This was a short run to cover some streets I had inexplicably missed in Shadyside. I think my original reason for not covering them in a solo run was to cover them in running with friends. That was clearly a pre-Covid plan.
At any rate, I was tired and sluggish, but the thought of crossing these off my list provided enough motivation to get out and run. It was a a summery evening. Thunderstorms had just passed through and there were lingering displays of lightning and sprinkles. Walnut Street was empty, courtesy of Covid19. Usually it would be packed with people shopping, walking dogs and spilling out of bars.
This section of Shadyside is typified by narrow Queen Anne houses squeezed together with front yard flowers. Most of these structures are not the mansions found a couple of blocks away. Additionally, there are many large, old apartment buildings and row houses, mostly well kept.
Alleys are a bit of an exception. As my Mom used to say “Queen Anne in front and Mary Ann in back”. Here is where you find the unpainted porches and a few garages in need of paint jobs.
There are also some very cute houses. The Inn at Negley, for instance, is now a luxury bed and breakfast. It also has a Little Library in front of it, for you bibliophiles.
Murals are not common here, but in a brick seating area off Walnut is the Building Bridges mural while the William Penn Tavern watering hole has some humorous ones.
This wasn’t a long run and I was happy to catch as glimpse of the Cambell’s Soup Can on Holden Street before it got too dark. I believe those are carved from a tree trunk.
That was about it. A little over three flat miles through Shadyside, dodging raindrops.
This headline “Hot Damn, It’s Hot in…” will be used extensively the next few days. It could possibly be superseded by “Running on the Surface of the Sun…” or “All of Pittburgh is Lava”. Three cheers for July running!
I explored another of Pittsburgh’s southern neighborhoods, Beltzhoover. If you don’t understand how Pittsburgh’s neighborhoods are cordoned off from one another, Beltzhoover is a great example. The northern border is Warrington Avenue. From Warrington Avenue, a few streets climb sharply into the heart of Beltzhoover. On the west, the T-line and South Busway separate it from Mount Washington. On the east, Beltzhoover Avenue is a less distinct border with Knoxville and Allentown. On the south, a large ravine, a park (McGinley Park) and the busy Bausman Street completely seal it off from Bon Avon. It’s an interesting name and there’s a very short paragraph in this old Post-Gazette article attributing the name to Melchior Beltzhoover.
I approached Beltzhoover from the beginning of Beltzhoover Avenue at Grandview Park. It quickly rolls off the hill and after a few blocks dissipates into small shady streets. However, at the corner of Beltzhoover and East Warrington, a few penguins were getting a suntan. I think they would have been happier staying at the zoo.
This area has wide, long streets and tiny alleys. Michigan Street crosses nearly all of Beltzhoover, as do a number of other streets, such as Sylvania Street and Climax Street.
I did not traverse all of Climax Street, but one of the climaxes of today’s run was finding the Beltzhoover Community Perennial Nursery on it. In a cursory internet search, I didn’t find much information, but there it was, on a bright hillside, a slope filled with carefully tended flowering perennials buzzing with bees. I also got a kick out of the white lions at the top of some private stairs.
There were a few other steps, too. The most significant was along Bernd Street. It’s several flights took me to a back alley where the remains of yesterday’s fireworks were strewn across the ground. A phone booth, sans handset, adorned those steps. On the other hand, the only thing adorning the Delmont Street steps were weeds. Perhaps in wintertime, I could use the crumbling steps.
In spite of the gardens and wide, brick streets, much of this area has a neglected look. The wide streets are dusty and street sweeping doesn’t seem to be a regular event.
I cut out after six miles due to the heat, primarily. Also, while my knee is better, I didn’t want to push it too much. It was the right choice. Besides, the route turned out to look like a cat in heels, as my friend Cathy commented. Ha! I couldn’t have done that if I tried.
June has been a challenging month and my running stats show it. With only 75.5 miles this month, it was the lowest monthly mileage since February 2019. My elevation gain was decent, at 7,700 feet, but half May’s. The main reason has been ongoing problems with my left knee/ hamstring/ IT band. However, I’m hopeful additional rest, along with a few changes in my routine will allow me to run much more in July.
Nonetheless, all of my thirteen runs this month covered new streets. In the South and West, I’m continuing to make progress in Allentown, Brookline and West Liberty as well as Westwood. In the East, I’ve made progress in Garfield, Homewood and Regent Square. In the North I touched on Brighton Heights and Lawrenceville. I’m up to 261 “RATS” runs.
This project also had the honor of being the subject of two articles, one in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and the other in the Pittsburgh Magazine. Also Jim Lynch, the host of FeelGoodRunning featured me along with two other runners in his July 2020 podcast.
But, without further ado, here are the rest of my June runs.
RATS #00249 – West Liberty, Brookline
A run tragically cut short by hamstring pain. (Notice how I don’t get back to my starting point?) However, it continued my exploration of Brookline and West Liberty. It is a nice area, with modest houses, clean streets and a hill or two.
RATS #00250 – Garfield
This run was right after the Post-Gazette photographer took some pictures. She kept having me run back and forth. I thought “I suppose the first ones didn’t come out well.” Only after seeing the article did I realize how she used them.
A simple run in Garfield, with its booming hills and big houses. Usually I have no egrets on these journeys, but today was different.
RATS #00251 in Brighton Heights
I like running in Brighton Heights. The rather flat big streets are tree lined and its easy to get to. As I ran down one alley, I heard a “Hi Ed” faintly. By the time it registered in my brain, I couldn’t see anyone, but I remembered passing a woman playing with her son, and thought, “Hmm, that sounded like Kara”. Sure enough, a couple of days later, Kara mentioned seeing me run by. I love to hear my name called out when I’m running in an unfamiliar place.
Below are a few pics from the run. Benton Road and California Avenue are major roads here. Many of the massive brick houses are now multi-family apartments. Got a chance to take a selfie, which looks tremendously like the “Slow Down, Children Playing” dude. I found a classic brick street which must be mowed; only exceptional areas keep their bricks. Finally, the peonies in the alley were spectacular.
RATS #00259 – Regent Square
This run was over five miles in Regent Square on a sultry summer evening. Regent Square is pretty nice with brick, tree-lined streets and large houses. I spied a Little Library as well as the Glenn Green Stained Glass Studio , hanging wares on its fence.
RATS #00261 – West Liberty
A simple run in the Southcrest subdivision off of Pioneer Avenue. It is wedged between West Liberty Avenue and the South Busway. A very residential area, it is filled with small houses with impeccable lawns, many Mary statues and lots of cars.
So that’s it for June, 2020. Let’s hear it for a great July!
Today I did a little run in the corner of Brookline squeezed against Dormont, Mt. Lebanon and Beechview. It had potential to be a long run on a gorgeous evening, but a complaining knee cut it short.
This is the “business” end of Brookline. Pioneer Avenue and Brookline Boulevard intersect and then each finds a curvy way to West Liberty Avenue, land of car dealerships. Just off these roads are surprisingly residential areas jammed with strawberries. OK, ok, I didn’t actually see strawberries, but there were certainly many flower gardens, trees and landscaped yards.
Even in this small alcove of Brookline, there were several sets of stairs. Cutting past the dead end of Stapleton Street, steps took me directly to West Liberty Avenue. Another, Edge Vale, abruptly dropped off of Aidyl Avenue to Brookline Boulevard. Whoever had the chore of doing yard work there was using its flat landings to stage their implements; a lawn mower, gas can and orange weed whacker wire graced the steps.
I started down Fordham Street and quickly got sidetracked by Midland Street, which took me down to McNeilly Road, a border between Pittsburgh and Dormont. I wandered a bit in that area, making sure to stay in Pittsburgh. You can tell by the bright blue Pittsburgh street signs at every intersection. However, before I could finish Dorchester, my knee flared up and I called it a day.
May 2020 was a long month. It started off cold and even had a few flurries early on. However, by the end of May, things had heated up in many ways. Cases of Covid19 are slowly lurching lower. However, we’ve gone from bad to worse in social upheaval. In early May, I did a “Run for Ahmaud” to show solidarity in the killing of a black jogger in Georgia. It was an emotional, sad, run. Then, on May 25, a black man, George Floyd, was killed by Minneapolis police officers. That has set the spotlight on racial inequity in the country and simultaneously sparked protests and called into question police tactics all over.
Against this backdrop, I’ve kept running and covering new streets. In May, I ran 130 miles, close to my goal of 135 miles a month. I completed all eight of my Strava challenges for May, including the distance challenge (210km), climbing challenge (4,229m) and the “Sufferfest Beer Challenge” which required four activities a week for four weeks. Of the 21 runs I did in May, 20 of them covered new streets. By May 31, I had completed 248 “RATS” runs in all. I’m over 45% done with the streets of Pittsburgh, according to CityStrides.
However, this sole focus on running has impacted my flexibility. I’ve cut more than one run short because of tight hamstrings. I’m hoping to put that behind me, by adding yoga and stretching into my routine.
RATS 00232 – Short and rainy in Scotch Bottom
Ah, a short run in Hazelwood. My heart wasn’t in it today, although I ended up seeing a few cool things. This church, for instance.
This church has been closed for awhile, but the Diocese of Pittsburgh still owns the building. In researching this, I found a short history of Hazelwood, taken from a 1972 issue of the Carnegie Magazine. Apparently it used to be known as “Scotch Bottom”.
Now the area is pretty run down, but still filled with people living and working among the old buildings. Wouldn’t it be cool to construct automobiles with biodegradable materials, so that once the engine fluids stop running, the whole thing decomposes?
RATS #00234 – Bloomfield
Short, chilly run in the rain. Fitting since it was dedicated to the memory of Ahmaud Arbery. Nonetheless, Bloomfield is quirky and I captured a little of it here. The immense building behind “Mend Way” is a hospital. <facepalm>
There’s a bar across from the mural. Had it been open, it would have been a pleasure to sit there and look at the bright mural.
RATS #00242 Brookline Evening
Whew, Brookline is big! This run was over six miles, with minimal duplication, yet only covered one small section of Brookline. It is a suburban style community, flat except where it falls off of ravines. Running up Whited Street was heart-pounding not only for the elevation, but also for the lack of sidewalks.
The Jacob Street Stairs were cool and tunnel to the South Busway was interesting. In broad daylight, it wasn’t too bad, but it would be creepy on a misty November night. Birchland Street also gets steep enough to warrant steps.
Viaduct to the South Busway.
RATS #00243 Hills of Westwood
This was an evening run on the hills above the Westwood Shop ‘N Save. I’m not sure what I was expecting, but the streets were very steep there. This seems to be an older area than across Noblestown Road. A number of the streets dead-end at the top of ravines.
Surprisingly, there were not many sets of steps here. Guyland Street’s steps are pretty impressive, though.
RATS #00244 Another Jaunt in Mount Washington
This was a rather laborious run through Mount Washington. You know the drill, hills, steps, views. Of note was finishing West Sycamore Street.
RATS #00245 South Oakland
The last few runs had really done a number on my hamstrings. I looked up ways to alleviate the tightness and pain in my left leg. Ignoring the first suggestion, “Stop running”, I decided that the next suggestion, “Avoiding hills”, was more doable. I realized I had a few streets left in South Oakland and so headed there one Sunday afternoon.
South Oakland is a curious mix of students and a few long-term residents. At one point, three white-haired ladies, maybe even older than me, were gingerly helping each other off the three inch curb for a little walk. At the same time, less than a block away, cleverly tucked in an alley, a full scale frat party screamed with booming bass, a flashy car and beer pong.
But I’m getting ahead of myself. To get the opportunity to appear at that party, I had to face a dinosaur, run down the Romeo steps and uncover a wild strawberry.
From there, I used the Cathedral of Learning as a beacon to knowledge navigating the alleys of Oakland.
RATS #00246 South Oakland
Continuing the “no hills” mantra, I again ventured into South Oakland. As you can see, I’m getting closer to downtown.
RATS #00247 – Southside Flats – and a hill
Continuing to live up to my “Flatlander” reputation, I traversed the Southside Flats for twelve miles. It started out a bit rainy, but became beautiful. At the end I threw in one big hill and ran up South 18th Street to St. Patrick’s Street.
I did not encounter great sets of steps, but I have to say, the Wharton Street Passage is exciting. It will allow bicyclists and pedestrians to go under the Birmingham Bridge instead of going up to Carson Street. It’ll be great when it is fully opened.
While I traced five fingers up and down the Southside, I came across a mural painted to look like house fronts. That was cute. I also ran on Edward’s Way, which, honestly, could be more impressive. As it is, it is tucked against a railroad bulwark.
This is Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood – at least Mr. T-Rex Rogers! Looks like he’s not giving up King Friday without a fight.
RATS #00248 – Couple miles in Garfield
I was hanging around, waiting for someone and decided to run a couple of miles in the interim. Mainly covered North Winebiddle and North Millvale in the Garfield neighborhood. The North Winebiddle steps are long, going up several blocks to Hillcrest Street. Shamrock Way was as green as the Emerald Isle, while closer to Penn is a totally tagged door.
That’s all for May. Looking forward to June, with its late sunsets.
Circumnavigate S Scroll Way via Starkamp and Glenarm
At 18:23 storm the Repeal Way barricade
Perform reconnaissance and establish elevation gradients
Avoid vicious dogs and those aggressive small humans on bikes
That was the plan, as texted to me in a secure message by the Mothership. I had no choice but to execute the plan. I parked my vehicle, disguised as a dusty Honda and made it to the first checkpoint: A triangular park containing a “Canon de 155 C Modele 1917 Schneider”. I verified the serial number.
Now covered by the local artillery, I trotted over to Starkamp Street and around Eathan Avenue and Glenarm Avenue. I was a bit early for stair storming, so I took a couple of pics while I waited. At 18:23 on the dot, I raced up the Repeal Way Steps. Squirrels scurried and sparrows screeched as sparks flew from my heels.
Heart pounding, but no enemy in sight, I was free to scout the area. Clearly the local population was devious; giving steep, hilly, cobblestone streets, monikers such as “Flatbush”.
Continuing my scouting and keeping an eye out for those ferocious canines, I came on a street so steep, so rugged, I nearly lost it. Drawing upon my extensive training, I pushed up the hill, perspiration and expletives exploding from me at every step. Running out of breath, I finally shouted “Holy Mary, Mother of God!!” and looked up. There she was.
….Let it be, let it be…
I swore I heard a Beetle’s song in the background. Humbled and blessed, I relaxed and took in the area. Wide streets and alleys rumbled across the green lawns and flowing gardens. Steps took me though meadows of freshly cut grass. Free lending libraries opened my mind.
I reported to the Mothership that there were no enemies here, only playful pooches and energetic families. With that, I rambled some more, eventually getting back to that dusty Honda.
Ah, mornings, that time when I like to slowly awaken, shake off vivid dreams, think about the upcoming day and blink myself into consciousness. This morning, however, I popped out of bed, shoved my contacts in and darted out the door for a pre-work run. It was rather cold for early May, in the 30’s, but I think I overdressed. I headed for Garfield, just off of Penn Avenue. It wasn’t too far away and I had many streets to run there. I pressed the like button on a bold mural on North Evaline.
Then there were the steps. North Evaline begins as an average residential street but then continues to Hillcrest on two sets of stairs, becoming more and more overgrown.
Thankfully, Garfield is only really steep on the road coming off Penn Avenue. The cross streets, like Hillcrest, Kincaid, and Broad, are wavy, but not too extreme. Hillcrest is crisscrossed by other small streets and alleys. While some areas are tightly knitted with houses, there are also many wide open spaces. Presumably, there used to be houses on all the lots, but they were torn down as the houses fell into neglect. On Garfield’s hilltop the result is space for gardens and urban farms. Garfield residents seem to also have an artistic flair.
Of course, there are lots of steps as well. In addition to North Evaline, I did the steps on Fannell Street and Ardary Street. The Ardary steps come up from Columbo Street and widen into a full-fledged street. I’m had not been on that street before, so its always suspenseful to see what’s at the top of a set of stairs.
Warmed up by the run and the rising sun, I descended once again to the flat lands of Friendship. Nice way to start a morning, I must admit.