Andorra is a small country  in the Pyrenees, between Spain and France.  It’s namesake is a road in Philadelphia which rises up from the end of Forbidden Drive to Ridge Avenue, then leads to Harts Lane and a series of sharp hills before heading down to the Schuykill River Trail.  It made for a great training run for serious hill climbing and descending practice in a beautiful setting, a bit Hobbit-like in places, but definitely a valuable part of our path to Steamtown.  Our 14.7 mile route, mapped out on MapMyRun,  starts out with small hills, a bike path, and some areas of boardwalk over the Wissahickon Creek, leading up to Forbidden Drive.  Forbidden Drive runs along Wissahickon Creek, through the Wissahickon Gorge, an area of great natural beauty.  It wasn’t always so.  Early in the years of settlement of this area, it was filled with mills and taverns, but in 1868, the City of Philadelphia acquired 1800 acres of this area in order to preserve a clean water supply for the city, and demolished many of those mills and taverns.    The drive was banned to motorized traffic in 1899, hence the name.  No less a writer than Edgar Allan Poe described the area in an essay entitled “Morning on the Wissahiccon.”  It is a graveled, fairly wide road which curves along the Wissahickon Creek, with a stop mid-way at the one remaining Inn, the Valley Green Inn.  There, water fountains and restrooms are available for the many runners, cyclists, and walkers using the drive.  Our run continued on to the end of Forbidden Drive, where we headed left on Andorra Road and the start of the climbing.  Andorra climbs up to Park, for a quick right and steep uphill to a left on Church.  After crossing Ridge Pike, we headed along Harts Lane.  Harts Lane has several hills, fairly steep, which gave us some good downhill training as well.  The legs take a beating on the downhills.  They want to move fast, and trying to compromise between a controlled descent and taking advantage of gravity leads to strains on the quads, knees and ankles, and shins.  The organizers of the Steamtown Marathon make a big point of needing to practice downhills, and stress not going out too fast at the beginning of the race.  Naturally, for training, one must head uphill in order to go down.

The run finishes along the Schuylkill River Trail (SRT), heading back to Manayunk.  We had energy left for one more long climb, so we turned up Shawmont at the end of the paved portion of the SRT, making the quick U-turn at Umbria and following its hilly course until it ultimately dumped us on Main Street in Manayunk.  Anyone who has run the Philly Marathon will find this last bit very familiar, and can recall the crowds of locals cheering you on as you run up Main Street, having made the last turn on the way back to the Philadelphia Art Museum.  Our run stopped well short of that, ending where we started, at the Manayunk Diner.  There, eleven of our group got cleaned up and presentable, and sat down to a breakfast we rarely get to enjoy, with omelets, fried eggs, sausage, corned beef hash, pancakes, and home fries.  Those who had not done the run before, Tony and Brian to name two, were impressed with the run, and want to do it again.  Those of us who had done it before, also found it exhilarating, a good, hard, challenging run.  We’ll be out there in another few weeks to run it again.


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  1. FormermarathonerEd

     /  July 22, 2012

    You still need MORE DOWNHILLS for Steamtown!!!!!!!!!! 😉

  2. walterplods2012

     /  July 23, 2012

    hi Frank very interesting information on the run on Sunday. I think you were too modest (if you will) on my thoughts about that run. I thought it was terrific. I had a great run (though slow) and really enjoyed the beautiful scenery (well…er…nature right Bryan?) I mean it could not have been prettier. Surprisingly no wildlife spottings but I did see a bunch of kids rafting down river that was pretty cool. Topped off with diner food made this a complete success thanks for organizing. I was upset that nobody ordered scrapple though. Can’t wait to hit that trail again (but not too soon my legs are still sore). Thanks again Frank.


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