The sixth-largest city in the U.S., Philadelphia has long been a running mecca with a race almost every weekend from late spring to late fall, endless routes and challenging trails, and, of course, lots of history. Whether you are a weekend warrior or just in it for the local post-run beer, you will find a place for your pace in the City of Brotherly Love.
The Schuylkill River Loop is an 8.5-mile paved loop along the river between the Art Museum and Falls Bridge. It’s also the sight of Philly’s oldest road race that’s taken place every fall since 1972.
Ever wanted to run from one state to another? For the best views of the city, lace up and head for a run on the east side of the city across the Ben Franklin Bridge. The 3-mile round trip takes you over the river to the point where Pennsylvania ends and New Jersey begins. There is a 3/4-mile incline on each side, meaning you really do run uphill both ways.
The Wissahickon is where trail lovers head for a maze of over 50 miles of trails guaranteed to quench your thirst for entertaining routes. From Forbidden Drive and the Orange Trail to the White Trail and the Yellow Trail look for rugged terrain, hills, flats and everything in-between. Many runners begin at the Valley Green Inn for access to miles of off-road action.
Head to Penn Park at the University of Pennsylvania to work on your speed. The publically accessible recreation area has four track-like pedestrian paths giving runners the ability to create mix-and-match loop options, perfect for testing the legs.
Hear ye, hear ye all you history buffs! If you want to combine some exercise with learning a bit of American history, head to Valley Forge National Historical Park. Within the park boundaries, the paved 5.6 miles of the Joseph Plumb Martin Trail pass by many historic sites. See Washington’s Headquarters from the Horseshoe Trail that also intersects with the legendary Appalachian Trail.
Head of the Philly Runners since 2009, Seth Weiss has been running along the Schuylkill River regularly since 1999 and with the Philly Runners since 2002. “The vibe in Philly is great. What I love about the running community here is it’s huge and therefore has something for everyone.”
There are plenty of opportunities to test the competition or set some PR’s for yourself. “We have big races, small races, races for charities, races that run through the parks, through the neighborhoods, trail races, road races, etc,” Weiss says.
Seeing that the founding father of Philadelphia, Ben Franklin, was a coffee connoisseur himself, there is no shortage of small non-chain coffee shops around the city. Some favorites include Peddler Coffee off Spring St, Mugshots off Fairmount and Brown Street Cafe and Bahnery off Brown Street.
Local Eats and Sips
The Cosmic Cafe on Boathouse Row (at Lloyd Hall) is popular with runners because of the access to run routes, bathrooms and water. Plus, they serve breakfast all day. On the other end of the river loop (East Falls) is InRiva, the place to grab post run Sunday brunch. Choose from Belgian waffles and omelettes to Tostatta Francese (nutella and caramelized banana) and even a meat and cheese plate. Monks Cafe and their sister establishment Belgian Cafe are known for their large selections of craft beer and mussels.
According to Weiss, many run groups take off from the Art Museum steps or Lloyd Hall. More than likely even if there isn’t a group run planned, you will find someone lacing up or someone cooling down in these locations. Whether you are looking to connect with beer lovers, non-meat eaters or run during the week or early in the mornings, you can find a group of like-minded people. “There are running clubs in every corner of the city,” he says. A master list of many Philly running clubs can be found here.
If you are looking to grab some nutrition, or new run shoes, local shops include Philadelphia Runner (with multiple locations in the city), Fairmount Running Company, and Run Shoe Store.
Part of a series of races based in the New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania region and run by CGI Racing, the late-March Love Run Philadelphia Half Marathon follows a largely fast and flat route with views of the Schuylkill River, West Fairmount Park and many of Philadelphia’s most historic sights.
The flat and fast Broad Street Run is the largest 10-miler in the U.S. Held on the first Sunday of May since the early 80’s, this race is so popular that entry is by lottery only. The day brings fun for the whole family with a diaper derby, kid dash and fun run for the kids, along with inflatables and other entertainment.
The cooler weather brings out many runners for the Philadelphia Marathon, Half-Marathon and 8K held every year the weekend before Thanksgiving. Also known as the Philadelphia Independence Marathon, this eco-friendly, Boston qualifier was founded in 1954. The mostly race flat race passes many landmarks including the Liberty Bell.
Combining a family history of German food and a love of running, the 1/2 Sauer and 1/2 Kraut trail half marathon and marathon is held in Pennypack Park on the first Saturday in June. Your first beer is on them, and don’t be surprised to see a few lederhosen at the aid stations. Put on by Uber Endurance Sports, they offer loads of German fun at their other races including the Dirty German and Oktoberfest 13.1.
The Wissahickon Trail Classic 10K and 5K trail races in early June are held in the nation’s largest municipal park, with old growth trees, bubbling creeks and winding trails to bring beauty to the pain.