The Philadelphia Distance Run originated in 1978 under the auspices of the Philadelphia Family of YMCA's to actualize the vision of Gene Martenson who wished to showcase the beauty of Philadelphia through a first class foot race that Philadelphia area runners could be proud of. The succeeding Race Director, Bill Jackson, augmented that vision by adding world class competitors to the field. In year one U of Penn star Julio Piazzo (1:07.35) and Nora Johnson (1:24.34.) won the race which at the time boasted the largest field of any first race in the country with 3400 competitors. The next year, multi -Olympic Gold medal winner Lasse Viren (1:04.48) and Lena Hollmann (1:20.06) won the event. The race continued to grow in size and prestige. World records were set in the race by Rod Dixon in 1981 (1:02.12), by Michael Musyoki in 1982 (1:01. 35), by Joan Benoit Samuelson in 1983 (1:09.14) and 1984 (1:08.34), by Mark Curp in 1985 (1:00.55), by Dionicio Ceron in 1990 (1:00.46), and by Matthew Kisorio (58:46) in 2011.
In 1988, the YMCA decided it could no longer support the race as it evolved and a Board of Directors comprised of former race directors and key volunteers formed a non-profit corporation and negotiated with the YMCA to acquire the rights to the Philadelphia Distance Run. Despite the initial absence of a named sponsor, the 1988 race took place without compromising its world class and community nature as former marathon world record holder, Steve Jones, won the race in 1:02:07 as a precursor to his 1988 New York City Marathon victory. He was joined in the winners' circle by former Virginia and Boston University star Leslie Welch Lehane (1:10.47)
In the late 2000s, Rock N Roll acquired the Philadelphia Distance Run and continued to elevate the race, at one point attracting nearly 20,000 runners to Philadelphia and maintaining a course known around the world for its fast speeds.
In the fall of 2020, a local group consisting of Students Run Philly Style, Philly Run Fest, and Runhouse, re-launched the race under its original name, the Philadelphia Distance Run, and have begun to write the next chapter in the event’s illustrious history.
|2nd Male||1:01:21||James Ngandu||33||KEN|
|3rd Male||1:02:14||Shadrack Kipchirchir||34||KEN|
|4th Male||1:02:20||Filmon Ande||25||ERI|
|2nd Female||1:11:06||Catherine Syokau Mwanzau||24||KEN|
|3rd Female||1:11:10||Fiona Okeeffe||25||USA|
|4th Female||1:12:05||Joyline Chemutai||29||KEN|