This Philadelphia Marathon race review takes an in-depth look into one of the more popular U.S. marathons. Every year thousands of runners run 26.2 miles through historic Philadelphia, and because of its flat course and ideal temperatures it has become one of the more popular races used to qualify for the Boston Marathon.
This evaluation will give you a closer look at the race from start to finish and all of the steps in between. And while I may be a tad biased, as I’m from the Philadelphia-area, I’ve tried to give a objective point-of-view based on my experiences and those of friends & acquaintances that I’ve me along the way.
Below is the Philadelphia Marathon Race Review grade sheet, followed by a mile-by-mile detailed course description that will help you visualize the run so that you can better plan for your big day:
Mile 1- 4: Starting from Eakins Oval, the Philadelphia Marathon goes down Ben Franklin Parkway to Arch Street, makes a left on 4th Street to Race Street and goes towards the Delaware River (Columbus Blvd.). For this part of the race, the pack is still pretty dense and some runners will spend a lot of useless energy trying to weave their way up.
Mile 5-8: The course meanders up from Columbus to South Street to Chestnut Street. This part of the race can be shady and cool from all of the tall buildings, but Chestnut Street is lined with crowds which makes it a fun stretch.
Mile 9-11: When you leave Chestnut Street you run through UPenn & Drexel’s turf which brings some high-energy crowds, music & fun (the marathon’s just another reason for them to party ;-). After you pass the zoo, there’s a nice downhill as you run towards Memorial Hall and Fairmount Park. Once you’re in the park, there’s a good uphill climb as you approach the 10th mile mark….not a killer-hill…but you’ll notice it. The race pack usually starts showing signs of thinning out and there are portions of miles 10 and 11 that run along a narrower bike path.
Mile 12-14: As you leave the park, the race takes you along West River Drive, past the halfway marker, and back across the Schuylkill River to where you started this 26.2-mile adventure. On a sunny and still day, this part of the race can get pretty warm…even when the temps are in the 50s (F).
Mile 15 – 18: As you run by the huge crowds at the art museum, you’ll feel like you have winged feet as you go around the bend onto Kelly Drive. The crowds taper off as you head to Manayunk, but the views of the Schuylkill River as you run past boat house row are spectacular.
Mile 19-22: The crowd starts to pick up again as you get into Manayunk. There’s a lot of energy along Main Street…locals bands…large crowds…good stretch of the race. And their boost comes in handy as you head up the small hill at Mile 20 to the turnaround point. As you head out of Manayunk around the 22nd Mile, you’ll cross from Main Street back to Kelly Drive…and while that little overpass entrance ramp hill may seem small…I always remember it…as it usually marks the point where I start to feel it.
Mile 23 – 26.2: This is the most challenging part of the race, as you go double-back over the familiar terrain of Kelly Drive to the finish. The crowds line the street for the last ½ mile, but can be sparse for miles 23, 24 and 25. This is the critical part of the race where goals are met or missed. If you can manage to hang tough up through Mile 25, the crowd will help pull you in by shear adrenaline for the last push.
If you’re committed to running 26.2 miles, the Philadelphia Marathon is a great place to do it. If you want a fast and scenic course that will be a memorable experience, consider it for your Fall marathon. If you’re looking to qualify for the Boston Marathon …this is one of the best courses and climates to do it in. Good luck in your training!