Finally Pittsburgh Marathon Sunday was upon us! This was to be the culmination of 18 weeks of training. For me, this was also going to be my 2nd marathon in 7 days and 3rd distance race in 6 weeks (remember that 50k I did in March? Yea. That). More importantly though it was Lauren’s first marathon! There was much to be excited about! Oh and on top of all of that, I also was planning on finishing the marathon, give hugs, probably shed some tears, snap some pictures and then rush to get on a plane to Cancun for my friend’s wedding. No biggie, right?
Sunday morning started early with that alarm going off before 5am. I wanted to make sure Kathleen and I had time to get ready and get downtown before they closed the bridges. I actually looked back at my 2015 Pittsburgh Marathon race recap to check the time I left so I could mimic that. It worked out then, so I expected it to work out again. The goal was to get out of the door no later than 5:45am and Kathleen and I were out the door even before then. We easily parked at the Theater Square Garage about 5 minutes later. Since Kathleen was doing the half, she wanted to check a bag. I actually did not know where it was but as we walked out of the garage, we realized it was right there at the corner of 7th and Penn. Score.
Since Lauren and I had VIP Blogger status, the plan was to meet everyone at the Westin Hotel where she could check her bag. This also gave us a chance to get real bathrooms before headed out to the start line as well. Kathleen had left after she checked her bag to go get in an additional 2-3 miles for her marathon training plan. As I got to the Westin most everyone was there BUT Lauren. Most of the others had decided to head out to the starting corral by the time Lauren really got there. She did a quick bag drop, bathroom break and we were ready to go! We had a start line to get to.
Now, I have A LOT of love for the Pittsburgh Marathon. The race itself, the staff and everything the race means to me. However, as we were getting to the start line, there seemed to have been a pretty grave error made. I distinctively remember last year Penn Avenue was closed. I remember heading to the port-o-potties right before sneaking into the corral and roaming around the street. This year that was not the case. Someone did not close down Penn Avenue and quite frankly it was dangerous and a cluster. It also caused massive issues even getting into the corrals! Most of the corral was even in the streets trying to get onto Liberty Avenue. They had gates up again, which is fine, but it was unsafe to have so many people out there.
Finally they started moving and people started sneaking into the corral toward Liberty Avenue. Jeff was leading the charge as Lauren and I just followed. As we got to the gate, there was this cop starting to shut it. Let’s just say we got in and some choice words might have been said by me. There was no way we were not getting into the start line area and it was even stupid we were battling to even get there. Lauren and Jeff just laughed at me as we went by. Once we got to Liberty Avenue, there were zero issues as we slowly made our way to the start line. The 3 of us were about to cross the start line to one fun and amazing journey together!
The plan for the entire race was to stick on a 4/1 run/walk. As we started the race, Jeff became the pace timer and I became the intervals timer and all Lauren had to do was run. It actually worked out well the entire race. The only mishaps was me yelling run when we should have walked or walk when we should have run. They got it though and it worked out. From the beginning, we hit our 4/1 intervals. We wanted to make sure to do them from the beginning and not get to tired to get back into the run. With so many runners, the start of this race is sometimes pretty packed. I felt though it thinned out quicker than normal this year. We seemed to have no issues for the first few miles making out way around the turns.
It started to rain pretty early in the race, but it was a light rain. However, the rain did start trying to take down Jeff’s famous sign. He had actually snagged a poncho somewhere near the start line so we covered it up for a little bit. It didn’t work all that great, but I think did provide a little longer of a life line for the sign. In these first 3 miles you hit 3 of the 5 bridges. It was also on the bridges that we found some great crowd support. On the 16th Street bridge we saw George and on the 7th Street bridge we found Lindsey, Lauren’s sister. Lauren had actually given her my number before the race and Lindsey and I texted a few times to get updates on where she would be and how Lauren was doing.
These miles really seemed to go right on by. We stuck to our intervals and made sure we fueled from the start. I don’t quite remember how fast against pace we were going, but Jeff just kept telling us we were ahead of goal. Lauren and I several times in these first few miles were *so impressed* with his math skills and then we just found out he was getting it from his watch. Psh, what math skills?!
These next 5 miles were pretty strong. Lauren just kept cruising along and really showing no signs of slowing down anytime soon. These miles took us into the Northside, over the West End Bridge and onto Carson Street. It also included the flattest mile of the course. I don’t remember that as being a thing from the year’s previous, but on Carson Street they had a huge inflatable announcing that. The one thing I do remember is that it was the West End Bridge during last year’s race that I lost my race. I would be lying if I said it definitely wasn’t going through my mind as we crossed. In fact, I even brought it up and in a way, helped me a little realize just how far I’ve come in the past year.
Running through the West End is one of my favorite areas. However, if you blink, you run right through it and miss it. The West End Community always comes out in droves and really puts on a great cheering station! It definitely helps as the next mile and a half are pretty quiet. There aren’t a lot of people that come out on the beginning part of Carson Street. Anytime we did see people out there for the ENTIRE 26.2 miles, Jeff would start showing off the sign. He’d would point to Lauren’s side and just start cheering and then point to my side and just yell how crazy I was. I will say the looks I got from people who understand the sign were just crazy, crazy looks.
Just after mile 10, Jeff threw me the sign and said he had to get to a bathroom. He did the exact same thing last year (okay, well there was no sign for me last year) and left me alone finishing up through the Southside. At least this year I had Lauren. However, as Lauren so noted, we quickly become “those girls” carrying their own ‘LOOK AT ME SIGN’. We went with it and it wasn’t until we were almost at the peak of the bridge that Jeff decided to join us again. I think he was a little surprised at how far we went without him. Lauren and I weren’t messing around. Around the time we got back with Jeff, there was this lady handing out the letter F and holding a sign that said “Get the F up the hill!!!” I got a good chuckle with this because I was definitely dreading that hill.
At the end of the bridge the split for the half and full was clear in sight. There was no turning back now. For me, I was starting to question if I was going to finish this. I wasn’t letting on at all, or I was trying not to, but the pain in my ankle was so intense. At this point I was welcoming the walk breaks with open arms. Every step was just excruciating pain. Lauren though was just tapping into her beast mode at this point. As we headed up the hill, we followed out run/walk ratio. I actually took a Glukos at this point as we went up the hill. I actually thought we’d be taking the hill a little easier than we did, but Lauren clearly had other intentions.
In fact, we actually gained time going up the hill. We were all a little surprised at the beast mode going up the hill, but she was determined to just get up the damn thing and get it over with. As we crested the hill and flattened out into Oakland we saw a huge sign with our names on it. It was Joanna’s parents! Joanna has been an amazing part of the Elite Runners and Walkers 11:30 training group. Her family was out supporting and giving out goodies for us all. We all took a Popsicle and it was amazing. The only bad thing is that probably about 10 minutes after finishing it, my stomach was a little unsettled with that just coming after the Glukos that I took.
We past the half marathon mark and were wall on our way into Shadyside. This was a dark area for me the previous year. I remember turning off Walnut and heading toward Fifth Avenue when I started getting pretty light headed, seeing dark spots and thinking it was over. It was amazing how much different it was this year versus last year. The only thing at this point was my ankle. I remember Jeff actually saying something to me this year and asking how I was. Maybe I wasn’t hiding the pain very well at this point, but I just kept telling myself I can’t stop now and we were over halfway there!
Believe it or not these are actually some of my favorite miles of this race. These are the miles of a marathon where you most likely will hit rock bottom and how you come out just shows how determined and strong you are. Plus these miles go through one of the best neighborhoods on the course. It’s funny actually that most days people try and run from Homewood, but during the race I love that I continue to run to Homewood. The people come out on droves, set up their own water stops and cheer for every runner that goes by. They truly know how to have a party out there on a streets and support a race that loves them as just as much. They definitely did not disappoint again this year.
Some of these miles were definitely quieter than others. For me, I know the pain was just getting worse and worse. Jeff though kept his cheery, happy self. I know a few times I had to pull him back along Penn Avenue as he was getting a little ahead of Lauren. If Lauren was starting to break down, she was particularly showing it. We might have taken a few extra walk breaks, but she was pushing through and getting closer to the finish line.
Then came mile 18. The BEST mile of the race. Why? THE GREYHOUNDS!!!! Every year, the Steel City Greyhounds come out and cheer you on. Their signs are greyt (yup, went there) and even when most of the greyhounds are on the side of the road sleeping, their cuteness just perks you up! This year though I actually had one of the greyhounds and his owner run with me for a few yards! The owner is lucky he stopped because I could have easily just taken the greyhound with me the rest of the way.
Before I knew it, we were passing the 20 mile mark! We were still on target pace and in fact still had some cushion to give according to Jeff. We both knew this was a good thing as we knew we’d slow down a little bit in this last 10k. In fact, I think we did lose about 3 minutes on the cushion but overall still crushed Lauren’s time goal. Just after turning onto Bryant Street in Highland Park, we saw Joann’s family again! And guess what they gave us again?! ANOTHER POPSICLE!!! It was even better than the first one. Joanna’s family was just amazing – thanks again guys!!
One of the nice things about the last 10k of the Pittsburgh Marathon is that it really is mostly downhill or flat. There are only 2-3 small little bumps in this last bit. Around mile 21, Jeff let me know that Lauren was starting to have some issues with her hip. It was starting to hurt worse on the stop/start of our run/walk. We asked her if she wanted to continue with the ratio and she said yes. I could definitely understand the pain as my ankle just felt like it was going through a shredder. I really had no other way to explain it.
Somewhere on Negley, Lauren and I were wondering if we would see Jenn. Sure enough only mere yards later we saw her! She said she’s see us again at the finish line which was great! We stopped real quick to let her grab a picture and then kept on our way. Just after that, guess what was again being handed out? More popsicles! And guess what I grabbed? Another one. This time it was just a half of one, but still just as a good.
Finally we turned onto Liberty Avenue and from here only had 3 more turns. Liberty Avenue is great in that it’s got a lovely downhill but then it turns into all flat as you head into the last 2.5 miles. There is no shade and it can be a mental game just staring down to downtown and sometimes feeling like you’re never getting there.
Through Bloomfield we had great crowd support. They definitely helped and from the looks of it many were having some fun! I remember seeing at one point that a group of guys was carrying this older lady out on a chair. I am going to assume they were just doing that so she could get a better view as she joined in on the fun. Otherwise, I have no idea what they were doing. We actually missed a few run/walk intervals in this area. Finally at one point I yelled to Lauren if she wanted to walk or just keep going. She said she wanted to stop and get back on track, but that she didn’t hear me. I know at this point I was probably just screaming random words to indicate the run/walk as well. Oops.
As we headed back into the Strip District, the first I noticed was that as much pain as the 3 of us individually might be in, we were rocking in. We passed a fair amount of people at this time and still even had smiles on our faces. For mile 24 of a marathon, I think this says a lot! Our Clubhouse was the sponsor of the last official water stop and it was great to see some familiar faces out there. One member even made a comment to me later on how great our group looked compared to others as well at that time. So when you were in as much pain as I was in and hearing that, it definitely made me feel better!
Oh, then at mile 25 we made Jeff cry. Lauren and I had spoken the night before about dedicating the last mile to Jeff’s mom. Sure enough no sooner did we explain what we were doing did he start to cry. I knew that meant a lot to him and both Lauren and I also knew his mom was with us that entire day. Making sure he also knew that also was important.
Around mile 25.5 (ish) we saw my friend Victoria. The day before the race she reached out to me on Facebook about what would be a good thing to bring to runners at this point. Last year she was AMAZING and it was so fabulous to see her at that point of the race. I gave her some suggestions, but then Lauren piped in and said Whiskey. Well, Victoria took this seriously and said she was bringing a think of Fireball. Sure enough as we approach Victoria standing out there dressed as Underdog, she pulled out the Fireball and brought it to Lauren. Now that’s spectator of the year right there!
Now here we were and we had just 2 turns to go! As we hit the second to last turn I saw Coach Matt from Elite and he came over to give me a hug. I also told Lauren that it’s okay in this last stretch of Smithfield to take our walk break even if we’re so close to the finish. The main goal was to turn the last corner and be running for the finish. If I would have known what Lauren had planned, I would have regretted this statement to her.
Along the last bit of Smithfield Street we saw Lauren’s family waiting for her, Jenn and our running Ohana as well. We also heard the screams! It was great and I think it definitely helped light a fire for Lauren to finish. As we turned from Smithfield onto the Blvd, Lauren took off. I mean not just hey we’re going to run a 10 minute mile for this last bit, but I mean she TOOK OFF. I swear she had rockets under her feet. I just looked up and basically figured I had to keep up and finish with her. I was honestly scared I would trip over my feet and go face first into the street. At this point of the race, I had no idea how Lauren did that and had no idea how I kept up. Note to self: Don’t try and sprint away from Lauren. She’s faster than she seems. Also this small little sprint hurt worse I think than the entire rest of the 26.xx miles!
And there we were. The 3 of us had just crossed the finish line together. The 3 of us ran all 26.2 miles together and now our journey was over. It was actually pretty awesome as we finished as Race Director, Patrice Matamoros, was right there and came over to hug us! For me, the Pittsburgh Marathon is more than just a race and I certainly felt that crossing the finish line.
The 3 of us slowly made it out of the finish chute and headed toward our medals. Like last year I let Jeff do the honors of placing my medal around my neck. Lauren allowed him the same this year and that’s when Lauren lost it. It was great to be there with her in that moment. I certainly remember what it was like last year when it hit me I was a marathoner.
There was some quick pictures around the finish line and then we headed out to meet Ohana. After a few more pictures, I unfortunately had to jet away since I did have a plane to catch in about 2 hours. I was so happy to be done with that race though. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed every mile with Lauren & Jeff, but 2 marathons in 7 days had caught up to me and I just was hurting. All I could think of was how proud I was of Lauren BEASTING her first marathon and coming in under her time goal and where I would be in about 8 hours. I was determined to make that flight.
Luckily, I did make it to the airport and even got a shower beforehand! I am sure everyone really appreciated that. After a quick trip over to PHL, I connected onto my flight to Cancun. From there I had about an hour shuttle drive to the resort. For the flight to Cancun I got the bump to first and my flight attendant was amazing! If my wine glass was getting low, it was immediately refilled and she kept bringing me all the warm nuts I could even ask for. We had chatted that I just ran the marathon that morning and I think she understood the level of Rungry happening about that time.
I have to say if you decided to run 2 marathons in 7 days, the best way to recover is at all inclusive resort in Mexico. The resort, Barcelo Maya Palace Deluxe, was just amazing. For 3 days I had no cares in the world and to watch some great friends get married made it that much better. That trip, although stressful to get there, definitely was the only way I could think of recovering from my crazy adventure of becoming a Marathon Maniac.
Official Finish Time:
210/255, F 30-34