This run was along North Lang Avenue from Point Breeze to the steps at Apple Avenue. Outside the excitement of fire engines racing by on Penn Avenue, it was an uneventful run. The building “Engine House No 16” was, indeed, a fire station, but more recently has been renovated to its current state. City of Pittsburgh firetrucks came from a more modern house.
Crossing Penn, as North Lang drops out of Point Breeze into Homewood, the houses and yards are large. This one below was pretty typical, likely built in the early 1900’s. It seemed prim and proper to me, with its blue trim and cream colored brick and the morning sun blazing.
Crossing the railroad tracks and East Busway on the North Lang footbridge, tall church spires against the bright blue skies caught my eye.
Keeping to North Lang, I continued until the street, itself, gave out. This marked the end of flat Homewood. Steps led up to Apple Avenue, a delightfully named street which is disappointingly drab.
Up on top of the stairs, the hillside held vestiges of past grandeur. This magnificent house looks to be on the upswing, but I’d be reluctant to trick-or-treat there!
I ran the length of Apple Avenue until it ended at small, unimpressive, street. Circling back, I finished where I had started in Point Breeze. It was a great run, an extra 4.7 miles after my earlier 4 miles in Frick Park.
This run was all about Beechview, catching its northernmost subdivision as well as exploring the southern edge. I parked at my go-to spot next to the Andick Way playground and set out. I was using the RunGo app to guide my turns. There were a few glitches, but overall it worked pretty well. Beechview is incredibly hilly and is home to Canton Avenue, reportedly the steepest street in the US. But Canton Avenue, for all its steepness, is short, not more than one-tenth of a mile. Many of Beechview’s streets are over 10% grade, with a few more approaching 20%, and much longer.
The Shadycrest subdivision in northern Beechview sticks out on a plateau above Banksville Road and Saw Mill Run Boulevard. From the end of one long street, Tropical Avenue, you can see the tops of the tallest Downtown buildings. As the crow flies, they are less than two miles away. Here, the yards are large, the houses have a 50’s and 60’s feel.
Crossing over Crane got me back into the main section of Beechview. Like many of its parallel brethren, Fallowfield undulates into the distance. I took Beechview Avenue into the heart of Beechview, where the T-Line makes quick work of the commute downtown.
I followed Beechview until it became Broadway Avenue and then turned onto Wenzell Avenue. By this time, my hydration was catching up with me and I desperately needed a pit stop. Luckily I made it to the McDonalds on West Liberty Avenue before I had to take drastic measures. Fully refreshed, I charged up Saranac Avenue. At this point, RunGo started acting up. It may have never recovered from being in McDonalds. At any rate, I carefully did the grid of streets around Saranac, charging up less and struggling up more.
Finishing that section, I crossed over Broadway to see those streets. Bad mistake. The roads just plunged off of Broadway and coming back up was very challenging, even with the few staircases I came across.
While much of the area was very residential, I was able to spot the illusive bottle plant during its bottle blooming phase. Its always interesting what pets people keep on their porches, too.
And that was it! About twelve miles and over 1,700 feet of elevation. My knees are mad at me now! Nice area, too.
This was a short little run in the narrow, flat streets near 43 1/2 Street in Lawrenceville. This area is choked with traffic during rush hour and on Friday and Saturday nights. Just off the 40th Street Bridge and Butler Avenue, this maze of streets is in transition. The two pictures below were taken from the same spot. New, shiny development stares across the street, literally, at older row houses.
The alleys here are slightly smaller than the streets, but are important access points. They are populated by garages, backs of restaurants, front stoops and aliens.
With the resurgence of investment in the area, some older buildings have taken on a new shine, like the one below.
And just like that, the run was over. Just over three miles with less elevation than some single hills I’ve done.
Sunday dawned cold, windy and cloudy. I wasn’t thrilled to run in the cold, but since I had skipped Saturday’s run, blaming the ice, I felt compelled to run at least a few miles. Besides, I had a run all mapped out and waiting in RunGo
This was a run born in a warm house. A run mapped with forethought and precision. A route maximizing the number of new streets run while minimizing the distance. I had carefully looked at my tracking map and plotted a route on RunGo to take in all of the little missing streets in Arlington. Now parking on Fernleaf Street, I got out of my warm car ready to run! Damn, now I had to wait in the freezing wind to get my GPS signal. Once the Garmin locked in, I started down Fernleaf, dutifully taking the left on Elsie St. Water seeping across the road had frozen in place, making shiny stripes of slipperyness. As I slowed to take a picture, I heard a beep. Argh, I had never actually started the Garmin.
Now concentrating on getting this route done, I listened intently for further directions from RunGo.
“In 10 yards, make a right”
“In 35 feet, turn around”
Done! (Ugh, now I had to go UPHILL)
“Make a left”
“Make a right”
Whoa! No street there. Maybe a driveway. Keep going!
“You are off course. You are off course”
my conversation with RunGo
And so it began. The good intentions and planning went by the wayside. I looped around a bit and then decided to finish Zaruba Street, leaving the rest of the route for another day. When I had been in this area a few days ago, I remember seeing the Zaruba Street sign quite distinctly. Today, however, I ran right by it. I turned off on Devlin Street, which dead-ends into a playground. My picture of the cemetery must have done it, because dead-ends were mainly what I saw for the rest of the run.
On the Strava map, it looks like there is a long flight of stairs at the end of Castle Street. Actually, Castle Street was blocked off with Jersey barriers and had a condemned house standing on its corner. All I found at the end was dirt, bull-dozed into trees. I did find that Syrian Street becomes a stair case going down to Arlington Avenue. Azul Street looked promising, but halfway up the hill, it too, was blocked off.
Making my way back to the car, I stayed on Spring Street until it hit Arlington, where I took the Marengo Street Stairs towards the purple-topped Congregation of Yahshua. A right, a left and viola, I was back at the car. This did not go as planned, but it wasn’t a bad run. I could have actually gotten back on route with RunGo if I had had more time. In Pittsburgh, at least, the difference between online maps and reality is often striking.
Christmas Eve, 7:23 pm, I’m doing last minute Christmas shopping. This is so late that the stores are emptying out. Decorations are already 45% off. Buzz, buzz, my phone rings.
“Hey Ed, how about a run tomorrow? 7 am? Before I have to go to my parents”
“Uh, yeah, sure”, I answer. “Can we make it 7:30? ” A brisk run to kickoff the day, before my kids come over for brunch.
So, here I am on a chilly, foggy Christmas morning, meeting Rich for a run. He had talked about running up McCardle, a favorite “hill” route which rises from the Liberty Tubes to Mount Washington. I suggested we start at Armstrong Field for ease of parking and so we could include the entirety of McCardle.
Rising from the low end of McCardle, the route took us above Cupples Field, where we could hear the bells at St. John the Baptist Ukrainian Catholic Church echoing through the fog. Dodging the one car coming out of the Liberty Tubes, we stormed up the McCardle escarpment. Usually, that 3/4 mile hill deserves high-fives and skyline selfies at the top. However, it was so foggy today that none of that could be seen, not even the high-fives.
We made our way to Virginia Ave, whereupon I introduced Rich to the “real” Mount Washington. Big rolling hills, stairs, more hills and alleys. There’s a variety of housing in Mount Washington, mostly in decent shape.
At the end of Virginia Ave, stairs continued down to Pyle Way and Sweetbriar Street. With temps hovering around freezing, the long wooden stairs were very slippery. Luckily, the handrails were sturdy.
As Rich commented, there’s nothing sweet about Sweetbriar St. It is a long, steep, uphill slog which takes you directly to the “Point of View” Monument. Here, Seneca leader Guyasuta and George Washington are engaged in an eternal staring contest, while the City of Pittsburgh changes below them.
From the Point of View to our cars was a fast downhill run. Rich was nice enough to bring doughnuts. Thanks Rich!
This day’s run was in Sugar Top. My starting point was the edge of a small square park dominated by a blue water tower and fenced water reservoir at the apex of the hill. From the walkway around the reservoir, on a clear day you can see all across the city. However, it was rather foggy, so I concentrated on the nearby streets. Carnak Street is more like an alley and quickly disappears into grassy asphalt. The Alpena Street Stairs allow quick access to Bigelow Blvd. Houses in the area varied from dilapidated row houses to large, nicely kept homes. Lilian McKibbin Steiner wrote the paper “Sugar Top and the Cobblestone Jungle” about redevelopment in the Hill which includes interesting tidbits and maps of this area.
This was long run day. I ran with Pro-Bike and then added on, at first with a friend, and then the last two miles on my own. For most of this run, I was keeping pace with Pro Bike’s “9:00” minute pace group (which usually runs a faster 8:30 pace). If you look at the Strava stats, you might think “he’s deluding himself, he’s no where near 9!” However, on long runs like this, I never stop my watch when we’re at a crosswalk or at a water stop, etc. It solves the “I forgot to turn my watch back on dilemma”.
Much of this run was uneventful. However, it WAS a beautiful day!
We ran across bridges, onto sidewalks in front of uptight hotel staff and round and round the point. Eventually, we made it back to our group starting point, in front of Allegheny City Brewing. Amy and I went out for more miles. We took long North Side streets all the way to Chateau St. On the way back, we saw these enormous tree stumps.
I’m hoping they have a good use for it. Making it back to Allegheny City Brewing was good for another six miles, but I had two more to go. Leaving the morning beer drinks behind, I did a little jog up Madison Ave and back. Finally, I, too, could have a beer!
This Sunday afternoon run took me from Highland Park into Stanton Heights. The previous day’s run (that 18 miler Duck Hollow to Downtown one) had been all about mileage. Today’s run was about running on tired legs. My goal was to do a few streets in Stanton Heights. By parking at the Highland Park Reservoir, I was able to extend the route a bit and hit more streets.
The park was active in that sleepy park way. Hammocks were strung up between trees, some with snuggling couples and others with solo readers. Perhaps the couples were reading, too, but I didn’t investigate. There were men grilling burgers and kids playing tag. Highland Park has large swaths of trees dotted with glades and picnic shelters. I made my way out of Highland Park on Farmhouse Road, making sure to keep right to pick up Heberton St.
This is the high-side of Highland Park. On the right the hill drops off quickly about 200 feet. But here, on Heberton, the street was comfortably downhill and straight, making an easy start. This area has large houses. The smallest are three or four bedrooms Cape Cods. The largest are foursquare houses with high gabled roofs and spreading front porches. Most have decent sized front yards and a driveway into back yard garages. Most everything was neatly trimmed and planted with flowers, orange, yellow and red. Then things went downhill, but only literally. I hit Stanton at the bottom of Heberton and then came back up Sheridan. At the end of Sheridan, there’s a small, cozy stairway up to Bunkerhill St.
I came up onto the dead-end side of Bunkerhill St. On the right, within yards of the stairway, the street ended unceremoniously in gardens and driveways. On the left, Bunkerhill Street runs straight off the hill passing a grand entrance to Highland Park and down toward One Wild Place, where the Pittsburgh Zoo sprawls.
I came back to the top of the hill and this time, took Hampton St down towards Morningside. From Hampton St, I maneuvered over to Stanton Heights. Azure St off of the sweeping Mossfield St is one of the few entry roads into Stanton Heights. I don’t believe I had ever been in this section of town, either on foot or in a car. How was it different than Highland Park? Well, for one, the streets were mainly wide concrete roads instead of asphalt-paved. The houses were smaller, more ranches and split level houses, yet the yards were bigger. I ran on Schenley Manor Drive till it met with Coleridge St. It looked very suburban. Eventually I emerged onto Stanton Ave and made my way back up the hill to Highland Park.
Like any good battle, this one started innocuously enough. Just run a few streets in the Flats, scurry up a street in the Slopes for the elevation then come back down. I didn’t realize then that I had picked a fight with one of the toughest hills in town, Billy Buck Hill. Perched above the Southside Flats, on the right as you go up S 18th St, Billy Buck is reclusive. I had actually come up a section of Josephine St and wasn’t even planning to visit Billy. But then short, straight, Pius St seemed so benign that I couldn’t resist. And the quaintness of “Yard Way”, with its street sign and cute stylized pedestrian climbing it sucked me in. How bad could it be? Well, Yard Way stairs start at Pius St and goes six rounds, crossing Gregory St, Magdalene St, Roscoe St, Baldauf St, Huron St and Shamokin St before the final bell. Luckily, each round I was able to take a break and run the little streets just mentioned. It was a modest neighborhood. The mostly well kept spectators, neat little houses, watched in silence. On Baldauf St, as I huffed along, a large brown deer with dark splotches on its coat, froze in silence just feet away.
The driver’s way up, on Oporto street, was nearly as steep as the stairs. Then Oporto St becomes a set of stairs! Ha! But I had had enough and found my way down to the flats again. I had missed a couple of streets, but I’d be back.
Billy Buck Hill, the rematch.
This time, I knew what I was in for. I wanted to avoid Billy’s left hook and make it past him to Arlington Ave. My route was up South 12th St which becomes Brosville St. That’s right, I was going straight up the gut. The tight curve which took me from South 12th St onto Brosville wasn’t too bad. Broad sidewalk stairs quickly put me above the rooftops on the Flats. A short bridge over active railroad tracks put me at Billy Buck’s foot. I feinted right, going up Welsh Rd. That proved exhausting. A dead end-street with a 15% grade. (Or something like that). No sign of life, except the light brown cat washing himself in the middle of that street. Pausing at the bottom of Welsh, I took a couple of pics of the church steeple towering on the hill above.
Now for the main round, up Brosville St to the end! I paused a moment at St. Michael’s street (another long set of stairs), but didn’t fall for the “oh come up the stairs trick”! No, I kept punching up Brosville St. This area was pretty deserted. A few houses sprawled out on the wooded hillside. To the right was an entrance to the Knoxville Incline Overlook Park. Only giving it a quick glance, I kept on. Finally I got to the Penguins of Allentown. Yay! I had made it past Billy Buck once and for all! Now I glided down Arlington Ave, back to the South Side Flats. Nice knowing you, Billy. Lots of respect.
Today’s run took me across Squirrel Hill back into Friendship where I started yesterday. It was a relaxed Sunday run with no real target other than to see some new territory and get a few miles. With that relaxed theme in mind, I traveled up Murray Hill Avenue, which reminded me of a story.
When I first arrived in Pittsburgh, exactly 1 million years ago, I lived in a studio apartment in Shadyside. I lived in that one big room, galley kitchen and tiny bathroom for a couple of years. It was on the first floor of a large Victorian house. As I began to learn more about the city, I kept hearing about “Murray Ave” and “Squirrel Hill”. In school and without wheels, I explored on foot. One day, breaking out the Rand McNally map of Pittsburgh, I noticed that Murray Avenue was very close and decided to go see it. I crossed Fifth Ave and walked up a rather hilly street with big gray Belgium Block pavers and large, rambling houses on either side. After a half mile of this, I was not impressed. Sure, the houses were architecturally interesting, but where were the stores? The restaurants? The bars? This was not nearly as cool as everyone had made it out to be.
Turns out, of course, that I was on Murray HILL Avenue, not Murray Ave. Silly me, I didn’t think there would be such similar street names! But today, I knew where I was and rather enjoyed the quiet Murray Hill Ave instead of the bustling Murray Ave, with all its restaurants, coffee shops and bars. I continued into Friendship, covering some new territory, like Olga Way, pictured below. In many of my blogs, I’ve commented how some Pittsburgh streets are like being on country roads. Not so with Shadyside and Friendship, they are pulsing with urban life. This is the heart of a living city, with varied houses, businesses, people and traffic. I love it. Well, not the traffic.