Running Up the Wall

Every year, druing the bike race, otherwise known as the Philadelphia International Cycling Championship, I venture out to Manayunk to catch the race.  While the bike race consists of 150 miles and 10 laps through the city, there is no better place to catch it (and party) than in Manayunk.  The most distinctive and notable part of each lap, of course, is the Manayunk Wall.  For the uninitiated, the Wall is a HUGE climb up Levering Street and Lyceum Avenue.  It’s a 12 to 17 percent grade over about six tenths of a mile, and cyclists do ten laps on it.  It’s an enormous challenge, and the Wall is well known in cycling circles.

For both the challenge as well as to work on “hill” training, I decided to incorporate a run up the Wall in the middle of a recent 20 mile long run.  So, in the early morning of a hot, humid day, I was running up Levering and Lyceum, with some curious stares from local residents.   And the result?  Well, let’s just say that it’s much more fun to walk up and down the wall during the bike race with a beer in your hand.  The climb starts off brutal and gets worse as you keep going up.  When you turn the corner to the left a little bit up the hill, you still have a ways to go until you hit Ridge Avenue.  Every step results in a burning sensation in your thighs and calves. 

Three quarters the way up the hill, I spotted a small convenience store.  As I was nearing 11 miles on the run, I figured it was a good a place as any to stop, grab a Gatorade, recover and get ready to run some more.  The Gatorade and the short break were much needed before continuing the rest of the way. 

Because cycling up a hill takes more of a toll on your legs than running up one, I can’t even imagine how difficult it is for the cyclists to ride up TEN times.  But, that’s why they’re professionals, and I don’t get paid to run. 

The nice thing about the Wall is that when you do survive the challenge, it’s a nice downhill run back down Ridge Avenue and onto Kelly Drive.  You feel quite relieved as you’re bounding down Ridge and savoring what you’ve accomplished.  As a hill workout, you really can’t find much of a harder workout within city limits.  Give it a shot.  Feel the pain for yourself.


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