April Catch-Up

and a little hint of May

Summary

April 2021 was a busy month in the running department. I ran 133 miles and completed the Hyner 50k, a challenging, rocky trail race. Group runs had returned and at least once a week I ran with City of Bridges run club. As for neighborhoods, checking my April maps, it looks like I was really hitting the edges – Lincoln Place, Hays, Belmar, East Carnegie and Summer Hill. Blogging in April took such a hit that I spent most of the month talking about March. That trend has gotten worse, as it is early June and I’m just now finishing up these April runs. Oh well, I’ll get to them all eventually. For this catch-up I’ll be running you through six gorgeous routes, ending with RATS run #00399.


https://www.strava.com/activities/5139011420
RATS run #00394 in Carrick

I love a little quickie in the dusky evening. Here, I did a couple of miles circumnavigating Phillips Park. Nice two-mile run!


https://www.strava.com/activities/5143854725
RATS run #00395

RATS run #00395 was a long hard run from Point Breeze, to East Liberty, through Larimar and into Lincon-Lemington. It was mid-morning on Saturday and I was surprised to find a crowd along Paulson Avenue. It seems that Mt. Ararat Baptist Church was having a mass vaccination event. I felt a bit odd running down dead-end Tyler Way with dozens of people milling about. At the end of Tyler Way, this odd structure stands. I have no idea what it is, but UFO has to be a choice.

Graffiti and artwork adorn many of the neighborhood’s walls. Raymer did a Mac Miller tribute, while a lesser known artist renders bold angles and a someone remembers a friend. Artful graffiti is slowly outpacing the simple spray job; graffiti gentrification.

Moving deeper into Larimar, there’s a lot going on. Houses with the deadly blue ‘condemned’ sign are getting renovated. The “Know Thyself” school is surrounded by bulldozers and fences. Just remember to report to the office when you get there and ask “What ARE you doing?”

Elmer Williams Square has some cute houses while the Freedom Temple Church looks like it’s seen better days. Those painters didn’t spend much time accentuating the detail of that building, did they? Further into Lincoln-Lemington, the land rises enough to provide a decent view all the way to Oakland’s Cathedral of Learning.

Way up on Lemington Avenue, I saw an interesting school facade and took a closer look. Earthy, bold, colors and Mayanish tiles contrasted with the “young Queen Victoria” face staring out. And perhaps it is a theme, but make sure you report to the office here, too. Now it is called “Catalyst Academy” and I wonder if chemistry is the core curriculum.

Above this school several streets dead-end into St. Peters’ Cemetery. Some dead-ends you can go right up to, like this wall, while others are guarded by downed trees and old home foundations.

Speaking of St. Peters Cemetery, they spared no expense with the sign. The front declares it is “Historic”, while the back lists which wars the vets fought in. All the way back to the Revolutionary War, I see. That’s impressive.

From here, I trundled down Highland Avenue to Washington Boulevard. The greenspace on the left is actually part of Highland Park. I didn’t see any cat tails, neither mammals nor plants.

Lastly, the arched bridges along Washington Boulevard are quite impressive. Several carry the streets above, such as Lincoln Avenue and Larimer Avenue. One, though, carries an old railroad. Apparently this railroad spur crosses the nearby Allegheny River and is being considered for a rail-to-trails project. At the moment, though, the Brilliant Bridge just crosses Silver Lake Drive, home to storage warehouses and a car wash. It used to actually be a lake, then a drive-in movie theater.

From here, I trotted back to my car with fourteen miles in the running bank.


https://www.strava.com/activities/5151213965
RATS Run #00396 in the West End and Elliot

RATS run #00396 was a short run in the West End and Elliott. This was one of those frantic days, where just getting out for a run was an effort. Par for the course, I ended up in the wrong lane driving to the West End and just decided to park in Allegheny West, near Modern Cafe. It was OK, as I wanted a little more mileage than my planned route.

Crossing the West End Bridge has become an adventure these days. There are a couple of fenced-in walkways suspended above the street and below the bridge, taking you from the street to the bridge deck. I’ve run across it without a problem for years, but recently people have been sleeping on the walkways well into the day, leaving their bags and things strewn about. Covid or not, it is much closer to people and personal items than I’m comfortable with.

At any rate, I crossed the Ohio on the West End Bridge and made my way up to Elliot, Janewood Way in particular.

Marking that one off, I visited Herndon Street, high on the opposing hill. I had previously taken it for a driveway and did not realize how long it was. A few houses clung to the hillsides there. I used the Attica Street Steps to come back down to the quaint business district of the West End.

The West End Business district is a small grid of street off of Steuban. Motorists trying to avoid tunnel backups often zip through this alternate route. On the far side from Steuban, a mere two or three blocks, streets generally end at the Saw Mill Run (creek), while cars on Saw Mill Run Boulevard scream by. Mount Washington rises above in steep cliffs.

There are some cute parts of town. It even has a gazebo. However, trudging on Violet Way I looked up and became concerned. There seemed to be a police incident in progress, as several officers were milling around. Indeed, as I passed, it turned out maybe a dozen officers, in full gear were there behind a building.

They were chatting and joking. Shift change, I suppose. In 25 feet or so, it was a dead-end and I felt a little sheepish going back through the police crowd. With that I crossed the West End Bridge again, this time seeing two dudes rummaging through the homeless guys’ debris. I thought about the police a half-mile away as I whizzed past.


https://www.strava.com/activities/5163712017
RATS run #00397 in Banksville

Not a whole lot to say here. This was a short evening run in Banksville. Banksville Park was quite active this time through. The last time, it was a rather cold evening. Now, guys were playing cricket in a ballfield, while scads of people lined a dek-hockey game in progress. Further on, it looked like a Little League baseball game was starting.

The surrounding neighborhoods are quite residential, with big lawns and big garages. Oakville Drive, though, is a mass of apartments. There could be as many as 1,000 garden apartments there. It looked pretty nice, honestly. Just know that you can’t actually drive the way I came. The northern section of the apartment complex overlooks the Parkway West as it bends toward the Fort Pitt Tunnels.

A cell tower dominated the end of the playground. Lots of satellite dishes are clustered around that thing. Who knows how many antennae are on the tower? 50? 100? It’s hard to say.


https://www.strava.com/activities/5196544757
Route of RATS #00398 in Northview Heights

Northview Heights is an area I had been avoiding. There are security gates on Mt Pleasant Road and Penfort Street, which I found intimidating. However, I had taken some time off work to recovery from Hyner 50k, so had the chance to run here on a sunny weekday morning. I had no problems, other than a little soreness in the legs. People were out, waiting for buses or picking up kids. Maintenance workers were vigorously mowing lawns and doing repairs.

Chicago Street branches out of the housing development and stops at a cliff above I-279. I wonder if it ever went across. A lone turkey sauntered into the woods as I passed. Eventually I made my way out of the development, down to Spring Garden Avenue and back to Essen Street.

Crossing the Swindell Bridge again, there’s a neat glimpse of Downtown through the fence links.


https://www.strava.com/activities/5204801111
RATS run #00399 in Squirrel Hill

Last but not least, RATS run #00399 was a 5K run in Squirrel Hill North, land of the big houses. But I’ll start out on an alley and end on the public golf course.

Now, Robin Road is private, but since I’m not immune to doing private roads, I intended to go down it. However, it really felt more like a private driveway, so I bailed. This section of Squirrel Hill, “Murdoch Farms” has immense, imposing homes beautifully kept. Not so far away, little developments off of Schenley Park Golf Course include various “modern” style houses. Oh, so modern, they were built in the 1960’s.

The sun was setting across the golf course as I finished up, just past 5K distance.


That’s a Wrap!

(May was a busy month, too, but only 106 miles. I’ll start blogging about those soon. Thanks for reading.)

March 2021 Catch-Up

Summary

March 2021 was one of my most productive months in terms of mileage and streets covered. Among my 162 miles and 20,000 feet of elevation gain, I completed 192 more streets in Pittsburgh in 15 RATS runs. I even completed the “Take The Stairs 50k” course I published last year. That course, a small revision of Lamar’s original course, took me on roughly 78 sets of steps throughout the city, but, alas, did not cover any new streets.

Blogging-wise, March was less than stellar. I only published four posts and it has taken me all of April just to get this summary out, touching on three short runs in Carrick, Brookline and West Liberty.


https://www.strava.com/activities/4979989103
Route of RATS #00384 in Brookline

I had grand plans for this run, but was out-of-synch and got frustrated by small ‘streets’ just being driveways into hills. Argh! Just took one picture, before it all went downhill. I did end up with over four miles and several alleys covered.

Brookline Alley
Brookline Alley

RATS run #00386 Around South Side Cemetery
RATS run #00386 Around South Side Cemetery

In this run, I inadvertently circumnavigated South Side Cemetery. I started on Brownsville Road and took the steep West Meyers Street to Oakhurst en route to Newett Street, one of the steeper roads I’ve been on. I took Plateau Street to its dead-end above Volunteers Park, then came back to Newett, expecting to see Plateau on the other side. However, Plateau falls off of Newett so quickly that the other side looked like a driveway which disappeared over the hillside. Once upon it, though, I found my way down Plateau and was pleasantly surprised to find that Volunteers Field was an active hubbub. It looked like a fire department team was practicing on one field, while on another field, a younger group practiced base-running under the tutelage of a barking coach.

Moving on, I dodged cars on my way down Colerain to Noble Road. No sidewalks and not much of a shoulder made it tricky running. Then I peeled off and went down Denise Street. My internal map had Denise going a little way and dead-ending. It seemed to go on forever, but afforded nice views of the T tracks. Returning, I came across some steps which took me to Noble Road.

Once up on Noble, I backtracked a bit and went up Glade Street. The few streets up on that hill are tucked into a corner of the cemeteries looming above. It was a nicer area than I expected. Some kids were playing basketball in the street and others were riding bikes. Along the Montrose Steps I heard a rustling and noticed a deer in the woods. I took a picture and continued to Cloverdale Street. Only after looking at the picture more closely did I realize there were four deer there!

Cloverdale Street completed the southern border of the cemetery, bringing me back to Noble Street. This short, three mile run certainly had a lot to see.


Route of RATS #00387
Route of RATS #00387

This was an evening run in West Liberty to catch some alleys. I caught several in my alley catcher, but some were only paper alleys (here’s looking at you, Mascot Way!) Overall it was a pleasant, hilly run with over 400 feet of elevation in only three miles.


So that was it for March, 2021. I’m still chipping away at the streets. At the end of March I had a little over 800 more to complete. I’ve come a long way considering there are over 4,800 streets in Pittsburgh. I can now see the light at the end of the tunnel.

May 2020 Catch-Up

Summary

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

https://www.strava.com/activities/3404563102
RATS #00232

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.

St. Ann’s Roman Catholic Hungarian Church

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

RATS #00234 – I run for Ahmaud

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

https://www.strava.com/activities/3485093748
RATS #00242 Brookline

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

https://www.strava.com/activities/3490778183
RATS #00243 – 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.

Guyland Street Steps

RATS #00244 Another Jaunt in Mount Washington

https://www.strava.com/activities/3499499413
RATS #00244

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

https://www.strava.com/activities/3506891336
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

https://www.strava.com/activities/3528144712
RATS #00246 South Oakland again

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

https://www.strava.com/activities/3537188640
RATS #00247 – Twelve miles in the Southside

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

https://www.strava.com/activities/3541846391
RATS #00248 – 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.

All Done!

That’s all for May. Looking forward to June, with its late sunsets.

January 2020 Wrap-Up

Summary

January 2020 was a good month for running and running all the streets of Pittsburgh. The weather has been relatively mild, with little snow or ice impeding progress. Of the twenty runs I recorded on Strava this month, fourteen of them included new streets. I ran off the city map on a couple of occasions, once spilling into Bellevue and once falling off into Penn Hills. I’ve finished Southside Slopes, excepting a handful of streets and finished all six streets in Arlington Heights. I was also pretty good about keeping up the blog, so only two make it into this catch-up.

RATS #00163 – Pro Bike in Highland Park

https://www.strava.com/activities/2973617947
RATS #00163

This was a group run with Pro Bike. Nice route, nice chat with Tom as we powered up Highland Avenue towards the park. Tom is notable in the number and variety of races he has run in the last five years. Something like two marathons a month, but including all sorts of other races, from 100 milers to 5K’s. I veered off the official course to take in a few new streets. I also like the way the route looks – almost like a runner with a backpack.

RATS #00165 before the Cathedral

https://www.strava.com/activities/2985423200
RATS #00165

This was a short run down the length of Melwood Avenue in Oakland, before doing stairs at the Cathedral of Learning.

December 2019 Catch-Up

Many the runs that December brought
Many December's runs have been depicted and blogged
Others...
All but forgotten
These are their simple stories.

RATS #00151

https://www.strava.com/activities/2909860119
RATS #00151

On a night of some distress and chaos, this run was a godsend. Missed a group run, but ended up running with an old friend, chatting it out and covering a new streets in Shadyside, including, Stratton Lane, Yardley Way and Spirit Street.

RATS #00156 – Another Lights Run

https://www.strava.com/activities/2952423715
RATS #00156

Who knew that Market Square would be so busy on a Monday night, two days before Christmas? Not me! Lots of people skating, shopping at the Market Square Christmas Market and going to holiday shows. I met a new runner friend and, even though the map isn’t very clear, we ran most of Third and Fourth avenues.

RATS #00161

https://www.strava.com/activities/2965954914
RATS #00161 in North Oakland

A short run to cover a few streets and stairs prior to doing steps at the Cathedral of Learning. Schenley Terrace confounds the CitySteps app because it is so close to Bigelow Boulevard that it can’t tell which street you’re on.

RATS #00162 PBR from Modern Cafe

https://www.strava.com/activities/2969114691
RATS #00162

A cool group run with Pro Bike & Run. I added on a couple of miles so that I could reach 1,400 miles for the year. Those last two felt like they took forever, as I was running alone in dark alleys. There was beer, I mean light, at the end of the tunnel, though.

September 2019 Catch Up

September was quite the month. I ran more miles (189) and second highest elevation (12,425) this month than any other. I covered many streets, but still did not get into the Big Southern neighborhoods. Nineteen September runs got the “RATS” Badge, covering new streets. Here’s the wrap up.

RATS #00117

https://www.strava.com/activities/2675783421
RATS #00117 – covering the last bit of Nicholson St finally

RATS #00117 got the badge for finally crossing off Nicholson St off my list. Whoo!

RATS #00118

https://www.strava.com/activities/2683598843
RATS #00118

This run originated in Shadyside and traversed into East Liberty. The Strava route is a bit misleading in that the first few miles actually went on South Graham St, crossing the East Busway on a pedestrian walkway. Little Brownwell St has some neat old houses on it. Unfortunately they now only look wistfully over at Bloomfield across the wide bus way.

RATS #00121 Pre-run, run, a pre-run run

https://www.strava.com/activities/2703475578
RATS #00121

A couple of miles before my initiation into Sami’s runs, singing tunes!

RATS #00122 Sami’s Run!

https://www.strava.com/activities/2703475916
RATS #00122 Sami’s Run

This is a run worth the explanation. Let’s go into the Wayback Machine. …whooowhooowhooo <flashing lights> …

…landing a few years ago on a random Tuesday. In those days, Steel City Road Runners had a track workout. Elijah would run it from the Schenley Park track. (A few more “whooos” of the Wayback Machine would have taken us to the CMU track…) A man of more medals than words, Elijah religiously taught us the “A-skip”, the “B-skip”, and brought “high-knees” and “strides” into my vocabulary.

Then there was “reorganization” within Steel City. (Oh, no!!) At some point, the remaining leadership decided to cut track. Like energetic saplings rising from the trunk of a felled trip, several small running groups have emerged. One of them, HPRC, I have mentioned often in this blog. Another one, which I like to call pTNT!, is Perry’s Tuesday Night Track group. Perry was one of the coaches in Steel City and carries on the track tradition. In addition to posting about track, pTNT! also posts about other runs going on. That’s how I found out about Sami’s Thursday runs. Sami is part of HPRC, but, like me, has some issues getting to those 5:30am runs.

So, we started, promisingly enough, at Silky’s on Liberty Ave. Nothing but wide open, nearly flat streets! But Sami had other ideas. We galloped into Oakland via Centre Ave. That was worrisome, as Centre keeps rising. But then we cut over to Bayard St. Ah, nice trees, slight uphill. But then, up DeSoto! Up Terrace! Up Allequippa!! Now on level with the top of the Cathedral, we caught a little break on “Champions Dr”, only to climb up the backside of Centre Ave again! Five miles, 460 feet of elevation, it wasn’t easy. Luckily, it also ended at Silky’s, and they were stocked with Runners Honey, aka beer.

RATS #00125 – Ascend Runner Party

https://www.strava.com/activities/2715058616
Ascend Run Club RATS #00125

In addition to climbing, yoga and some fitness equipment, Ascend also has a small run club. Tonight’s run was inspired by the promise of beer and Chipotle after the run. That was quite the right promise, as they had nearly 50 runners show up. The routes were three, five and seven miles. Needing lots of miles, I went out with the seven mile group. What they didn’t mention was that they were moving at a 7:30 pace!! Like the last hippo in Jumanji, I struggled to keep up. After four miles of lightning speed (for me), I slowed down to a more comfy pace and caught a few new streets. It was a good run, with good food and friendly faces.

RATS #00126

https://www.strava.com/activities/2720940935
PBR Run, RATS #00126

This run was with Pro-Bike’s Wednesday night group. A few new streets around Schenley Park earned this run a RATS badge.

RATS #00127 A Northside Pre-Run Run

https://www.strava.com/activities/2723473110
Exploring the North Side before a group run. RATS #00127

Nothing too spectacular about this run. Eloise St was longer than I expected. Manchester streets are pretty desolate. Many houses must have been taken down, so there’s lots of open space.

RATS #00128

https://www.strava.com/activities/2723660177
RATS #00128

This was a group run from Allegheny City Brewing. I believe the two blocks of Middle St, earned this run the RATS badge.

https://www.strava.com/activities/2731058728
Steuben St Doughnut Run RATS #00130

Doughnut Surprise on Steuben St: RATS #00130

This was a recovery Sunday run after a long run on Saturday. I had gone to the the West End Overlook to take some pics and just wandered a little from there down Steuban St. This area is super hilly. Going down from the overlook, I took a long flight of stairs at the end of Fairview, which took me to Furley St. A couple of blocks of stairs…pretty impressive. A couple of turns later, I took the Amherst St stairs up from Chartiers Ave, which eventually took me to Steuben St. The neighborhood coming off the overlook was reminiscent of Morningside – small houses, close to each other. There were lots of people out, fixing cars, mowing lawns, walking dogs. Steuban St. was a bit different. It is an alternate route for drivers going to the Western suburbs, so it can be pretty busy. In this area, the houses are a bit farther apart, bigger yards, but not very cozy. Then, going up a large hill in the sun, I saw this sign:

Ahhh! A sign runners love to see!

Not the best sign, but a woman coming out of the store said “They’re open! I drove from Ohio to get these! You’d better get one!” I smiled and nodded and planned to come back. Another mile along this road and I returned. This time, people were parking randomly along the road and coming in and out the store. I went inside and searched for my cash while a young couple came in. The woman was impressed that I had run there and offered to buy my doughnut. I thanked her but declined, having come up with the dollar required. It was still warm!

The reward

RATS #00131

https://www.strava.com/activities/2739886985