Who is he? Sunday, “he” was me. I was running in Oakland and decided to pay the remnants of Forbes Field a visit. The first remnant was the outfield wall, 457 feet from home plate. The second was home plate itself, preserved under plexiglass in the floor of Posvar Hall. Sleepy studying students looked askance at a bundled up runner traipsing in, taking a picture and running out.
But, as Pitt has built up Oakland, “he” could also be every student, parent and professor drawn to its burgeoning educational, medical and research center. Here is Pitt’s research page, where you can see for yourself how large it has gotten. I’m a graduate of Pitt myself. But this day, I was just a runner, trying to capture a few more streets. Old Oakland is hard to see here, but there are glimpses.
After a few miles I stopped by the Cathedral for a few trips up the stairs.
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.
After the previous day’s long run, this was a recovery run. For those not aware, a “recovery run” is an easy run after a very long, strenuous run, usually the day after. The rough idea is that after a long run the body needs to recover. Simple rest and good nutrition provide all the necessary ingredients for recovery. However, training is about improving. To improve you need to stress your body and then allow it to recover. Training is also about schedule, so the faster you can recover, the faster you can apply additional stress, improving even more. Some athletes use anabolic steroids to achieve quick recovery. For running, my preferred method is the recovery run. Practically, it is a slower and shorter run.
I haven’t run much in Larimer. It has a more interesting history than I had thought. Honestly, I had not thought much at all until I was writing this. I think that’s the same for many in this region. Only when it makes the news do you even think about Larimer. It is geographically isolated, bounded by deep ravines and off the beaten path. Highland Park, an adjacent neighborhood, is a bustling, busy area, with a large park and the zoo.
Finally, the run
I started in Highland Park, near the reservoir. My goal was to run five to ten miles at a leisurely pace and, afterwards, meet some friends at yoga in the park. Street-wise, I wanted to complete Jackson St and then see how Larimer Ave looked. Jackson Street emerges from the park, makes a ninety-degree angle and dashes down the hill to North Negley. One curiosity is the bright blue City of Pittsburgh street signs on Jackson for BRYANT St and HAMPTON St, even though there’s nothing, not even a stairway, which suggests that those roads actually intersect Jackson.
Completing Jackson, I wandered a bit and then made my way up Larimer Ave. This was all new to me. I crossed the Larimer Avenue Bridge. There was no elevation change for me, but the bridge crosses Washington Ave, about 250 feet below. The houses were fairly typical Pittsburgh brick construction, four-square houses, narrower than what you see in Highland Park and usually approached by a healthy staircase up to a porch. There was an “African Peace Garden” in a vacant lot with an impressive wrought metal entrance. As it started to sprinkle I traced a square and made my way across another, nearly identical bridge. The sprinkle was brief and I got back to Highland Park just in time to do some yoga. Then nap.
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 got the badge for finally crossing off Nicholson St off my list. Whoo!
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
A couple of miles before my initiation into Sami’s runs, singing tunes!
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
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.
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
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.
This was a group run from Allegheny City Brewing. I believe the two blocks of Middle St, earned this run the RATS badge.
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:
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!
A short run in and around Polish Hill. Lots of narrow streets and stairs in this cliffhanging neighborhood.
A moderate distance through Shadyside and Friendship. Caught some new alleys in Shadyside.
Starting in Grandview Park, I ran some of small streets perched over the Liberty Tunnels.
August was a pretty good month for running. Weather was hot but mainly dry. I hit 137 miles for the month with significant elevation. I got out to Morningside and am starting to fill in the big central Pittsburgh neighborhoods of Garfield, Friendship, Highland Park and Shadyside. I didn’t get out to the southern neighborhoods of Pittsburgh even once, though. Brookline and Beechview are still uncharted territory.
Early morning run with Sasha simply going up and down long streets in Highland Park. Euclid Ave was on the outbound.
A rare evening run with SCRRC. We covered a few new streets near Penn Brewery, otherwise a usual route mainly on River Avenue.
Covering more of Shadyside. This time went down Devonshire St, which is a surprisingly quick way to get from Fifth Avenue to Centre Avenue.
A very short run into the Southside Slopes. Once you hit Josephine St, the streets are very steep, or they are actually stairs until you get to Arlington Avenue, (not on this map). It didn’t help that this was immediately after a quick ten mile run.
This was another short but steep run. Each of those contour lines is ten meters (~32 feet), so Hoosac St climbs over 60 feet from Alger St to the top of the hill past Neeb St, a distance of no more than a tenth of a mile.
This run went down College Avenue in Shadyside, earning its RATS number. With Pro Bike & Run , which is always enjoyable.
This was another morning run in Shadyside. It drizzled a bit, and we went round and round on the alleys.
This was a quick six miles with pHPRC – Perry’s route in lieu of an HPRC route. The section going straight through Uptown on Fifth Ave earned this run the RATS badge.
This was a cool run, both in temps and character. A cold front had pushed out the scorching August heat. The day was sunny, too! The Highland Park Running Club had met at Perk and Brew earlier in the morning and their runners were finishing up. Many were relaxing outside or lined up inside getting coffee and ice cream. I chatted a bit and then set off. My plan today was to do a few streets in Friendship and then take off to Morningside.
Running in Friendship was great! The flat, tree-lined streets were lined with large brick houses. There were many runners and walkers out. Children rode bikes and parents pushed strollers. I liked the street names, too; Harriet, Evaline, Winebiddle, South Pacific and South Atlantic, to mention a few. Even the alleys had cool names. Who can resist Asterisk Alley?
My overall goal was to run at least 13.1 miles, a half-marathon distance. I wasn’t exactly sure how many miles I’d get in Morningside, so getting two or three in Friendship would be a good start. Peeling off of Harriet, I went up Roup Street, then zig-zagged over to North Aiken Ave. North Aiken is one of the few of theses streets to go straight through Garfield. It also rises precipitously once you’ve crossed Penn Ave. Another zig and another zag found me on Chislett Street, which would take me into the heart of Morningside.
Morningside is a long narrow neighborhood nestled between Highland Park, the Pittsburgh Zoo and Stanton Heights. It is comprised of four parallel streets, Chislett, Jancey, Morningside and Duffield, and an equal number of alleys. At their northern end, are bluffs overlooking the Allegheny River. There are a number of cross streets, too. Also, at the end of Chislett and to the right is a section of short roads and alleys. While Friendship is tree-lined, Morningside is mostly open. Small lots with small houses line the streets. It is packed with people; few vacant houses, no open lots. As I ran on Chislett, I passed a coffee house and a few other small businesses. This was rather plain running. Then, at the end of Chislett was a nice view of the Allegheny River. Making a right onto Witherspoon St, I came to a flight of public stairs. Of course, I had to go down them, whereupon I realized I was very near the road entrance to the Pittsburgh Zoo! That was a little surprise!
I re-traced my steps back to Witherspoon and did the necessary ins and outs to run the warren of streets there. The edge street, Antietam, directly overlooks the zoo entrance. At the end of Antietam, a baseball game was in progress at Natoli Field. Also a working water fountain! (Yay!)
From there I went back and forth on Jancy Street, Morningside Avenue, and intervening alleys; stopping for a moment at a Rite Aid to get some OJ. I spied the Adelphia stairs (there’s a street sign on them), but resisted the urge to run up them. I was getting tired and wasn’t going to cover every street at once. I made my way back to Perk & Brew, via North Negley and Mellon Street, getting in a solid fifteen miles.
I got out of my neighborhood for this run, starting in Highland Park. Ironically, I had skipped over an HPRC run which started a little earlier, but was from downtown. Highland Park is both a city park, but also a neighborhood. The history of each are intertwined. The park dominates the neighborhood and the park is dominated by the Highland Park Reservoir. It rests about ten or fifteen feet above the rest of the park. Surrounding the irregularly shaped reservoir are conformal streets and paths, with sections descending to lower curves. This is a major portion of the water system run by the Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority. The history of the water system is fascinating. It takes vision, significant engineering and an ability to bring together fractious local politics to create and maintain public water systems. Clean water is also a bedrock of public health, relegating diseases like cholera and typhoid fever to the dim past in modern cities. The 125 million gallon Highland Park Reservoir #1 was put into service in 1879, 140 years ago, for those who are counting. In recent years, lead levels in the city water have become a major concern. PWSA has a number of projects ongoing to mitigate this problem, including installing pipes like those below.
While I was pretty quiet exiting the park on Stanton Avenue, I apparently scared the horses. I guess I was breathing harder than I thought! There are some nice tennis courts along Stanton Avenue, the street I would follow for much of the run.
Highland Park is a large area. While the housing stock varies from garden apartment complexes to single family homes, there are not many small houses. Usually they are large brick affairs with three floors and decent sized yards. Many have been converted into apartments. The streets are largely tree-lined. There are broad, relatively flat areas surrounded by some big hills. For the size of the area, businesses are rare, being concentrated along Bryant Street and Negley Avenue.
At any rate, I ran down Stanton until I caught Chislett Street and exited Highland Park. I turned onto Black Street until it became Mossfield. I caught a few small streets off of North Aiken Avenue, too. I veered onto Schenley Avenue (nowhere near the park of the same name) and then to North Mathilda Street. This area was much hillier than Highland Park and the houses were not as impressive. There was surprising new construction but also older houses and the too-often seen ragged Pittsburgh row house. This neighborhood is Garfield and this was my first time running though it. My initial impression was that it was very green, hilly and a little empty. North Mathilda dumped my down onto Friendship Avenue. From there, I cruised past Children’s Hospital, into the narrow houses and steep streets of Lawrenceville. I followed 45th Street to Butler, then caught 43rd Street to it’s terminus at the Allegheny River. Is has a cool view, but is also the entrance to 43rd Street Concrete (which has an impressive operation going).
Finally, I needed to turn back to the car. I made my way to the low end of Stanton and followed it (mostly) back to Highland Park. That’s quite a climb! This was a cool run, having covered many different areas of the city and taking me from one of the highest points in the area to river level.