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.
A few years back, before I starting this “Run All The Streets” project; before I did a stairs tour; before all of that, Lamar, a local runner and urban explorer organized a “Take The Stairs Fatass” event. A Fatass in the running community is an unsupported, no frills run. No fees, no bling, just a run for the fun and adventure of it. So, one morning in March 2018, I found myself under the Birmingham Bridge with about 20 other running nuts, ready to do a big loop around Pittsburgh, taking city stairs whenever possible. I was running with Monica and Amy.
At that point, I had run a few Pittsburgh Marathons and even a few trail ultras, but otherwise had run mainly in the East End of the city; Regent Square, Squirrel Hill, Frick Park, Edgewood. Well, that 50k was an eye-opener for me. Polish Hill, City View, West End, Duquense Heights were some of the areas we went through. Despite examining the map in detail the night before, we spent a lot of time just finding the stairs. One of us had the directions, one of us had Google Maps on the phone and another tried to take in the big picture and keep us moving in the right direction. Unfortunately, after 20 miles, we got turned around coming out of Emerald View Park and couldn’t find our way anymore. We bailed and ran back to our cars, a mere 22 mile day. Ever since then, Amy and I have been chatting about finishing it.
Now I’m over a year in to my project of fastidiously running every street, alley and stairway in Pittsburgh. I’ve run on thousands of streets. I’ve run hundreds of miles and dozens of stairways. I’ve seen many stairs and nooks of the city with mis.steps, as the muses of the stairs speak to her and inspire her stories. I’ve covered many areas on my own, up hills unbelievably steep, seeing deer everywhere, finding surprisingly cute homes everywhere. I always find a house at the end of those long dead-end’s.
So I’m re-creating this “Take The Stairs 50K Fatass”. It will be on March 29. This time, I’m starting at Threadbare Cider instead of underneath a bridge. I’m relying heavily on Lamar’s original map, but I have changed it slightly to include a few more stairs. This run was about verifying some of the route. My friend and fellow runner, Naomi, was feeling adventurous and came with me to explore the route in Oakland.
We started in the South Side and crossed the Hot Metal Bridge. Just past Parkway overpass on Bates is a little side street – Hodges. Only a dozen houses populate this neighborhood in the holler. Stairs rise on either side. I was interested in the ones going up to Bates, so we took those. Sunday morning traffic was light, so we were able to scamper across Bates to catch the Frazier Street Stairs. This is part of the upcoming 50k.
Frazier Street is a long street at the edge of South Oakland. This area is generally overrun by students, but there are still some single-family homes holding out down here. Unfortunately, some people have given up the ghost, even though their houses look good. If you can’t read it, that sign says “Sorry, We’re Dead”.
From there, we traversed on Dawson to hit Diulius Way. Years ago, when I was a student at Pitt, I found this route from Schenley Park to South Oakland. This is also on the new race route.
Now, once down at Boundary Street, Naomi wanted to just run for a bit, so we ran about a mile or so to the train trestle. Coming back, I wanted to verify a couple of stairways I saw on maps which would take me up again to South Bouquet Street. Unfortunately, development in Oakland has taken over some of the stairs I hoped to find.
Eventually I did find a path, albeit between two apartment buildings. So, I’m glad I did this run. I verified that the route through Hodges Street works, yet found some paths just didn’t exist anymore. The route will also include the newly refurbished Joincare Street Stairs, gleaming on the next hill. Just one more section to verify before springing the updated route on the world. Stay tuned!
This was a fairly long run, over half-marathon distance, on a cool, cloudy Saturday morning. I started at Nova Place, on Pittsburgh’s Northside. It is literally around the corner from the Children’s Museum, a place where I spent many hours with my children. It was quite an adventure land for them, with so many activities, from a multi-story maze to painting and screen printing.
Running out of the Northside along Chateau Street, the neighborhood becomes less stately and more forlorn. Old architecture still shows its fine bones, even in decay.
Crossing under the Route 65 highway took me to an industrial area. It features wide flat streets and is lined with large yards for the Port Authority, Duquesne Light, Mascaro Construction and others. Railroads coming out of the city make a large curve here and cross the Ohio River on massive bridges.
Knowing these flat streets wouldn’t last forever, I made a turn onto Eckert Street. Strangely enough, a group of runners passed by, coming down Eckert Street. I was curious as to which running group they represented, so asked the last one ” Who are you running with?” She just smiled, threw up her hands and said “I’m in my own pace group!” She was only 50 yards behind the other five, but it must have seemed like a mile.
Now, I was truly exploring. Like all good explorers, people had actually been there before, but it was new to me.
With all the bridges, hills and houses on the hills above, I knew there would be stairs somewhere. Sure enough, just past Don’s Diner, in the shade of the California Avenue bridge, I found a set of stairs. Coming off the stairs on top, I landed in a cove of fences and backyards with a narrow sidewalk leading to the bridge. Once on the bridge, I headed north, away from downtown. I was officially in the Brighton Heights neighborhood. Rising slowly, California Avenue goes past a mix of houses, mostly on the larger, older side where dinosaurs peaked out from the bushes.
Eventually, on Wilksboro Avenue, I ignored another “No Outlet” sign, and ran to the end, hoping to find another set of stairs. I didn’t, but what I DID find was amazing! There was a long pedestrian bridge rising high off the ravine floor. It had the structure of a full size bridge, but only the width of a sidewalk. Unfortunately, it was closed. I haven’t seen another structure like this in Pittsburgh. As I later discovered, this is the “Wilksboro Avenue Footbridge”.
My detour around the closed bridge brought me to another typically Pittsburgh scene, a small neighborhood park with a lively game going on. In an earlier run through the Hill District, it was football. Here it was Deck Hockey.
Crossing into Bellevue briefly, I turned around and made my way back toward downtown. I kept a block off of California, on Massachusetts. There were some cool houses; the blue portal house, the rambling wooden wreck with a rounded porch. I found myself going down Richardson Street, nearly to Eckert St again, but took the stairs up to Bainton Street instead. That was a long flight!
I ran through the upper section of California-Kirkbride, where Success is a two-block street. It is better than Fineview, where Compromise is a dead-end. Finally, I got to Marvista street and its long flight of stairs. This one is not for the faint of heart. Many of the railings are missing and there’s a section of broken stairway as well. At the low end, Marvista is a sad street rising up from California Avenue. But some people still live here beside the houses emblazoned with the city’s blue “condemned” badge. Missing from my pictures are the set of stairs on Hyena Way that come down at right angles to Marvista St.
From here, I just ran back to Nova Place, catching a few more streets on the Northside. Nova Place was busy when I got there, full of runners and families recovering from the Children’s Museum.
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.