A Philadelphia Runaround

You know what’s nice about this run in Philadelphia?  I didn’t have to run a marathon.  It seems the trend that every time I’m in Philly I’m either running the Philly Marathon/Half-Marathon, or doing the Philly Triathlon.  This time, I got to simply enjoy a 12ish mile run and attend our good friends’ wedding.  Oh, and eat cheese steaks.  Perfect!

Of course, before I could earn that cheese steak or two, I had to get my run on.

I started off from City Hall, just a few yards in front of our hotel:



From there it was just a short run to a printing press statue with Uncle Ben (Benjamin Franklin):


Behind him a touch was the famous LOVE letters – accenting a pretty cool line of sight past the fountains all the way to the Museum of Art.


With the fountains behind me I pretty quickly got out into the open and my lap average pace started to drop (since I wasn’t playing dodge and weave any longer).  For non-interval runs, I tend to use 1-mile repeating laps to keep track of my pace as it shifts.

You can see below the relatively straight shot to the museum.  In fact, this is where the Philly Marathon starts and ends.  I’ve stood in this very spot many times before (both in anticipation and in pain).


Speaking of which, there were beach balls and lanterns hung in the same spot that I’ve previously always seen porta potties (during a race).


Once past the former land of porta potty I was in front of the steps up to the Museum of Art.  I’d come back and visit it later in the run.


Instead, I wrapped around to the left of it, which brought me down onto a running trail.  The roadway next to it was closed for the weekend to allow runners and cyclists to use it.


A minute or two later I’d cross over the river on my way outbound:


Once across the river the roadway opens up a fair bit and this is where the majority of runners/cyclists I’d see were.


Looking back across the river you can see all the various rowing houses.  During the holidays (or perhaps just at night year round, I’ve only ever been out at night during the holidays) – these homes are all decked out with lights.


I continued to plod along.  I was just running with a water bottle and a gel packet, nothing fancy or too bulky given the run was relatively short and the weather was relatively cool.  Plus, I didn’t really want to pack my CamelBak for this run since I had water bottles with me on my bike.


Since I forgot to bring from my stash of usual nutrition, I picked up a Clif Gel Shot, chocolate flavor specifically.  Seriously, why do I not train with chocolate more often?  It was like eating a brownie.  I love brownies.  A lot.


On a related note, on my Thursday ride I grabbed at the bike store one of those Honey Stinger waffle things.  While OK tasting – how on earth are you supposed to get it out of the package while riding?  Seriously?  I can open it up no problem, but then it’s like trying to take a Frisbee out of a Kleenex box.  Not fun.

Back to my run…

Generally it was quite quiet.  Though, it was around mid-day at this point, so most more serious runners would likely have already finished up their runs (or, if not more serious, certainly smarter).


I passed a garage/facility of some sort – they were BBQ’ing.  Had I taken any money, I probably would have quit my run then and just eaten BBQ.  But I lacked money, nor really anything else to barter with.


Onwards on the little path I went.


As I neared about five or so miles I figured I’d determine how to cross the river and come back on the other side.  I saw the hill (seen below to the left) that eventually went to a bridge.  While crossing the street I noticed the below 10MPH sign for cyclists.  Which likely explains why there were so few serious cyclists out there.

Kinda too bad to otherwise ‘waste’ a great closed road to traffic (I see little reason why cyclists couldn’t share the space at varying speeds– after all, it works just fine in every other major city on the planet).


I went ahead and crossed over the bridge, which appeared to be a former railway crossing at one point.


Here’s the view downriver:


Upon crossing the river I figured it’d be a somewhat straight forward back down to the trail on the other side of the river.  And while that was technically true, the actual path was a bit sketchy – overgrown and with folks hanging around drinking (formal cocktail party this was not).  Fine for me, but I’d guess that the single ladies in the house wouldn’t be thrilled about it.


No worries though, I found the path and was back on my way (still outbound):


This side was busier than the other side from a runner standpoint.  And in fact, looking at the Garmin Connect heat maps pre-run, it matched the reality that I saw as well (seen on the right of the river, below):


I turned around a bit later, and then began working my way back.

Along the way I passed outdoor stadium seating for rowing competitions, pretty cool:


Then a bit later across the river I’d see the “hot air balloon on a wire” at the Zoo.


You’ll remember the rowing houses I saw on the outbound from the other side, now I was running behind them.  There was no ambiguity that these were establishments of rowing:


Each of the houses prominently and proudly displayed their affiliation(s):


I was soon back along side the Museum of Art, and running next to the famous Rocky Statue.  During the marathons, they place the finishers shirt over the statue – as this is just right at the finish:


On the steps there were numerous folks running up and down.  Some looked to be doing legit workouts, and others looked to be more in the movie re-enactment phase (from Rocky).


I’ve done the Rocky re-enactment previously – post-marathon mind you – so I saw no reason to re-do that pain again (unfortunately, the video appears to be a victim of MSN videos from long ago, I’ll have to re-upload it some day…).

So, I just ran back down the main avenue towards city hall (center of street below):


And finally lastly, back at the fountain again:


I finished up a handful of 30 second intervals and then called it done.  For the main portion of my run (about 11ish miles), I kept a nice steady 7:20-7:30ish/mile pace in Z2.  Good deal.  Here’s my complete route:


With the run over, we relaxed at the hotel a few hours before heading downstairs to the wedding.  I’ll point out that staying in the same hotel as a wedding is brilliant.  Especially when the ceremony and the reception are in the same location.  Total transport time: About 30 seconds in the elevator.


Obviously, The Girl and I were properly outfitted for the occasion:


Even better than the fake mustaches and glasses that were provided mid-way through the night, were the Philadelphia cheese steak sandwiches.  Pure awesome:


Huge congrats to triathlete friends Lauren and Phil!

The next day we made a brief stop at the mall.  As I was pulling into the parking lot I watched as a cyclist (likely a triathlete given the clip-on aerobars) removed his bike (and bike rack) from his car in the fastest and most painful method possible:


Don’t worry, I helped him get it down (though, as pointed out on Twitter, not till after I snapped the above photo).  It was actually harder than I would have thought to get the whole thing off of the wire due to the aerobars kind of ‘locking’ it in place.

With our mall run complete we headed off to the airport and up to Newfoundland – where I’m enjoying the cooler weather (yet still sunny days!):


More on that (or this, I should say since I’m here now), later in the week.

Thanks for reading!


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  1. Tucker

    The boathouses are lit up all year round at night.

  2. Edward

    For future reference, you can continue straight up West River Drive (the left/West side of the river) and cross easily at Falls Bridge. From the art museum, it’s about an 8.5 mile loop.

  3. Unwrapping a Honey Stinger waffle while riding is definitely an acquired skill. Easier if the fingers are available, but still possible in good MTB gloves. Much harder while bouncing around on MTB trails, but still *possible*. I can regularly eat them while road riding with no trouble, and sometimes do while moving on the MTB. But generally on the MTB I just stop quickly on shorter rides, and on longer rides I repackage them. I use the Revelate Designs Mountain Feed Bag. Just break up however many waffles you need into a big ziploc bag. Stuff that in the feedbag with the top open and wrapped over the top of the feed bag. Then use the feed bag’s drawstring to keep it closed when not in use (the drawstring is very cool in that you can operate it one handed, both to open and close).

    I really haven’t found any gels that I *like*. I like waffles and I like chews, and both require some amount of fiddling to eat them, particularly on long rides in the woods if you don’t want to stop (or are racing).


  4. Matt Dreyfuss

    Wish I knew you were in Philly, would have been nice to finally meet!


  5. Roger Dennis

    We Philie types appreciate the good pubilicity (and as a Drexel dean, our boat house flag looks great in your photo); though no cupcakes as good as Bertie’s nearby..r

  6. Ted H

    I agree with Edward’s comment… seeing as you continued outbound, if you are doing that run again in the future, I’d recommend continuing past the Strawberry Mansion bridge to the Falls bridge. It is just a short distance past where you ended up turning around to head back into the city and is a lot friendlier to runners/cyclists.

    As for the speed limit sign on Martin Luther King Drive, I think that most of the serious cyclists do head out earlier in the morning. I’m a beginning cyclist and my one trip down to center city Philly so far for a training ride included the closed MLK drive on a Saturday morning. I was riding that stretch at about 16 – 18 mph and was being blown away by the experienced/serious folks.

    I don’t remember seeing the sign, so maybe they put it up at a certain time of day (I was at that stretch at about 9:00 – 9:30AM if I remember correctly).

  7. Guillaume

    Sometimes, knowing I’ll be taking a Clif chocolate gel is enough to keep me going for another 45min until the next one. ;)

    Good read, and congrats to the newlyweds!

  8. Dominik J.

    hey ray!
    do you know if and when garmin plans to bring the heat map feature to europe? would really like that feature…

    • They’ve talked about bringing it to top international cities, but I’m not sure what that timeline is.

      Personally, I’d just like to see it available globally – just like Strava Heatmaps.

  9. Turn The Damn Cranks

    Honey Stinger Waffles are just overpriced (and slightly larger) versions of stroop wafles. You can pick up bags of the small ones at Trader Joe’s for much less than the HS versions. They are equally tasty, and identical nutrionally, as Jill Homer over at Jill Outside established a few years ago: link to arcticglass.blogspot.com. As important as saving money, the little ones are much easier to deal with on rides — just count out the right number before your ride (about 3 = one gel if memory serves), put them in a plastic bag, and you have easy access.

  10. Honeystinger solution that I use: unwrap them at home before you go, break them into 1/2’s or 1/4’s and put them in a small ziplock baggie in the bentobox :)

  11. Corey

    Speaking of nutrition…I have been reading a lot about pre & post ride nutrition and recovery. Do you have a post about what you usually eat before and after or your normal routine? I hate to think I am wasting my workout by not recovering properly or taking in the proper nutrients at the best times.

  12. Pete

    Welcome to Newfoundland! Enjoy the unusually good weather. I’m here too, visiting my family and doing some running. Always fun to run the trail along the river through St. John’s if you are in town. Looking forward to the post from The Rock. (I’m a long time reader but very infrequent commenter).

  13. Todd Giorgio

    I did more or less the same run a year ago while in Philly at a scientific conference. The bonus for me – HS rowing tournament. Very interesting to see the level of engagement – *lots* of folks there with tents, racks of boats, pretty much covering the riverbank for miles. I had no idea…

  14. Champ

    Rey, you should ask “The Girl” to make gel packs for you in cupcake flavours! I would be buying some

  15. You went on so long I thought you were going to end up with 20 miles…

  16. Aljaz Topole

    Hey, nice blog. Been reading it for a year now and it’s the best =) really a great thing. Just wondering, you train a lot and I don’t remember that you trained in a fitnes. Do you combine your triathlon training with fitness, or do you do it seperately?
    have a nice day

    • Hi Aljaz-

      I’m afraid I don’t understand on the ‘fitness’ piece? I swim/bike/run, and occasionally do core exercises, but that’s about it (aside from stuff like skiing or the like).

  17. Josh

    They also do a (pretty much) weekly time trial on that section of West River Drive; Art Miseum to East Falls Bridge and back. Free to do, just show up at about 6:15am.

    And, if the TT didn’t prove it, that 10mph sign is really just a decoration.

  18. Jeremiah Manning

    Tried the GU chocolate gel last night during my Build Run. Great success.

  19. Sean Ryan

    Philly is my home town – glad to see you got out for a run. The loop you ran is almost what the old Philly distance run (1/2 marathon) was. When the weather is nicer, west river drive and Kelly drive (roads on each side of river) are packed with runners, cyclists, rollerbladers, etc. The Steelman tri was this past weekend – you could have done it while here…..of course the horrible tshirts aren’t much incentive.

  20. Chris Power

    No t shirts at Steelman this year, Steelman portable folding chairs with carrying case. Really nice swag!

    And yes the 10mph sign is mostly just to let folks know to be careful and respect everyone on West River drive. If you get out early on Saturdays as one poster said you will see a number of the fast tri/ttguys in the area in the unofficial time trial or just doing laps. It’s a great stretch of pavement and great that it is closed to traffic April – Oct on weekends. There is also a legit 8 mile out back TT held on west river drive their each June.

  21. Matthew Cortez

    You were in my neighborhood! Dam, I ran 20 on the same path today.
    I would have got you some great street food from Tony Lukes.
    Awesome pics

  22. Josh

    The 10mph is for cars, not cyclists. There is one entry point on West River Drive for cars – that is via Montgomery Ave. So while the road is closed to through traffic, cars can get access to park, etc. Also, the garage is with the BBQ is the Philadelphia handicap/special needs bike club (I’m not sure of the official name). They do that every weekend.

  23. Matt

    i had flashbacks of the horrors of rowing all through college when i saw the boat houses…made my hands start to ache, wanted to vomit, and I started blinking at odd intervals while twitching… Do. Not. Miss. At. All.