The Best Trails for Speed Training Runs Around Philadelphia

Need to get in a speed workout around Philadelphia? Here's where to run.


Photograph courtesy Friends of the Wissahickon.

Most of the time when one thinks of speed training for Broad Street, tempo runs and intervals will come to mind. Runners will focus on the details of pace, distance, and recovery while overlooking one important detail: location.

With today’s GPS watch technology, you can really do speed training anywhere. All you need to do is program in the details of the workout into the watch, then start down any road, path, or track — taking cues from the watch on when to stop, speed up, or slow down. While this is more then sufficient for getting the job done, you can improve your speed workouts by doing them at some of Philly’s best running locations.

If you ever watch professional runners do speed workouts, you’ll notice two things: most of them run on routes with distance markings on the surface, and as they pass the markings they’ll hit their watch. As they pass over each marking, they’re manually hitting their lap button to record each time or split. Rarely will professional athletes rely solely on GPS technology for the key speed sessions.

Professional runners do this because they know the mile markings are accurate — where as GPS watches can vary. Set markers will never change, which allows runners to get a true comparison of their speed sessions over time, knowing each split has been consistent.

So instead of plugging the details of your next speed workout into your watch and heading out the door, aim to seek out the below Philly area paths that all have mile markers. As you run on them notice the markings on the surface or markers on the sides. Are they every quarter, half, or full mile? Then, next time you have mile or half-mile repeats, turn off your auto lap on your watch and manually hit the lap button as you pass over the marking for your workout.

Designate one of the following marked trails as your speed session route, and return there for every speed workout. And all that’s left to do now is run — and watch yourself get faster and faster.

Kelly Drive
Run along the Schuylkill River, and make use of the mile markers.

Chester Valley Trail
This flat rail-to-trail route through Chester County is perfect for speed running.

Forbidden Drive in Wissahickon
Voted this year’s Pennsylvania Trail of the Year, this five-mile Wissahickon trail provides a gorgeous running route.

Radnor Trail
This 2.4-mile trail in Wayne may be short — but it’s good for speed workouts.

Perkiomen Trail
20 miles of primarily crushed-stone path make this Montgomery County trail good for both speed and distance runs.

Chester Creek Trail
Another rail-to-trail path, this one follows Chester Creek in Delaware County.

Struble Trail
This 2.6-mile trail, which follows the Brandywine Creek into Downingtown, is primarily flat, making it easy for you to put all your focus on speed.

Warmister Park
Five miles of trails run through this community park in Warminster.

Cory Smith is a Philadelphia based running coach; founder of Run Your Personal Best, an online running-coaching business and former head cross country coach at Penn State Brandywine. He is a USA Track and Field-certified Endurance Level 2 coach and a 4:03 miler. As a student athlete at Villanova, Cory was a multiple-time NCAA Division One Regional qualifier and two-time National Championship qualifier. Contact Cory at [email protected]. Read all of Cory’s posts for Be Well Philly here.

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