Track Access in Heart of South Philly

The city has many great running spots.  For flat trails, there’s Kelly Drive/West River Drive, Columbus Boulevard and through Center City.  For hills, there’s some routes off Kelly Drive and in Manayunk.  The one thing that I did not find readily available, however, has been a track for sprints and speed training.  Franklin Field on the University of Pennsylvania campus has a historic track, but access to it is very limited (you can’t use it when the cross country or track teams are practicing) and almost non-existent when school is not in session.

Perusing Google Maps, I pondered whether there were any visible tracks that could be used by the public.  Down in South Philadelphia, I noted there appeared to be a track in the area of 10th Street and Bigler Street, which is south of Oregon.  It was not clear whether the field was associated with a particular nearby high school.

So, one morning, I decided to investigate and take a trip down to 10th and Bigler.  I was pleasantly surprised to find both the gate to the parking lot as well as the gate to the track open.  The track, which I learned was called the Bok Field Track, is run by the South Philadelphia Communities Civic Association.  It  is open for public use on weekdays from about 6:30 a.m. to 2 p.m.  On both of my recent visits, I found folks walking or jogging around the track. 

The track is definitely a hidden gem and asset for those looking for speed training in the city.


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. 

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Drinking Alcohol on the Night Before a Marathon

In my months of training for my marathon, I have learned one indefatigable truth: drinking a lot of alcohol on the night before a long run is quite detrimental for your performance.

Sure, there are the typical circumstances that generally accompany consumption of a few drinks, such as possibly being out late and having less sleep.  Then, there are the other adverse physical effects.  Alcohol, of course, is a diuretic, which leads to dehydration.  It causes the body to lose fluids quicker, impairs performance and makes those long runs even tougher.  By extension, drinking alcohol also significantly increases the rate of urination.  There have been times I’ve gone out on long runs (after a night of drinking) and had to stop to use the restroom multiple times.

Not surprisingly, most articles providing advice on running marathons generally discourage drinking on the night before the race.  At the same time, many runners are used to drinking beer or wine on almost a nightly basis.  It can certainly be done.  Witness former U.S. Olympic marathoner Deena Kastor, who used to drink a glass of wine before races, including before her bronze medal performance.  Hey, if it’s good enough for an Olympic bronze medal, it’s good enough for me.  If nothing else, it would help calm the nerves, and, after all, you shouldn’t stop what you have been doing all throughout training right before the marathon.

With that said, it appears to be ok, for those who are used to drinking wine or beer, to have ONE (and only one) glass of wine on the night before the race, particularly having it early in the evening with dinner.  Accompanying the drink with adequate water afterwards is also for the best.  Of course, if my performance during the race is below par or if I end up having to stop for restroom breaks multiple times, I also then have a built-in excuse.