This race means so damn much to me that my heart I feel like could explode with happiness every time Pittsburgh Marathon Sunday rolls around. The whole weekend is amazing, but Sunday means a little something more. Back in 2012 this was my first half and in 2015 it was my first full. I’ve done every race offered except the Toddler Trot and Dog Walk (anyone have a toddler or dog I can borrow for next year?) and don’t ever see this race not being on my schedule in some fashion. This year was no different. I had previously recapped the Saturday events and now it’s time for the big Sunday events.
Just like the year before, very last minute, I got snagged to be on a relay team. Since I was doing the Half Marathon, this worked out perfectly since I could run the first leg and keep on going. It also meant a 4th medal from the weekend, which I was not going to shy away from. Sure, the relay and the half weren’t the original plan, but I was still happy to be out there. In fact, I had been debating around about maybe not even doing the half marathon. However, when Lauren agreed to run with me and I realized it was going to be my 60th half, I decided to just go for it!
Like every other year, I was up on race day around 5 am with plans to be out of the door by 5:45 am. Since I live on the Northside, they close the roads and bridges into downtown at 6 am. Well, this year, I was out the door a little earlier and there seemed to be a over zealous cop who had closed Allegheny Commons down early. I headed to my normal garage, Theater Square Garage, and when I saw they were charging $15, I turned around. Lauren said they did that last year, but I just don’t remember. Instead I headed over to the garage at 9th and Penn, but luckily I found a spot on the road and ended up parking for free. Score!
I did the normal walk down to the Westin to meet everyone. I dropped my bag in the VIP group and then headed down to meet everyone. It really ended up being just Mike and Lauren. We ended up never seeing Jeff before the race. They had been calling for rain, so we all had ponchos or bags. Luckily, we never ended up needing them as the rain did not come until about 1 pm.
Lauren and I decided to run this race together again. We always seem to be there when we both need each other for this race. She hadn’t been training a lot and I was still a hot mess. As we walked down Penn Ave to Corral C, we noticed again that Penn Ave was open and yet thousands of people were standing in the road waiting for the port-o-potties. This has happened 3 years in a row and P3R is truly lucky that no one has been hurt. Luckily just past 7th St, a medic finally stopped cars and turned them around. I understand Penn Ave is a major road on road morning, but if you had port-o-potties out on the same road, you should have the road closed. Maybe close it at 9th Street and reroute all cars that way out of the city. Maybe next year this will be fixed!
We had no issues getting into the corral this year. We typically start right at Liberty and 6th, but this year we walked up and stood around Liberty and 7th to get started. Probably the closest I had ever waited for the race start. Since we were in C, we had a 20 minute wait to get across the start line. This is about typical though and what I expected. While waiting though we saw a ton of people which is always great.
From the start, Lauren suggested we do a 3/1 interval. I was on board with this and figured we could adjust as we needed. My other response to that was planning to walk up any of the hills. She was also on board with that as well. The first few miles of the Pittsburgh race are always a little congested. Nothing crazy, but you do a little weaving sometimes. This year was no different. We did our best to get to the very outside edge for our walk break and indicated with our hands up. Of course some runners just don’t understand that, but we tried to be as courtesy as possible out there.
These first couple of miles through the strip always seem to fly by. There are usually people lining the streets since it’s so close to the start area. As we made our way back toward the 16th Street Bridge I started getting a put in my stomach. I wasn’t sure if Lauren might be feeling it too, but last year during this race, we came off the other side of the 16th Street Bridge and saw George standing there cheering us on. It was a real highlight of the race last year. This year he wouldn’t be there. As we climbed over the bridge, the pit kept growing. I sort of mentioned something to Lauren but either she didn’t hear me or chose to ignore it. As soon as we got the same spot, I was starting to choke up a bit.
After getting past that point, we turned into the Northside. I’m slightly biased because it’s my neighborhood, but I think this is one of the best neighborhoods to run through on the half route. This is really where the first hill of the race is. There is one coming off 16th St bridge, but it’s a short one. By the time we got to Allegheny Commons, we absolutely started walking up it. I never felt pressure from Lauren to start running before I felt I needed to and hopefully she didn’t either. It’s always great to find that one person you can run with so easily.
Just as we got onto the Northshore, I started preparing for the relay exchange. It was in front of Southern Tier and all relay members had to merge to the left. I’ve done 3 relays now and this was by far the best exchange. I think I was just past the timing mat and the other runner popped out! She handed me my medal and I ducked under the rope to join back up with Lauren.
From this point until about mile 8 we did the most of our walking. We did not care how short or long the incline was, we really pretty much walked it and then we hit the West End Bridge. I always feel that the climb on this bridge just goes forever and forever. There is some downhill on the other side, but we definitely climb more than we go down I think. Mostly because a lot of the bridge doesn’t even go over water, but also over land too.
The poor water stop at mile 8 always gets hit hard. There is always one volunteer struggling to pour water at the first couple of tables. They always need to have someone directing runners to tables further down so we’re not just waiting for water or Gatorade at the first table. Just after that water stop and by the incline the Junior ROTC are always standing on the left side of the road. We both got over and gave a lot of high fives. It is always great to see these kids out there and I truly appreciate it year after year.
As we were coming into the Station Square area, Lauren asked me if I knew the big Burrito person running just ahead. I was a little confused as to how she would know my coworkers, but when I looked over, I realized it was Dustin, the executive chef at Casbah! He was running the second leg for the Casbah relay team. He ducked off after his leg was over, but we still had to keep going. Just over a 5k to go, but my legs were pretty spent and I think my lungs wanted to give up as well.
Finally, we made it to mile 10. What’s so great about this mile? Three things: 1) you have a 5k left to run and 2) it’s the flattest mile of the race and 3) this year we had friends somewhere on Carson waiting to hand us Jell-O shots.
Yes, you read that right. Jell-O shots awaited us. The wonderful Kelsey had made some to hand out and made sure to save us one. Several times up to this point in the race, I either said verbally out loud or in my head, that I was only running for the Jell-O shot. I truly think it kept me going. Finally around halfway down Carson St we saw them! Like a beacon in the night. We were handed our Jell-O shots and down they went. After our treat, we kept moving toward the Birmingham Bridge. I swear, this bridge is all up and no down.
The biggest mistake of the race came at mile 12.5 or so. There was a guy claiming to be handing out whiskey. Again, we’re not running this for time, so why not grab a small shot. BIGGEST.MISTAKE.EVER. I have no idea what whiskey brand that was, but I think rubbing alcohol might have tasted better. Glad we did that so late in the race versus making that mistake at mile 3. It was so gross! Luckily we had 4 more turns to go and the finish line would be near.
Finishing this race, my 60th half marathon, meant a lot to me. It was great to have Lauren with me every step of the way and to run my 60th race in my hometown. It was also only 2 months post surgery and up until the night before, I really didn’t know if I would even be running this race. I am so glad I did as there is nothing like your hometown race.
Once Lauren and I got ourselves together, we headed over to just past the 25 mile marker. We wanted to cheer on some friends coming into the last miles (and cheer on every other runner). We tried to read the names on the bibs but they were impossible this year. It was great to have smaller bibs but I think the different color greens with the black writing really made it difficult to see. Out of no where, Jeff came through and we tried to run a little with him but he was just too fast. We told him to crush it the rest of the way and then stopped to cheer more on. After seeing our friend Amanda come through, we then headed down to the finish line festival to catch up with Jeff.
Once Jeff got himself together, the 3 of us headed back to the Marathon finish line. It had started to rain by now and we wanted to cheer on every last runner that we could. There is truly nothing like watching the last runners come through the finish line. There were not a lot of spectators out there at this point so we made sure to cheer as loud as we could. We did get to go up in the VIP finish booth as well which was great. We stayed out there until the sag wagon came through. It was also amazing to see our Police Chief, Scott Schubert, standing out there in the rain, with no rain gear, congratulating every finisher as they came across the line. While it was great to finish my own race, it was probably this hour or so of the day that meant the most.
Overall, it was another wonderful Pittsburgh Marathon weekend. This was my 7th year that I was running in this weekend and I don’t ever see myself not being a part of it. I take a lot of pride in my hometown race and love that I can help promote it and celebrate what it means to the city and local runners every year. I am already wondering which races I will do next year. I have an idea, but I’ll keep that to myself until we’re a little closer to registration time.
Official Finish Time:
969/1,266 Female 30-34