How Far Did Rocky Balboa Really Run?

A Philadelphia writer and runner has finally answered the question we've all been asking: How far did Rocky run in Rocky II?
A Philadelphia writer and runner has finally answered the question we've all been asking: How far did Rocky run in Rocky II?

Ask any runner to name his or her favorite cinematic running scene, and odds are one of the many Rocky training montages will come up. After all, few things are more inspiring than watching working man's hero Rocky Balboa run through Philadelphia in a sweatsuit and Chuck Taylors, air-boxing and high-fiving all the kids in the city. (If thinking about the montage has you in the mood for more throwbacks, check out our vintage shoe picks in The 7 Best Classic Running Shoes.)

Like many native Philadelphians, writer Dan McQuade grew up watching the Rocky movies and taking special joy in those training montages--particularly the iconic scene in Rocky II that ends on the steps of the Philadelphia Art Museum after passing through seemingly every major landmark in the city.

DID YOU KNOW? Read more fun and surprising running data that we've uncovered in Run by The Numbers.

A few years ago, though, he noticed something off about the scene... It seemed Rocky ran through a lot of Philadelphia. McQuade got to thinking: Just how far did Rocky run?

McQuade, an avid runner and self-identified "Philly dork," decided to spend a few hours poring over the montage to find the answer.

McQuade consulted Google map satellites, local friends with mysteriously extensive trainyard knowledge, and information from a recent real estate listing of the original Rocky house at 2313 S. Lambert Street. Then he plugged all the info into the USATF mapping tool to create a route.

What McQuade found won't come as a shock to anyone familiar with Philly geography: Rocky was an ultramarathoner. (So what's an ultramarathon, anyway? Find out what it takes to run one in Our Ultimate Guide to the Ultramarathon.)

"I was hoping it would be a long route because that's funnier," McQuade says about the 30.61-mile commute Rocky took from his house to the art museum. "Boxers call it doing 'road work'-I guess he was way ahead of his time in getting as much road work in as possible."

McQuade says he's been overwhelmed by reader reaction since posting the article today. Although McQuade prefers to race 5Ks and has no plans to re-tread Rocky's 50K course on his own, he says readers have already contacted him about planning a race based on the Rocky II route.

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"Now I'm wondering, 'What other Philly movies can I do?'" McQuade says with a laugh. "The other Rocky montages? Trading Places, an M. Night Shyamalan movie?"

Something tells me we've all been underestimating the power of "Gonna Fly Now."

Check out McQuade's investigative piece, in which McQuade both tracks Balboa's probable route and probes the mysteries of the run (passing through the Italian Market again?!?).

By Caitlin Giddings, Runner's World

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