About Us

About Us

The Philadelphia Marathon has grown tremendously since our first race in 1994. What started as a small local event of just 1,500 participants has become one of the top-10 marathons in the country. Our beautiful and scenic course takes runners past historic landmarks, through urban neighborhoods, and along Philadelphia's picturesque waterfronts. Of course, you can't forget the crowds. Each year, spectators line the course, eager to cheer on runners, because there's nothing we love more in this town than champions. Race Weekend 2017 features the Philadelphia Marathon on Sunday, November 19; the Half Marathon, Rothman Institute 8K and Kids Fun Run on Saturday, November 18; and a free two-day Health & Fitness Expo on Friday, November 17 and Saturday, November 18.

History of the Philadelphia Marathon

The beginnings of organized marathoning in Philadelphia date back to at least the 1920s when the race occurred on a course from the Philadelphia suburbs into the city. Mainly a suburban event, efforts were largely independent and promoted under various names over the years.

It was not until 1994 that the marathon became a City of Philadelphia-managed race held strictly within city limits. It was then that the Philadelphia Marathon as we know it today was officially established by the City and a group of dedicated runners-physicians at the Rothman Institute. The new city-centered course provided a perfect setting for the many historic and beautiful assets of Philadelphia.

The Philadelphia Marathon started out modestly with a mere 1,500 participants in 1994 and has grown to become one of the top-10 marathons in the nation. Today, the race is flourishing, with nearly 30,000 participants expected to take part in all three races: The Rothman Institute 8K, as well as the Full and Half Marathons.

In 2016, Philadelphia’s Office of the City Representative, which managed the race since its inception, and the City’s Department of Parks and Recreation announced a formal partnership to produce the Philadelphia Marathon. 

The Marathon remains true to one of its founding goals of promoting health and fitness, adding the Health & Fitness Expo and a noncompetitive Kids Fun Run to the experience. Over the decades, the Marathon has experienced many enhancements, but one thing remains the same: The Philadelphia Marathon is famous for going the distance.

Green Initiatives

As the Philadelphia Marathon continues to grow in size to 30,000 competitors, 60,000 spectators and 3,000 volunteers, we plan to also increase our sustainability efforts. In recent years, we have implemented several changes in order to meet our ultimate goal of maintaining Certification from the Council for Responsible Sport. Our efforts must start with you! We hope you will join us in recycling cardboard, plastic, clothing and other items throughout the race weekend.

It takes a great deal of hard work and planning to produce a sustainable event, but the Marathon is committed to setting an example for the surrounding community and other races when it comes to environmental responsibility. We are making a concerted effort to reduce the event's carbon footprint and continue to make environmental strides by implementing green initiatives that reduce waste, reuse resources and recycle materials. Green, lean and clean is our mindset.

Here's what YOU can do to help:

  • Walk or take SEPTA to get around the city
  • Ask your hotel to not change your sheets and towels with each cleaning service
  • Make use of our BigBelly solar-powered trash cans while exploring Center City Philadelphia
  • Visit local businesses-local production leaves less of a carbon footprint
  • Recycle cardboard and plastics on the course
  • Throw your cups and food waste in compost bins set up along the route

Some of the earth-saving steps we are taking behind the scenes:

  • Using e-cards instead of paper for discount offers
  • Reducing paper size of informational handouts by 50 percent
  • Using 100% recycled paper and eco-friendly inks in Race Weekend materials
  • Encouraging runners to register online
  • Offering information on our website encouraging participants to travel around Philadelphia by public transportation

Here's what we do on the course to be a more sustainable event:

  • Recycling cardboard and plastics on the race course
  • Eliminating the use of Styrofoam throughout the event
  • Setting up waste stations at the start/finish line and providing "Waste Watcher" volunteers to help with sorting waste for composting and recycling
  • Composting at least 300,000 cups along the route
  • Using formaldehyde-free, nontoxic alternative to traditional chemicals in portable toilets onsite
  • Stocking all portable toilets with recycled toilet paper
  • Recycling excess runners' medals
  • Recycling discarded salvageable runners' clothes at race day starting line, filling more than 200 55-gallon bags
  • Recycling excess runners' bags-items are sorted, then recycled or donated to local running clubs, school groups, and charity organizations
  • Donating excess food products such as water and/or runners' snacks to local shelters, charitable organizations, recreation programs, school groups and other competitive race organizations
  • Monitoring course and emergency functions primarily through the use of bicycles, scooter units, and ATV's, minimizing the carbon footprint as compared to fuel-guzzling vehicles and ambulances

Even our Health & Fitness Expo is "going green":

  • Participating in a used sneaker recycling project with the MORE Foundation, a Philadelphia Marathon charitable partner, to assist with job-creating community outreach efforts in Ghana, Africa
  • The Pennsylvania Convention Center, which hosts the Expo, performs single stream recycling to divert waste from landfills
  • The recent expansion of the Pennsylvania Convention Center achieved LEED® certification in 2011


Volunteer as a Waste Watcher:

​​ The Philadelphia Marathon is partnering with the Mayor's Office of Sustainability, and the Mayor's Office of Civic Engagement and Volunteer Service to create a team of volunteers who help educate race attendees about recycling and compost while also helping the Marathon reach an ambitious goal of achieving "zero waste." At the race Start/Finish, water stops, and spectator areas, Waste Watcher volunteers will help event goers sort their trash, recycling, and compost into the right containers. You will also receive a free sweatshirt! In 2015 Waste Watchers helped the Marathon reach 90 percent waste diversion, a new record and the widely-accepted definition of “zero waste.”