This past weekend, I had the opportunity to run the ODDyssey Half Marathon here in Philly. In its second year, the ODDyssey is the only road half marathon in the spring within city limits. It’s a nice race, with a little more than 1,500 finishers run almost entirely within Fairmount Park and with about eight miles on West River Drive. It’s a pretty fast, flat course, with one notable exception (a lengthy climb at mile 12.5). Additionally, in keeping with its name, the ODDyssey has a few features for those who are looking to have more fun and don’t care as much about their time: encouraged costumes and a costume contest, optional obstacle courses including military-themed bounces and water balloons.
Overall, the ODDyssey is a nice addition to the Philadelphia road race calendar. Here, in one person’s opinion, is a list of Philly’s annual races that you should do at least once:
- Broad Street Run – The Broad Street Run, of course, is Philly’s signature run. Held in early May, the 10 mile race has grown significantly, selling out its 30,000 spots in the past couple of years. It’s a great run for many reasons: crowd support, the transition of neighborhoods on Broad Street, free rides on the SEPTA Broad Street Line to and from the race.
- Rock ‘n’ Roll Philadelphia Half Marathon – Previously known as the Philadelphia Distance Run, the Rock ‘n’ Roll Half has had a long history. Now that it is part of the Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon and Half Marathon series, the race has grown to over 16,000 finishers. It’s run in mid to late September, when the weather isn’t cool but isn’t as oppressive as the summer either. One of the nice thing about the race, run through Center City before finishing with a Kelly Drive/West River Drive loop, is that in contrast to the Half Marathon portion of the Philadelphia Marathon weekend, the half marathon race is the main event. Crowds are out in full force in the city, and there are bands at every mile. The expo is easily the best of any Philadelphia race, with tons of “free stuff” and vendors. Plus, this year, Bret Michaels plays on the Parkway at the end of the race.
- Four Seasons Parkway Run and Walk – I would consider this race the one 5K you do not want to miss. Run in late September, the race, which is a benefit for cancer research at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, draws over 2,000 runners and several thousand walkers. The best part? The Four Seasons-catered full hot brunch after the race. Completely worth it and then some.
- Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure – Philadelphia’s most prominent 5K, the Komen Race for the Cure creates one of the more memorable race scenes every year in May, with a sea of white and pink. There are over 2,500 finishers, but thousands more walk or do not actually register a time.
- Philadelphia Marathon – Marathon weekend actually comprises of three races, including an 8K held on Saturday and the marathon and half marathon on Sunday. The marathon is considered a very fast course, with only a couple of hills and none of note on the last half. Last year’s races featured 20,000 combinted finishers. The main negatives of the race are that there is less fan support than either Broad Street or the Rock ‘n’ Roll Half and the time of year. Held in late November, the weather can be very hit or miss. Mid 30s to low 40s is as good as you’re typically going to get.