5 Challenges You’ll Face During the Philadelphia Marathon — And How to Prepare for Them

Now's a good time to start thinking about how you'll handle these Philadelphia Marathon challenges on race day.

philadelphia marathon challenges

Prepare for all the Philadelphia Marathon challenges now, thank yourself later. Photo by M. Fischetti for VISIT PHILADELPHIA

You know running the Philly Marathon isn’t going to be easy, right? To help you prepare for some of the event’s surprises, here’s five Philadelphia Marathon challenges you’ll encounter — and how to successfully conquer them.

Kelly Drive

As much as I love running on Kelly Drive, running 20 miles only to turn around in Manayunk to make a six-mile trek back to the Art Museum feels like a punch in the stomach. It’s long and the crowds dwindle somewhat. On top of that, the 20-mile marker can be the hardest point of the marathon. The key to getting the most out the last 10K is to STOP looking at your watch and to start racing. Keep your head up and try to either pass other runners or stay with the runners passing you.

A Wacky GPS Signal

Do NOT rely on your GPS watch for pacing or distance! I can’t tell you how many clients I’ve had run the Philly marathon and afterwards say, “My pacing got all messed up because my GPS signal was off.” GPS signals can be blocked by buildings, affecting the accuracy early in the marathon while running through Center City. I recommend turning off your GPS auto lap (the feature that causes your GPS to beep every mile) and using the course mile markers. Then you can manually hit the lap button to record splits.

Pre-Race Rush

No parking, long bathroom lines, and security fencing everywhere are all obstacles you’ll encounter during race day, making getting to the starting line on time difficult. Plan for extra time to ensure you’re not rushing around race-day morning, burning the fuel you need for the marathon. I’ll usually plan on arriving 30 minutes earlier than necessary — just in case of delays. Also, I recommend asking a friend to drop you off and using the bathroom early.

Where to Eat Post-Race Brunch

There’s nothing better than stuffing your face and having a few drinks to celebrate (or commiserate) after the Philly marathon. The issue: 20,000 other people feel the same way, which makes it difficult to get food, fast. To avoid waiting for hours when you’re at your hungriest, make reservations now.


I hate to be the bearer of bad news here, but running the Philadelphia Marathon is going to be painful. There will be times you’ll think you can’t take it anymore. The key is not to go into the race with any false notions that this is going to be easy. Once you accept it’s going to be painful, there won’t be any surprises come race day, especially once you hit the final few miles.


Cory Smith is the founder of Run Your Personal Best, an online running coaching business that has helped hundreds of runners achieve personal bests in distances ranging from 800 meters to 100 miles.  He is a multiple-time NCAA Division One Regional qualifier and two-time National Championship qualifier while at Villanova and holds personal bests of 8:05 3K and 3:45 1500 meters. Along with his work for Philadelphia magazine, Cory serves as a running editor for Gear Institute and is a regular contributor for Outside, Trail Runner, and Gear Junkie.

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