ‘Delphi Route’ as the route went south on Aurelius Rd and then north on Pennsylvania to create a loop through much of Delphi Township. The newest route is best described as the ‘MSU Farms’ Route. This route spends significant time alongside or through the agriculture parts of the college (it was once called Michigan Agriculture College). Approximately 11 of the 26.2 are fielded miles. With the new course runners will be passing MSU’s beloved sheep farm. A place of particular horrors for me…as I learned the hard way never to run past that place in the spring without my shirt on. Oh the clippers, the clippers.
As Nitmos pointed out, I should be glad; I’ve been running these fields for years (both in undergrad and law school). The second route provided little in regards to shade, but long stretches of College Road produce good shade on the road (especially in the morning). Most of those parts have been removed. With the new course, there will be nowhere to hide from miles 15 to 21. And then not much after that. Also, the wonderful downhill you used to get after old mile 10 now become a .65M incline between mile 17 and 18. While this hill is not steep, it is long and difficult and without shade.
Here is the breakdown. The first six miles are the same, including the double hills going over the highway and then train tracks in mile 6. Then the course heads east along the first few farm miles. This east leg contains two hills, neither steep, and both about .2M long. Then the course gets flat for about 1.5M and then turns south. Here you encounter a longer and slightly steeper hill than in the previous few miles, but this hill is followed by a left turn and a pleasant downhill. You will then hit one more .2M hill, not remarkably steep, before you have several miles of flat-ish ground (nothing visually noticeable). This part includes running on a bike/running path that is paved.
The next noticeable hill is when the course turns left on Hagadorn and goes over the highway. Importantly, the 13.1M mark is in an industrial park with maybe three buildings (Atrium Dr.). So, don’t expect anybody there to reward you with being halfway done by cheering for you. From there, you have 4 miles of gently rolling hills before you hit the large hill in mile 18. Also included in this part is a very short but somewhat steep uphill as the runners head west on Willoughby and right before you go under the highway. I’ve already described the long difficult hill in mile 18.
After that, you run through more fields with no meaningful up/downhill. When the course heads south again on Aurelius, you will notice a smallish hill, and another after you turn west on Mt. Hope. From there, about mile 22, there are only four hills left. One as you run under a bridge just north of Potter Park Zoo (not much), a short but difficult one on Walsh, one heading north on South Washington, and one as you run on East Hillsdale Street during mile 26. I recommend you sell out up this hill. It is the last hill. When you turn the corner you still have some distance before you complete the race, but by then you should be able to see the finish and ride your momentum in.