Reasons to Love Running in Philadelphia from Outside elessard

In 2005, Temple University college student Liz Pagonis walked into the Philadelphia Runner store to shop for shoes. She’d been running for fitness and “to get around the city,” she says. She soon joined the store’s group runs, then began working the retail floor part-time. She soon became a full-time employee. Ten years later, she’s the store’s chief marketing officer.

Pagonis says joining group runs helped her connect to the city’s running community. With more than 50 running clubs to choose from, the community runs deep in Philly. “A lot of runners run with different clubs throughout the week,” says Pagonis. “There’s a thread that weaves us all together.”


Runners can retrace the steps of the nation’s founding fathers and visit numerous historical landmarks, run along the path bordering the Schuylkill River, or channel their inner Rocky and charge up the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art and past the bronze statue of the character himself.

Beginning runners and those looking to knock out fast mile splits will be happy to know that Philly has a predominantly flat landscape.


Schuylkill River Trail: It’s hard to picture running Philly without a nod to the “Rocky steps” at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Pay homage with a trip up the 72 iconic stairs, then head for this multiuse recreational path that leads from City Center, just behind the museum, and parallels the river on both sides (Kelly Drive on the east and Martin Luther King Drive on the far west side). The path extends for more than 100 miles, connecting the city to the suburbs. “Eventually it’s going to connect to Delaware,” says Pagonis. An 8.4-mile loop, referred to by locals as the Loop, starts behind the museum.

Wissahickon Valley Park: Roughly 50 miles of trails wind through this urban park, but runners favor Forbidden Drive, named so because cars were banned from the packed-dirt and gravel road in the 1920s. The route hugs the Wissahickon Creek for 5.5 miles. “There are a ton of trails that you can connect to,” says Pagonis. “It’s in the woods, and you would never actually think you’re in the city. It’s just a really beautiful area.”

Center City to Old City: “You’re literally retracing the founding fathers’ footsteps,” says Pagonis. You could go see the Liberty Bell or run past Benjamin Franklin’s house.” Touring historic spots by foot, from Independence Hall to the President’s House (home to George Washington and John Adams when Philadelphia was the U.S. capital, from 1790 to 1800) gives you about a 5K run, says Pagonis.

More Options: The Boxers’ Trail, where Joe Frazier trained and young boxers still train today, winds through the city’s Fairmount Park. An annual Boxers’ Trail 5K is held each September. The John Hines National Wildlife Refuge at Tinicum, or Tinicum for short, is “just a really quiet, beautiful part of Philadelphia that I think is very underutilized,” says Pagonis. “There’s not a lot of people down there, so you’re kind of alone with your thoughts. There’s good space to get in a solid run.”


Philadelphia Distance Run: Philly’s flat terrain is a recipe for success when it comes to higher-mileage races. Take the Philadelphia Distance Run, a half-marathon held in usually ideal temperatures each September. “At least six different half marathon world records have been set at the Philadelphia Distance Run,” says Pagonis. This event was among the first to offer elite nonbinary prize money, she adds.

Independence Blue Cross Broad Street Run: With 35,000 runners taking part, Broad Street is the largest ten-miler in the country and has a lottery to get in. The course runs from north to south, “right through the heart of the city,” says Pagonis, and ends in the Navy Yard, which is the southernmost point of Broad Street.

Rocky Run 5K, 10-Mile, and 13.1 combined “Italian Stallion” challenge: Each November, runners toe the starting line in front of the Philadelphia Museum of Art for a Rocky-themed 5K that starts at 7 a.m., or a ten-miler that starts at 8 a.m. Those who run the second race after completing the first earn a special “Italian Stallion” medal and bragging rights for having completed 13.1 miles in this fun and festive event.

More Options: The Philly 10K runs through the South Philly streets is what Pagonis calls “a local favorite.” Bands, vendors, and, some years, specialty beer brewed just for the event make the fast-and-flat course a party. The Philadelphia BMW Love Run Half Marathon takes place each March with a course that passes by many of the city’s historic landmarks. The Loop race has taken place on the 8.4 miles of the Schuylkill River Trail since 1972.



Black Girls Run!: This 9,000-women-strong Facebook group has had a presence in Philadelphia since 2013. Its mission is twofold: encourage African American women to be active, and lower the percentage of chronic diseases associated with an unhealthy diet and sedentary lifestyle.

Queer Run: Established in 2022 to create safe spaces for LGBTQIIA+ runners of all paces, this group hosts three free weekly runs.

Endorphins Running: The local chapter of this national running community hosts group runs on Mondays to start the week off right. The group also meets one or two other days a week.

Students Run Philly Style: This group aims to transform students’ lives through running and mentorship, delivering positive outcomes from boosting GPAs to increasing graduation rates for program participants.


New Balance Philadelphia: Head to 1615 Walnut Street in the Center City West neighborhood, known for its upscale shops and walkability.

Philadelphia Runner: This independent and locally owned running store has locations in Center City, University City, Glen Mills, and Manayunk. The shop pride itself on personalized, professional fittings of running and walking shoes as well as sports bras.Bryn Mawr Running Company: All of this shop’s locations—in Bryn Mawr and Westchester, plus sister stores in Emmaus, Pennsylvania, and Wilmington, Delaware—offer personalized fittings and a rewards program. The Philadelphia-area stores also host group runs.

Independent since 1906, New Balance empowers people through sport and craftsmanship to create positive change in communities around the world.

The post Reasons to Love Running in Philadelphia appeared first on Outside Online.

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