The ING Philadelphia Distance run offers all the qualities you want in a half-marathon course. First of all, it is flat. And by flat I mean flat. The course starts at 35 feet of elevation, finishes at 50 feet, and never exceeds 55 feet or drops below 24 feet. The course is also scenic, historic and well-supported, it features great entertainment, and it comfortably accommodates a large number of runners, thanks in part to the wave start system.
The race begins in historic downtown Philadelphia, on Market Street, just a few blocks from the spot where Benjamin Franklin performed his famous kite flying experiment. Runners begin by heading southeast, passing Logan Circle at the one-mile mark and the impressive City Hall building a half-mile later. Built in 1871 and standing 574 feet, Philadelphia City Hall was once the tallest habitable building in the world.
As they approach two miles, runners make a couple of right turns and head back roughly in the direction they came from, swinging around the other side of Logan Circle just before the four-mile mark.
This road becomes the picturesque Martin Luther King, which runners remain on for five miles as it snakes along the Schuylkill River, presenting breathtaking views. Major landmarks along the way include the Philadelphia Museum of Art, with its statue of Rocky Balboa out front. Each year, about a month after the ING Philadelphia Half Marathon, the Schuylkill becomes the site of the famous Head of the Schuylkill regatta (rowing races).
At nine miles, runners cross the river on the falls bridge and head back the way they came on the opposite bank on Kelly Drive, which takes them all the way to the finish line.
To help runners through the course, there are 12 bandstands, eight water stations, five Cytomax stations and a Gu Energy Gel station.
The ING Philadelphia Distance Run racecourse draws rave reviews from participants every year. A participant in last year’s event commented on Active.com, “This was a great event in 2008. I enjoyed it so much, I am doing it again. The view of the city is great, and the people in the streets with cow bells were an awesome boost to my ego. I can’t wait till September 20, 2009.”