By Liz Pagonis
Many of you probably saw the title of this post and groaned. Who actually wants to run hills? A lot of runners don’t like to run hills because, well - it’s hard! Hills can be a great addition to your running though and offer a lot of benefits to runners. Hill running not only adds variety and intensity to your running routine but is a form of speedwork as it increases your heart rate and helps to improve your endurance. Hills also strengthen your muscles and can help improve your running form.
So if you want to improve your strength, speed, power, and running economy - head for the hills! Since the city of brotherly love isn’t exactly known for it’s hilly or mountainous terrain so you you might be wondering where in Philadelphia are you going to find some good hills to run?
We put together a list of some of favorite hills to run in pHILLadelphia:
1. Wissahickon Trails: Most of the trails off of Forbidden Drive have some elevation but Mother (closer to Bells Mill Road off of Forbidden Drive) is a beast. If you’re looking for some friends to suffer, I mean, power up the hill with the Chasing Trail crew usually meets at the base of Mother on Thursday mornings around 5:45AM to do repeats.
2. The Mann Hill: Starting in front of the Mann Center head up Avenue of the Republic and stay straight on to Georges Hill Road. It's a steep climb and there are cars so make sure to wear something bright, hug the shoulder, and run against traffic. At the top pause for a moment to take in the view from behind the Mann Center, it's pretty awesome.
3. The Wall in Manayunk: Cyclists used to power up this monster so why shouldn't runners? Start at Cresson Street and head up Levering & Lyceum to finish at Manayunk Avenue. Manayunk is known for it's hills so you could make a fun snake run up and down from Cresson to Ridge.
Bonus: There are 16 staircases throughout Manayunk including the One Hundred Steps Stairs along the lower Wissahickon Creek. Mix some of these in for a different way to strengthen your muscles on the run.
4. Belmont Mansion Drive: Start at Montgomery and run up to Chamounix. It's a tough hill going up around a turn but the view from Belmont Plateau is one of the best in the city and almost makes you forget you're running up a hill.
Bonus Hills: Check out Parachute Hill and Flagpole Hill on the Belmont Plateau Cross Country Course. These hills haunt the memories of many XC runners that grew up in the area.
5. Champion's Climb aka Lansdowne aka mile 8 - 9 of the Philadelphia Marathon: I used to hate this hill. The first few times I ran the Philadelphia Half Marathon and then the full marathon I couldn't understand how I could see people so high above me going flat - the hill goes up a turn so the end is nowhere in sight. There is a sidewalk for part of it but hill repeats here are great especially if you are training for the Philadelphia Marathon. It's no longer part of the half marathon course (lucky ducks).
6. Ben Franklin Bridge: Running over the Ben is a must for any Philly runner or someone visiting Philadelphia. A trip over and back is around 3 miles and half of it is an incline both ways - and you're technically running at least 2 hills. Great for repeats because it has a built in cool down and the view of the city from Camden is pretty awesome, especially at sunrise or sunset.
7. South Street Bridge or South Street Ramp: Bridges and ramps are technically hills and runners can frequently be seen doing hill repeats on these two. The South Street Bridge and Ramp are an easy way for someone in the city with limited time or means to get to some of the other places listed to get in some hill work.
8. West Philadelphia: It’s a little unfair to throw this out there without a more specific address or street to run up but basically start by the river (Center City) and run into West Philadelphia. It's not crazy steep but it's definitely an incline. Spruce Street around the 50's is a great section to run up.
9. Philadelphia Art Museum ramps: The Rocky Steps aren’t the only way to get to the top of the Art Museum. There are ramps in front of and behind the Art Museum PLUS two ramps from the path by Water Works up to the Gazebo and overlook. Run some repeats or up and down like a roller coaster!
10. Lemon Hill: When I think of hill repeats, I think of Lemon Hill. Looking up with your back to Boathouse Row, you can run to the left or right uphill. It’s a great place to do hill repeats or loop around Sedgely to add some rolling hills to your run. The top of the hill by the mansion is another great place to catch a sunrise or sunset view of the city skyline.
Fun fact: Lemon Hill used to be a part of the Philadelphia Marathon course, I’m sure I speak for many when I say I’m happy I missed those years!
There are different ways to incorporate hills into your running and training whether it’s mixing them in along the way or doing an actual workout on the hill. However you choose to add them in, keep in mind that hill running pushes the cardiovascular system more (your heart is trying to keep pace with the increase energy needed to fight gravity). Hill repeats and workouts should be treated and done like any other speedwork session, once or twice per week - not every day.
Have fun exploring the hillier side of Philly and let us know what your favorite hills to run are, especially if they aren’t on this list, in the comments!