One of the best kept running spots is right in our Philadelphia backyard! Not many runners know about the Valley Green running path, also known more broadly as the Wissahickon Trails or Forbidden Drive, but this spot is a fantastic running locale where you can get in a great run on a variety of running surfaces.
For years, I’ve been running at “The Wiss” and I want you to know what that an amazing spot located just outside the Philly city limits. Running through the Valley Green towpath is a dream come true for true distance runners looking to get in quality mileage.
Why I Love Forbidden Drive
In high school, especially in the summer, my teammates and I used to drive across the bridge and do our Sunday Long Runs there. We’d go anywhere from 8 to 12 miles, mostly on the flats, but occasionally we’d go up some of the side roads and crank out some hill sprints.
Then in college, at Villanova, Forbidden Drive became not only our long run spot but also our workout location on Fridays. Mostly, Friday runs were tempos, where we’d go anywhere from 4-6 miles (after a warm-up) of pack running at close to a 5-minute pace. I loved those runs as I got comfortable being uncomfortable.
Why You’d Like Valley Green
Running at Valley Green is a must-do for all distance runners if you’re looking for a variety of running surfaces, lots of running company, and mile markers every ½ mile for all of the 5 miles of the path.
Running at Forbidden Drive presents itself with a variety of running surfaces that forces your body and brain to adapt to the constant changes. There are trails off to the side of the main path and this provides even more challenge and variety to your running. The main path undulates and is not smooth or clean, which stimulates your brain and makes you focus more while you’re running.
Valley Green is primarily made of mostly crushed gravel and because it’s softer and has more (minor) obstacles, you are forced to pay more attention to where your foot lands, which makes the run slightly more challenging than traditional roads.
Not only will you find lots of random runners on the trails, there are also a TON of running clubs and groups that call Wiss their home.
Groups meet on a just about every day from every possible starting point on the trail – Valley Green Inn, Lincoln Dr, or E Skippack Pike. It’s best if you’re looking to run with a local group that you look them up and make sure they are meeting.
Some groups include:
Most of us know by now that running with people is so much better than solo. Running groups offer friendships, training partners, and so much more.
Another really great aspect of Valley Green is the fact that the towpath is marked every ½ mile. This helps with pacing, knowing how far you’ve gone and provides some context to how far you have left in your run. The marks are usually green stripes on the wooden fence – the fence that divides the towpath from the river below.
Summary of “The Wiss”
Valley Green goes by a few names – Forbidden Drive (named so in the 1920s because cars were forbidden to use the trail), Wissahickon Trail – and so I’m sure people are confused as to where or what us runners are actually talking about.
Forbidden Drive is great for runners because it’s a great alternative to the busy roads.
There are so many club teams, marathoners, colleges, high schools and master’s runners that use the trails on a daily basis. It’s really easy to link up with someone running your pace.
Lastly, the towpath is well-marked and makes not having a GPS watch that much more tolerable.
Overall, the Wiss provides amazing comfort and shade in the summer, protection from the wind in the winter, and great landscape in the fall months.
For more information about Valley Green (Wissahickon Trails), visit this link.
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