Originally published Sept. 7, 2017; updated Sept. 1, 2019
Forget the Art Museum steps. When real life Philly boxing champ Joe Frazier wanted to train, he hit the trails.
There was one Fairmount Park trail he liked particularly, probably because its steep hills and winding twists offered an intense workout punctuated by beautiful views. It’s supposedly where Muhammad Ali sought out Frazier for the challenge that led to the “Fight of the Century.”
Philadelphians can check it out for themselves as part of the annual Boxers’ Trail 5k Run/Walk.
For decades, the Frazier-favored path had no particular name, though it continued to be a common training route for area boxers, and was also popular among schoolkids in the neighborhood.
.”I remember hiking along it as a child,” Tonnetta Graham, longtime area resident and president of the Strawberry Mansion CDC, told Billy Penn in 2017. “There were lots of nooks and crannies we explored.”
That was back in the 1980s. At the turn of the millennium, the path got a makeover. As the first official joint project between Fairmount Park and the Fairmount Park Conservancy, the trail was smoothed and somewhat pruned. Started in 2001 and completed in 2009, the project also gave the path an official name: Boxers’ Trail.
The annual run/walk — put on by Philly Parks and Recreation in partnership with the SMCDC, the Conservancy and several other community groups — is a celebration of the route’s history.
It’s also designed as an enticement to get more people using the trail — and into that part of the park in general.
Over the past five years, the Boxers’ Trail 5k has evolved and grown, and it’s now the kick-off to the slew of festivities that make up the annual Strawberry Mansion Day.
“The run/walk was about tying the community together to the park resources and the park houses,” said Graham, “so the idea came about that maybe when people come to the neighborhood in the morning, they’ll want to stay the whole day.”
This year, there’s even more for people who come to watch or participate. (Registration is $20-$25 or free if you live in the neighborhood, and is open to adults and kids of all ages. Proceeds benefit nearby Mander Playground and the East Fairmount Park Coalition.)
After the run, the day continues with resource tables, live entertainment, free refreshments, talent showcases and kids’ activities in Strawberry Mansion.