Where to Run: West Philly

New to West Philadelphia, Christine is a runner, baker, editor, BBC-fanatic, and awesome member of our staff. She recently trained for and ran the Ottawa Marathon (with a PR time!). Her marathon highlights included running through two Canadian provinces, cheers in both English and French, and maple syrup shots along the course. Read her guide on Where to Run starting in West Philly, put together during her marathon training.

The Runs

I spent most of this past winter and spring training for a marathon, and logged quite a few miles in the process. Specifically, I logged 509.5 miles of Philly running. (Thanks for that quick calculation Strava!) That’s a bit over the distance from here to Boston. But replace New York, Connecticut, and Massachusetts with about 250 miles on Walnut Street, and now we’re on the same page.

I get lost easily – once I strayed so far from a paved trail that I ended up in the middle of a farm – so I map out my runs before I leave the house. I knew the turn-around for every distance, the mileage between each bridge on the SRT, the exact bench for the five-mile turn-around. As I think back on all my runs over the past months, there are a few routes I did dozens of times, through tempo and speed and easy runs, and one I did only once, that dreaded-but-empowering longest long run. Here are a few - starting around Clark Park in West Philly:

5 Miles: The Art Museum Turn-Around

It’s a Schuylkill River Trail, Hamilton Mixtape kind of run.

Maybe you don’t even need music, but I like to race along the river with My Shot ringing in my ears. Other musical options could include: any other playlist by Lin-Manuel Miranda, the soundtrack to Les Mis, or just the song Despacito on repeat for forty-five minutes.

6 Miles, The Lloyd Hall Turn-Around

It’s a water fountain in sight, I could even use the bathroom kind of run.

This run brings you up, down, up those quick hills next to the Art Museum, then turns you through the Waterworks and the Azalea Garden until you reach Lloyd Hall. It feels full of landmarks. But also full of construction. What are they doing in the parking lot there anyway? Does anyone know?

10 Miles, The Halfway Down Kelly Drive Turn-Around

It’s a not quite regatta but you get to see all the statues and a view of the river with the zoo balloon kind of run.

But this one is full of more landmarks. First there’s Boathouse Row, then there are the statues. My favorite is Playing Angels – you’ve seen it, of course. The angels look so nimble and care-free – exactly how I wish I was feeling five miles into my run. The wide spaces past the Angels reminds me that even in what feels like a crowded city, I still have room to run. The best season for this run is spring, when the cherry blossoms bloom and scatter.

14 Miles, The Loop

It’s a thank god it’s not another out-and-back kind of run.

You love it, you hate it, you’ve been chased by a goose at least once. The questions we’ve all had on The Loop include: Is there ANOTHER regatta today? How do they row so fast? Are we in East Falls yet? Why aren’t there water fountains on this side? Are we sure MLK is closed? Where is the Art Museum? Wait, we’re still how many miles away? But we all love The Loop – when else do we get to run around in the street?

18 Miles, The Manayunk Towpath

It’s a why am I not just having brunch right now like all these happy, smiling people kind of run.

There’s that hill and then That Hill and finally, after a thousand years of hills, the towpath! It’s like running alongside a canal; if you squint into the sun you can imagine you’re basically in running in Italy. (Too far?) *slurps salted caramel Gu*

20 Miles, The Longest Run

It’s a I am really going to run a marathon soon kind of run. A realization run, if you will.

By now you’ve seen every part of the city. Twenty miles could take you out the towpath toward Conshohocken. Or across the street to the wooded Wissahickon trails. Or down Benjamin Franklin Parkway into South Philly. By now you believe in yourself. The miles have taken you from an uncertain wanderer to a focused runner – focused on the run, the distance, and the sights around you. Because you know you won’t miss that turn-around just after Flat Rock Road ends.