This was my favorite type of run – start with friends and then grab some new streets on the way back. Actually, my FAVORITE run would have been to have all these folks come with me, but a 300′ hill is a hard sell.
It was a cool, humid and cloudy morning. Temps held steady in the low 40’s with intermittent drizzle. We started at Ascend, nestled as it is between old multi-story brick buildings. We made our way to the Liberty Bridge, accessing the sidewalk via a muddy walk-way under the bridge and a short set of stairs to the deck. Once on the deck, the downtown skyline spread out before us.
Once in downtown, we zigged and zagged toward a water stop near the Wyndham. This was three miles in. The planned route took the group in a cloverleaf around downtown, coming back to this water stop several times. I decided to branch out on my own. I had various choices – explore more of Brighton Heights; criss-cross my way through Manchester; climb Greenleaf onto Mount Washington. Eventually, I decided on Greenleaf, in part because it was going to be closed for construction soon. After some tearful goodbyes (just kidding, a couple of people waved bye), I started out.
Now getting to Greenleaf is not straightforward. It is a small residential street which falls off of Mt. Washington into the West End Circle. To get to the West End Circle, I had to cross the West End Bridge and find my way to the other side of the Circle. The West End Bridge has approach ramps and stairs for pedestrians. The pedestrian ramps are notoriously flexible and you can feel it bucking up and down when a group runs across.
After crossing the bridge, I was able to cut across the circle, passing the end of Sawmill Run (notorious for flooding). Finally, I got to the base of Greenleaf Street.
From here it was up. On one hand there’s no sidewalks, on the other hand, there’s not much traffic. Even though you’re supposed to run facing traffic, on hills like this, I find running on the uphill side better. Cars aren’t going to be zipping by. Pretty quickly, Greenleaf climbed high enough to start showing off views.
At the top, Greenleaf wraps around into the modest residential neighborhood of Duquesne Heights. George and Guy Trail hugs the cliff below Skookum Field, where a baseball hit 190′ would tumble far down the cliff.
The views are spectacular and several snazzy houses vie for space along the cliff with the WBZZ radio tower. Small lanes between the newer houses had the best security. I felt watched.
Greenleaf Street continued through Duquesne Heights. This is an interesting area. Tall narrow houses are literally under large view-hogging condos. Street stairs and connecting stairs abounded. Greenleaf Street transformed into a stairway before transforming again into an alley. Sioux Way was part-stair, part brick.
Finally, I made my way to Grandview Avenue, that popular promenade overlooking Pittsburgh. At the eastern end of Grandview, Vinecliff Street, a weathered set of stairs and asphalt, struggles down the hill. I took that en route to finishing back at Ascend.
Pro-Bike had a group run from Caliente’s Pizza at 6:30. While the days are noticeably longer, its quite dark by 6:30. It’s even darker at 6:40, when I got there. I looked into Caliente and didn’t see anybody, so I took off to chart some new streets. This section of Bloomfield is adjacent to the Bloomfield Bridge, a half-mile bridge which soars 185 feet over the ravine below. My first turn, down Panama Way, directly dead-ended into a ramp wall leading to the bridge. It wasn’t an auspicious start, but then I noticed something.
In between flaking white paint were dozens of neatly painted coats of arms, presumably of Polish towns. WTF! I had always considered Bloomfield to be an Italian neighborhood. They stretched all along the curving ramp. A little post-run research turned up this article from the Pittsburgh Orbit about the Bloomfield Bridge Tavern. My impression is that the owners painted those coats of arms. Impressive. This also cheered me up a bit. This is why running ALL the streets is worthwhile. You just don’t know what cool little nuggets you’ll find.
This area still gave me the creeps, and I heard some shouting and screaming, so I moved on. Turning left, as the bridge rose up, the area was fenced in with ten-foot high black chain link-fence, Bloomfield Park. It has a Dek Hockey rink, a basketball court, a swimming pool, all nestled under the bridge. But those loud shouts were disconcerting. Sounded like a few teens haranguing each other. I needed to get going. This area has small streets, smaller alleys and tightly packed houses.
I crisscrossed some alleys. I saw the entrance to some stairs, but decided not to venture down in the dark. Finally I got to the other side of the park. The group of “teens” I had been so worried about was just a toddler testing his lungs while riding a tricycle and his Mom trying to corral him. They weren’t so intimidating after all.
From here, I just ran in and out of the small streets and alleys from Liberty Avenue up to Penn. Finishing in front of Caliente’s Pizza, the Pro-Bike group was just finishing too. Time for a beer.
Good morning! I’m still in muddle-mode, not really focused on training for anything at the moment, so I wasn’t too concerned about pace or distance today. However, the desire to run more streets is starting to rev up again. I am approaching the one-year anniversary of starting this project, and I feel like I’ve made good progress this year.
Today’s run started in the South Side, under the Birmingham Bridge, with Pro-Bike and Run. I stayed with the 9:30 pace group for a few miles and then headed off on my own to catch a few small streets on the other side of the Monongahela.
After crossing the Mon on the Birmingham Bridge, I checked out a few of the small streets immediately across the bridge. Generally speaking, this an area hounded by heavy traffic and poor housing. The urban rejuvenation spurred by Pitt’s growth hasn’t made it all the way down the hill. I went up Beelen St, which has a few houses on the bottom and an isolated house at the dead-end. I believe there are old stairs at the end of Beelen, but I could be mistaken. The residents of the dead-end had parked their cars so that it looked like a private area once you got to that house, so I turned around. I took the opportunity at Mohawk St to run down and up the stairs. Most of it was solid, but in places the handrails weren’t really attached to anything. It’s unnerving to think the handrail is solid only to feel it bouncing in your hand. Those stairs went down to Fifth Ave. The upper side of Mohawk curved up into the hill, only to dead-end in front of a darkened house.
Going down to Kirkpatrick again, I came across a section of Allequippa St. There’s a busier section at the top of Pitt’s campus. This section, however, was still paved with blocks and went straight up the hill to a dead-end. A couple of houses on the left were in bad shape. One had the blue “Condemned” kiss of death on it. The other had stairs going up to it. I thought they just went to the front porch, but from maps, it seems that these stairs go all the way up to the Oak Hill neighborhood on the top of the hill. Nonetheless, this wasn’t too inviting, so I turned around again.
At this point, I had run a couple of miles, so I decided to just do a few close-by streets and head back across the bridge. I found myself in an area of better maintained row-houses. Circling the block, I came across a little free library and a couple of well-decorated areas nestled into the hillside. This was a pleasant surprise.
I made my way back across the bridge in time to have some cookies and coffee at the end of the run.
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!
Today’s run was one of four possible group runs, all with their own attractions.
Steel City had a later run going at 8:30 from the garage.
Perry’s group had a 20 miler going from Market Square. The last time I ran with them, it was pretty fun.
HPRC, another fun group, was running from a Point Breeze coffee shop, nice and close.
What tipped the scales for the Pro Bike Run from Chartiers Avenue? Well, I’ve been running Pro Bike’s Saturday run somewhat consistently and enjoy that 8:30-9:00 min/mile pace group. Not too much chatter, but a couple of good leaders and some very quick feet! Next was the allure of running in an area which would contribute so much to covering new streets of Pittsburgh. My first “official” RATS run was from Esplen, but I hadn’t gotten back out here again. Even though it was a bit far, mileage-wise, it still only took me ten minutes to drive to the Chartiers Ave starting point, no longer than any other option. Finally, the run planner, Kelly, was collecting teacher’s supplies, a good cause.
There I was, at 7:29 and fifty-five seconds screeching into a on-street parking spot on Chartiers Ave, just up the street from The Education Partnership. I grabbed my phone, clicked on the Forerunner 220, hoping the satellite would lock in before the run started. Kelly was just finishing her pre-run pep talk when I got to the group. The faster folks bolted out and then my group.
I start slow. Not super duper slow, but usually I’m the last person in the pace group at first. It takes some time for me to warm up and get all the muscles, sinews and joints in gear. This time was no exception and steep start was no help. We immediately went up Chartiers Ave, on our way to the West End Overlook. Once we got to the West End Overlook, it was time for pictures and a little water break. The downtown skyline looked magical as the sun broke through the fog. We lingered for a little, got a group pic and plunged down the hill. The sun picked up strength as we crossed West Carson Street en route to the West End Bridge.
The route showed that we would have a water stop on the Three Rivers Heritage Trail after crossing the West End Bridge. So, we expected to see some tables with beverages after we trundled across the bridge and down the stairs on the far side. And we were not disappointed! There was table after table of beer and pop. There were people grilling hot dogs and hamburgers. We were temporarily stunned at this extravagance, until we realized these were Pitt fans gearing up for the 11 am football game! After a little exploring, we crossed a gravel lot, found the break in the chain link fence and found our own water stop – a five gallon jug of clear, crisp water. Ahh!
From here, the group broke up a little. The folks doing seven miles went one way, the folks doing ten or eleven went another. Eventually I ended up in a group of four. We cruised along, promising the joking football fans that we’d be back for a beer. Our route did take us into the heart of the football revelry, right past Heinz Field then over the Fort Duquense Bridge. As we circled the Point, we could see the band marching and hear the oompahs of the tubas, the blare of the trumpets and the boom of the bass drum.
Soon after, I split off from the group. I had an idea I might be able to meet up with a friend at a coffee shop across town and didn’t want to wait for a pit stop. Turns out, the coffee shop plan didn’t pan out, but by the time I got that message, I was already zooming up West Carson St.
I had twelve miles on my feet when I got back to the run headquarters. Busted coffee shop plans meant I had more time and I resolved to get in sixteen miles. Gobbling a Honey Stinger Waffle and sloshing down water, I took off for more hills. I went up the other direction on Chartiers; strangely enough, still uphill. This section of Chartiers Ave is a wide, busy, curving street. On the left was a steep green hillside going up. Across the street on my right were several large parking lots and various business warehouses. Further along is a Comcast antenna facility, with a dozen large satellite dishes pointed at the heavens. Chartiers Ave keeps turning to the right, but I stayed straight and went up Straka St, which becomes Berry St. This was my first time in the Crafton Heights neighborhood. Berry St was directly uphill, again, and none too picturesque. As I wandered in the streets off of Berry I discovered it was a cute neighborhood with lots of tree cover and medium sized houses. Finally calling it a day, I was lucky enough to find that the Litchfield Street Stairs went back to Chartiers Ave. I made my way back to the start. Sixteen miles done!
That was quite a run. It had hills. It had flats. It had photo ops and it had boring sections. There was camaraderie and there was solitude. It had lots of new streets. Thanks Kelly and Pro Bike for getting me out there!
This was a relaxed morning run including the short length of English Lane.
Ah, Greenfield again. This time with more purpose and time constraints. The main goals here were completing Flemington and Deely, which I did. Yay! I won’t EVEN start talking about hills!
This was a run with 3ROC in Regent Square. Mainly trails, but a little in Regent Square as well. That is a nice, tree-lined area.
This was a pretty adventurous run, exploring Garfield and Friendship. It was the first time I had ever gone into Garfield from that direction. It was also, as I recall, hot as hell that day, AND the hills were significant, culminating at one of those blue water towers you see around Pittsburgh.
Not to weaponize everything, but doesn’t this look like an ancient ritual dagger from a lost civilization? But its just Greenfield again. The view from the dagger point, Exeter St is surprisingly good.
A pre-track warm-up along the tree-lined, yet heavily trafficked Greenfield Rd.
This was another 3ROC run, with more of Regent Square thrown in.
A Wednesday night PBR run. Can you tell the extra street?
This run was all about covering Winterburn Ave and close-by cul-de-sacs.
For some reason, I felt the need to run BEFORE an HPRC run. Since it was Upper Lawrenceville, it made for some nice grids. The “Ways” in Lawrenceville are small narrow streets. Unlike areas such as Greenfield, where garages and back yards line alleys, there are often front doors to narrow houses along the alleys.
This run was simply to cover more streets in Squirrel Hill. It is quite the mental challenge to remember a map, then go run it. It doesn’t help that often maps are slightly wrong, such as showing a street as going through when it doesn’t actually. Here’s to you, Colma St!
Some interesting streets solidly in Squirrel Hill North, an area characterized by immense houses with well manicured lawns and driveways to garages in the back. I think about five Lawrenceville row houses could fit in the space of one of these houses.
Just in Point Breeze, catching some streets which keep trying to poke into Homewood Cemetery.
Ah, the little Edgerton Square makes this PBR run qualify to be a RATS run. (BTW, a “qualifying run” is one in which I run on a street I’ve not done before. )
This was a long, quick run with Pro Bike and Run. I tossed in Broad St to add a few miles. Nice running group with auto voice directions (as other runners would shout out the turns as we approached.)
Wendover St was a bit disappointing. It is nestled between Beacon and Hobart, but was lined with large, old apartment buildings in poor repair, instead of cute houses. There could be over 1,000 people living on that street, given the number and size of the buildings. However, I did find a nice little cut-through connecting both sides of Murdoch St as I ran to track.
I almost made it to 3ROC, but instead ran up and down small flat streets in Regent Square, straddling the Pittsburgh, Wilkinsburg border. This little 5 mile run took me into three municipalities; Pittsburgh, Wilkinsburg, and Swissvale.
That’s a wrap
That’s all for July. I was much more focused on covering new streets. I also ran a lot, slightly more than in June (134 miles), with less elevation (only 11,117 ft). Soon, I’ll be publishing maps showing cumulative progress as of the 100th run. Looking ahead, in August, I’d like to cover more of the southern neighborhoods, but run about the same amount of miles.
As July drew to a close, two running threads converged. One is that July 31st fell on the last Wednesday of the month, meaning that the Brooks shoe rep would be at Pro Bike, AND there would be beer after the run. That’s always a good time. Another one was that this would be the 100th RATS run, if only I could get the mapmaker to include some new streets. So I messaged the running mapmaker, Kim, and asked if she could include Gettysburg St on the route. We’ve run many parallel streets in Squirrel Hill often, so it wouldn’t be too crazy of a change from normal routes. She agreed and put together the route.
At the beginning of each jaunt, Kim makes announcements and welcomes new runners. She also explains the route, going over the differences between the three and five mile routes, for example, and any gotchas with the map. Tonight, she took the occasion to point out that I had requested the route and asked me to tell the group the significance of it. I gave my short canned messaged: “It’s a personal project to run all the streets of Pittsburgh”., then tossed in the part about it being the 100th, too.
The run itself was a nice mix of a social run and pure run. It took us down the venerable Beechwood Blvd, then up Gettysburg. That was a short, steep hill which most people had never done. This was still Squirrel Hill, so the houses are huge, the yards beautifully maintained and the streets wide. Things became more interesting as we traversed Penn Ave all the way to Trenton Ave, in Wilkinsburg. By the time we got there, the various 9ish groups were strung out for a couple of blocks. Most people in the group had never run in this area and there was some trepidation about running in Wilkinsburg. It was no problem, actually. Much like Homewood, it has large brick houses, flat, dusty streets and small yards. Pittsburgh’s signature bright blue street signs helped us figure out when we had crossed out of the city, as Wilkinsburg’s street signs were faded green. We had a bit of confusion at the end of Forbes Ave, where it forks for a half block. But when we went up Forbes everyone knew where they were.
Forbes Ave is a long gradual uphill, which gets steeper as you approach Squirrel Hill. We spread out a little there. I ended up talking to John, who is almost done training for the Erie Marathon. He has been putting in boatloads of miles, over 200/month. Back at Pro Bike’s Squirrel Hill store we feasted on ice cream and brown ale. It was an unlikely combo, but I didn’t hear any complaints, except about that hill on Gettysburg.
This run was specifically to cover some streets such as parts of Aylesboro and Northumberland near Homewood Cemetery which I had previously missed. This area is tree-lined with nice, but not palacial homes. There were lots of people out and about, playing with kids or walking dogs.
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HPRC had an early morning run from the Cathedral of Learning. It was a fun run with a lot of familiar faces, but, oh, so early!!
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Another run just to cover some streets and get some miles. The area near the end of Hobart had a surprising number of small alleyways that led to cool houses.
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Three Rivers Outdoor Company (3ROC) is an outfitter store on South Braddock Avenue, at the end of the Regent Square business district. While they have cool stuff in their store, they also are big into community fitness events, such as their weekly trail run. This run covered a few new trails and maybe a bit of some streets. It was fun!
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A run up to Pro Bike before their Wednesday night run. I got some little streets in which had otherwise escaped by attention!
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Another run to cover some streets. Gotta catch them all!
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A double-rarity – a Friday run and an early morning run! As with many of these catch-up runs, this was specifically to cover some streets. I’ve done between 50% and 75% of the streets in Greenfield now.
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Down the wide open streets of the Hill District. It was relatively early and quiet, with the UPMC Building looming over me the entire run.
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A final run for June. I wasn’t sure where I wanted to go, but wanted to end in Oakland and go to the library afterwards, so I started near Phipps, ran down into Schenley Park. One route would have taken me over to the South Side, but I choose to go through Hazelwood and cut through Greenfield, so the mileage and time wasn’t too crazy. Thanks to some stairs which connect the two neighborhoods I was successful.
There were parts of the route which were a little stressful, such as running down Irvine Street in Hazelwood. It had the feel of a street which really wanted to be an interstate but never quite made it. Irvine Street was busy and dirty, with narrow, overgrown sidewalks. Going up into the hills of Hazelwood is always a bit surreal. The hills and steps are steep and the greenery is suffocating (oh, maybe that was the heat). There are parts of Hazelwood where the houses are kept up nicely, but on the streets I ran, mostly the houses were falling apart and often empty. Lastly running along Frasier Street and Swinburne Street was pretty scary. There is not a lot of room to drive, much less run, and the streets are curvy and hilly. Nonetheless, I persisted and found my way back to the car.
Whew! This was the last run of June. I covered lots of miles (132) and climbed lots of elevation (13,400) in June.
Hurdles. Yes, hurdles is what I ran today. The headline may say “Pittsburgh Marathon 2019”, but it really was hurdles. Oh, maybe not the high-hurdles that Chari Hawkins flies over, but hurdles nonetheless. Luckily, even with a race as long as the 26.2 of a marathon, there are only a few hurdles you have to overcome.
Training. Hurdle 1 is an “optional” hurdle for some and an insurmountable hurdle for others. If you do this Hurdle correctly, life is easier on race day. On the spectrum of training from none to extreme, I find more of the low-trained runners finishing than those following soul-crushing rigorous training. They are slower, but usually as happy at the end. The main problems facing the ultra-trained are burnout and injury.
That being said, moderately hard training works best for me. Twelve weeks of gradual increases in mileage and intensity. This means going out for a ten mile run after doing a fifteen miler the day before. This means going to track, doing the prescribed track warm-ups and workouts. This means getting to group runs, where the camaraderie and peer-pressure encourage me to continue.
This training cycle got off to a great start. I had a good base from doing the Detroit Marathon in the Fall. I was becoming more regular at the Steel City Saturday runs. In late January, over three months from race day, I did a 17 miler. I was on the verge of getting a half dozen 20+ milers in. I was easily going out with the 8:30 and 9:00 minute pace groups. Then, I had a fall in February. A fall on a dry, flat sidewalk. It sucked. My knee hurt. My hands hurt. My wrist hurt. Looking back at that time, it was pretty depressing. Ten days later, I managed a little over three miles at a blazing 12:13 min/mile pace. So roughly, my old pace could run three miles in the time it took my new pace to run two.
But then, I started to ease back into it. I focused more on running with friends rather than trying to bolt out of the gate all the time. Kristen was monumental in getting me to the runs, she always knew when and where the runs were. Everything started to heal. I could also go a little faster. By the end of the training cycle, I had completed three 20ish miles. Track was working out and occasionally I would keep up with faster folks. This year, I cleared the training hurdle by a mile.
Hurdle 2 Taper madness and race hoopla
Taper Madness – that period when you need to ease up on the mileage but keep up intensity is quite a mental game. You’re not getting the endorphins and release from the long runs anymore and might have a LOT of extra energy. The message threads buzzed this week. What will be race day weather? How hard should I do track? Are you doing five miles or three miles? I think I weathered the Madness pretty well, in part by taking the “oh, this is nothing special” tact and intentionally tampering my excitement. Being busy with blogs, work and a non-runner S.O. helped as well. Apparently a significant percentage of the general population didn’t even know a race was happening! Unbelievable!
Race hoopla, all the Marathon events and personal events leading up to the actual race day, are a big part of the race. The Marathon Race Expo, bib pickup, carb loading, race day travel logistics are also part of this hurdle. It can be fun, but it can also be a distraction. My Pro Bike group had an early carb-loading dinner, on Thursday at DiAnoia‘s in the Strip District. My epic thread group had a dinner on Saturday at Szechuan Spice, in Shadyside. Both were delicious and, more importantly, gave me a chance to hang out and catch-up with friends. Last minute stories came in. Maria might be coming back to the area! Luke and Rich decided to run the marathon in the last few days of training and were likely going drinking the night before!! (Jaw drop) Mason was going to be a hill runner! Finally, the dinner bills were paid, plans laid and we all headed home. I got everything ready and set out the before going to sleep Saturday, thankfully.
Hurdle 3 Get the hell there
Ugh, 5:15. I was supposed to pick up Mira at 5:15. My alarm was set for 4:45. I woke up to the alarm and slept another 15 minutes! However, with the previous night’s preparations, I wasn’t too late, getting her by 5:25. Then there was the trip downtown to my super-special parking garage and the dazed ride on the T. We almost rode the T all the way to Gateway Center – oops. Two sleepy-heads on a train isn’t a good thing. Then a walk in the eerie early morning light to the Westin, where Steel City had a breakfast.
Now, it was exciting! Like bees going into a hive, runners buzzed all around the Westin. Upstairs, the gilded conference room overflowed with runners and shoes, bibs, hoodies, light jackets of all colors, black garbage bag coveralls, pacer signs. People eating last minute meals of bananas and bagels. I grabbed a little OJ and coffee. Found Bob and Nancy and Chris. Chris and I we set off to catch up with the Pro Bike group, at the Starbucks a few blocks away. At this point in the Pittsburgh Marathon, there is a slight panic for many runners as they need to enter the corrals (A, B, C, D) before they close. Getting into a corral is a bottleneck, since race security checks each person’s bib, all 20,000 of them, to insure they are allowed to be in the corral. It’s a bit of a hectic pre-race sprint. The group eventually coalesced and headed into the corral for an anxious wait and opportunities for selfies.
Hurdle 4 start and early miles
We had a good start, getting moving about 7:26:33 AM, not sure about the milliseconds. The first few miles were pretty crowded. Even at our unassuming pace, we kept passing walkers and many others. About two miles in, I started to run faster, actually trying to keep abreast of Sasha, who was motoring along. We would periodically intersect, chat a bit and move apart again. This was also the part of the race to do a self-check, keeping an eye out for short port-a-john lines, fixing shoes becoming untied, belts coming loose and other annoyances. The race was a blur for most of these miles. Lots of people, trying to set a good pace, nothing too difficult. Finally, on Carson Street, after a needed pit stop, I was ready to run harder.
Hurdle 5 Middle miles
I broadly think of miles 7-19 or so, as middle miles. I was warmed up and ready to go. As it happens, the race course is pretty flat here with hundreds of people lining the walks, cheering. Wearing an old orange, Miami Marathon shirt, I got plenty of “go Orange!” The split with the half-marathoners at the Birmingham Bridge is always a bit disheartening since 75% of the runners go back toward the finish, yet my race course wasn’t even halfway done. I pushed on crossing the Birmingham Bridge at a good clip, passing Tom who was pacing the 4:30 group. Also saw Lisa, Jenny and Amy on the bridge. Going up the hill into Oakland, I felt strong. Mason gave me a big hug and ran with me the last 1/4 mile of the hill into Oakland.
I cruised here, mostly sub 9 minutes per mile. Saw Monica and Mike at the turn off of Penn Avenue around mile 16. The misty rain was starting to get more serious now. Past 18 miles, just getting a slightly tight hamstring and wondering how long I could keep it up. Most aid stations I had the Nuun drink and I consumed a few gels along the way.
Hurdle 6 High miles with no end in sight
Miles 19-25. So close yet so far. These are my most hated miles of a marathon. If you’ve messed up your nutrition or training or shoes or attitude, it will show here. Your nutritional balances are getting out of whack. Emotions run high. Everything hurts. You want to smack the next person who says “You’re almost done!”
I had planned to message my girlfriend at mile 20 so she could make it to the race course when I passed a few miles on, say mile 22. I figured I would just message her now, at mile 19, since I was slowing down. With the rain, I couldn’t unlock the phone and keep running, so I walked for a bit and sent her a message. It was very hard to get moving again. For the next few miles, I alternated running and walking. The rain started coming down harder. I kept looking for her, but realized that the agreed upon place was closer to mile 23! Between me slowing down and the miles being further apart, it seemed like forever. But eventually, Laura popped out from the bus shelter, gave me a hug and kiss and cheered me on. The little shelter community of onlookers also shouted out a few cheers too!
Just past mile 23, there was a little downhill. I grabbed a tiny beer from the Hash Harriers tent and tried to pick up some speed. At the end of it, a few runners were jogging backwards, looking for a friend. That looked fun, so I trotted backwards too. And who should I see but Gates, Mason’s sister! I ran with her for a hundred yards or so, then moved on.
Hurdle 7 The last push
If you have a kick, now is the time. You try to lay it all on the line. Sometimes, you’re just limping and cursing because it hurts so bad, but you’re determined to finish. Sometimes, there are friends and family on the course, scared of how you look and worried, but cheering you on nonetheless. But this year, I had some energy left. I was able to speed up again. Mile 24, so, so close. Mile 25, the Steel City Cheer Zone! Perhaps 25 people, but sounded like 100. Saw Sanchez, Betsy, the guy with all the tattoos, Suzanne, all cheering, clapping and playing RATM. One mile to go, pumped up. It always feels like forever. Past the Grayhound Station, down Liberty Avenue, left onto Stanwix, run, run, don’t stop. Some people are crossing the street. Argh! Final turn onto Boulevard of the Allies, a little uphill to the finish. Letting out a primal grunt and raising my arms, I finished.
Hurdle 8 the immediate aftermath
Thank the volunteer who puts the medal over your head. Walk a few steps, grab some food, drink something. That last salt tablet I had taken left me a little nauseous, so I almost threw up. Sit down, get off those feet. Pretty spacey here. Got a magical garment, the space blanket. These keep your body warmth in, which I needed since my fingers were turning blue. I sat down on some overturned tables. I thought I would wait for my friends. Eventually, Tom, the pacer, finished and sat next to me. We chatted a bit. Not having any idea where everyone else was I got up and left the finish area. I stumbled across a muddy, grassy area to the Steel City Tent. This year, it was nice, lots of good food. I put warmer clothes on, and every now and then, I would venture out to see who was done. Rich and Luke finished. Nancy was around. Mainly I sat, ate and talked to the other runners as they came in. Eventually Hayley came in, then Bob and Mira.
Now the reverse trip to the car. Got to the Gateway T, but had to wait awhile before the next train. We were falling asleep standing up, leaning on each other. No worries, just a few more steps to the car. A few miles to drive. Finally got home, took a hot shower and crashed for awhile.
Hurdle 9 The rush
Hell Yeah! We did it! Nothing is IMPOSSIBLE! I have all the Infinity Stones!!