Today’s run was one of four possible group runs, all with their own attractions.
- Steel City had a later run going at 8:30 from the garage.
- Perry’s group had a 20 miler going from Market Square. The last time I ran with them, it was pretty fun.
- HPRC, another fun group, was running from a Point Breeze coffee shop, nice and close.
What tipped the scales for the Pro Bike Run from Chartiers Avenue? Well, I’ve been running Pro Bike’s Saturday run somewhat consistently and enjoy that 8:30-9:00 min/mile pace group. Not too much chatter, but a couple of good leaders and some very quick feet! Next was the allure of running in an area which would contribute so much to covering new streets of Pittsburgh. My first “official” RATS run was from Esplen, but I hadn’t gotten back out here again. Even though it was a bit far, mileage-wise, it still only took me ten minutes to drive to the Chartiers Ave starting point, no longer than any other option. Finally, the run planner, Kelly, was collecting teacher’s supplies, a good cause.
There I was, at 7:29 and fifty-five seconds screeching into a on-street parking spot on Chartiers Ave, just up the street from The Education Partnership. I grabbed my phone, clicked on the Forerunner 220, hoping the satellite would lock in before the run started. Kelly was just finishing her pre-run pep talk when I got to the group. The faster folks bolted out and then my group.
I start slow. Not super duper slow, but usually I’m the last person in the pace group at first. It takes some time for me to warm up and get all the muscles, sinews and joints in gear. This time was no exception and steep start was no help. We immediately went up Chartiers Ave, on our way to the West End Overlook. Once we got to the West End Overlook, it was time for pictures and a little water break. The downtown skyline looked magical as the sun broke through the fog. We lingered for a little, got a group pic and plunged down the hill. The sun picked up strength as we crossed West Carson Street en route to the West End Bridge.
The route showed that we would have a water stop on the Three Rivers Heritage Trail after crossing the West End Bridge. So, we expected to see some tables with beverages after we trundled across the bridge and down the stairs on the far side. And we were not disappointed! There was table after table of beer and pop. There were people grilling hot dogs and hamburgers. We were temporarily stunned at this extravagance, until we realized these were Pitt fans gearing up for the 11 am football game! After a little exploring, we crossed a gravel lot, found the break in the chain link fence and found our own water stop – a five gallon jug of clear, crisp water. Ahh!
From here, the group broke up a little. The folks doing seven miles went one way, the folks doing ten or eleven went another. Eventually I ended up in a group of four. We cruised along, promising the joking football fans that we’d be back for a beer. Our route did take us into the heart of the football revelry, right past Heinz Field then over the Fort Duquense Bridge. As we circled the Point, we could see the band marching and hear the oompahs of the tubas, the blare of the trumpets and the boom of the bass drum.
Soon after, I split off from the group. I had an idea I might be able to meet up with a friend at a coffee shop across town and didn’t want to wait for a pit stop. Turns out, the coffee shop plan didn’t pan out, but by the time I got that message, I was already zooming up West Carson St.
I had twelve miles on my feet when I got back to the run headquarters. Busted coffee shop plans meant I had more time and I resolved to get in sixteen miles. Gobbling a Honey Stinger Waffle and sloshing down water, I took off for more hills. I went up the other direction on Chartiers; strangely enough, still uphill. This section of Chartiers Ave is a wide, busy, curving street. On the left was a steep green hillside going up. Across the street on my right were several large parking lots and various business warehouses. Further along is a Comcast antenna facility, with a dozen large satellite dishes pointed at the heavens. Chartiers Ave keeps turning to the right, but I stayed straight and went up Straka St, which becomes Berry St. This was my first time in the Crafton Heights neighborhood. Berry St was directly uphill, again, and none too picturesque. As I wandered in the streets off of Berry I discovered it was a cute neighborhood with lots of tree cover and medium sized houses. Finally calling it a day, I was lucky enough to find that the Litchfield Street Stairs went back to Chartiers Ave. I made my way back to the start. Sixteen miles done!
That was quite a run. It had hills. It had flats. It had photo ops and it had boring sections. There was camaraderie and there was solitude. It had lots of new streets. Thanks Kelly and Pro Bike for getting me out there!