Philadelphia Marathon Training: The Best Hilly Long Runs in Philly (With Maps!)

And why you should be running them.

If you’ve found yourself weekend after weekend running your long runs on Kelly Drive, the Schuylkill River Trail or Chester Valley Trail you’re going to want to pay close attention here.

With only a few weeks left until the Philadelphia Marathon it’s important that you make the most of your last long runs. This means trying to prepare and simulate the amount of pounding and fatigue you’ll experience on race day. While just being out on your feet for hours each weekend is suitable, if you want to challenge yourself even more and better prepare yourself for the demands of running 26.2 miles, we’ve got some ideas: Two of the best ways to do this is to seek out hilly routes and to add marathon pace or faster to your long run. For this article I’ll focus on the first of the one, adding hills.

Adding hills to your long run does three things to better prepare you for the marathon. First it adds more of a strength component. Each step forward requires more strength than otherwise needed for flat runs. Second, because it requires more energy to get up the hills, you’ll deplete your glycogen stores faster, training your body to become more efficient. Lastly, it gives you a huge mental boost. If you haven’t trained on hills, hills can seem daunting and frightening. The more you run on hills less frightening they become.  One thing that’s important to note is that yes your pace will be slower, but you’ll be getting a much better workout than if you if were running faster on flat surface.

Here are two of my favorite hilly routes if you’ve been stuck on Kelly Drive, the Schuylkill River Trail or Chester Valley Trail.

From Lloyd Hall
Click here for map
This route is great mix of everything from the rolling hills on Boxer’s Trail to part of the marathon course, finishing with a monster hill towards the end.

Map of hilly run route from Lloyd Hall

Elevation profile of hilly run route in Philadelphia


From Betzwood in King Of Prussia
Click here for map 
This is another great route with a mix of trails and pavement through Valley Forge. While it loops the Valley Forge Path twice, it offers challenging rolling hills towards the later miles.

Map of hilly run route in Valley Forge

Elevation profile of hilly run route in Valley Forge

One thing I like to do if your run includes the last X miles @ marathon pace is run the first part, prior to the marathon pace, on super hilly terrain so you’re even more fatigued going into the marathon-pace portion of the run.

While these are only two routes of many you can choose from in the Greater Philadelphia area, the takeaway is don’t shy away from hills, even if the race is flat.  Adding hills in your weekly long will make you better prepared to handle the late race fatigue you’ll no doubt experience on November.


Cory Smith is the owner of Run Your Personal Best, an online running coaching business, and a two-time NCAA Division 1 National Qualifier and 4:03 miler while at Villanova University. He also serves as Running Editor for Gear Institute and has been a regular running contributor for Be Well Philly for the Broad Street Run and the Philadelphia Marathon.

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