This was a short run in the South side Flats. I’m trying out KT-Tape to help my knee and I needed something easy. Luckily, I still had a few alleys left in this, one of the flattest sections of Pittsburgh.
It was a rather warm day today, with some thundershowers off and on. The number of cases of Covid19 in Allegheny County have been dwindling, so restaurants are open and people are getting out more. Face masks are pretty much required for indoor activities, but outside, it was hit or miss.
There was the group of young men playing basketball, apparently oblivious to social distancing concerns. No masks there. There was the tall, skinny black dude delivering food. He was all business in his black t-shirt with red lettering, efficiently checking the order and his phone. He had a mask. There was the construction worker, tiredly holding his boots and opening a wooden fence gate for a woman in cheek-revealing black short shorts. No masks. There was the young skinny woman in fish-net stockings and purple strands in her black hair who could barely stay standing. A taller male companion, in blue jeans and a white tee-shirt, struggled to keep her on her feet. No masks. I, personally, have been using a blue bandana while running. I pull it up when I come upon people.
But now, some of the sights along the way. That impressive cornerstone is in the building formerly housing St. Matthew’s school. Instead of housing young kids scurrying to class with peanut butter sandwiches and chalk-dust, the building now houses $340,000 condos. (WITH ROOF ACCESS!!!) Renovation along the alleys continues unabated. In color, Harcum Way is almost as bright as Carey Way.
It is nice to see “useful” businesses in a neighborhood. When all that’s left are high-end restaurants and fru-fru boutiques, it loses some of its luster. I am happy to say the South Side Flats still has some working class businesses. I’m not sure how great “Duke’s Tire Services” is, but I’m sure it is convenient.
School buses are tucked behind the barbed-wire fence, which, unfortunately, also closes off Mary Street for a block. No wonder I hadn’t finished that section! I’m familiar with individuals ‘colonizing’ dead-end city streets, but this takes it to a whole new level.
Interspersed among the brick buildings, murals and street art abound. The painted garage door is quirky with its stylized plants and grass. Meanwhile, here’s a big lady watching over the cars in the 18th Street parking lot.
That’s about it. My knee was OK, but touchy. More rest and it should get better.
… Montooth got smaller and smaller, eventually becoming an alley between row houses on one side and a veritable cliff on the other. Then, as the asphalt turned right and became Nina Way, I noticed stairs. Sure enough, those Montooth Stairs DID intersect West Warrington Ave after all. A short flight later…
Lions, beer kegs, a mermaid, skulls and bones! The runners this cool October morning put on their best running costumes as we gathered for PBR’s Costume Run. After a quick judgement by some Mickey Mouse character, the landed mermaid, with her sparkling green scale tights and bright red hair won the day. A couple of pets were in attendance, getting a run this morning instead of their regular walk.
The “9ish” group sped out at the usual sub-nine pace. The first eight miles were fairly non-descript, running down the South Side River Trail, crossing the Smithfield Street Bridge and circling downtown. We exited downtown via the Armstrong Tunnel. The sidewalk is narrow and the tiled walls have that public restroom effect, so I sped up going through there. I also kept hearing the pitter-patter of feet behind me and didn’t want to slow the whole group down.
From there, it was a quick sprint back to the start. At this point, we had covered 8 miles. Grabbing a swig of Nuun and a cookie, I headed back out with a smaller group, dedicated to doing four more miles. This was a smaller group and we did a quick 2 miles out and back to the Smithfield Street Bridge (again). I had a good conversation with a woman training for her first marathon. She’s going to do well, I believe, given her pace and amount of distance she’s put in.
Speaking of distance, I had eight more miles to do to complete the last twenty miler in this training cycle. So far, this run had been on roads I’ve covered dozens of times. I decided to hit the hills and cover some new ground via 18th Street. 18th Street is one of only a handful of streets which cross the great railroad barrier and allow you to progress from the South Side Flats to the South Side Slopes. From the railroad tracks to its name-shifting at Arlington Avenue, 18th Street ascends a mile, rising 500 feet. At Arlington Avenue, I took a new street, Orchard Place, which I thought ran parallel to Arlington. Hmm, a review of the map shows it actually cuts off at a cute 45 degree angle. I was too obtuse to notice, though, and proceeded to run down Orchard Place, confident that Arlington Ave, which I’m familiar with, was only a block away.
It was pleasant running here. The street was wide and relatively flat. While it was clear the neighborhood could use a few tank loads of paint, the streets were relatively clean and largely empty. The houses were mainly brick, four square styles with a few bungalows thrown in. As I kept running, my disquiet over exactly where I was grew. But then, as I crested a hill, I saw the Cathedral of Learning in the distance and knew the direction I should go. I should go to college! Whoops, been there, done that.
Eventually, I pulled out the phone, checked the map and saw that Montooth St would go straight to Warrington Ave. Yay! Montooth got smaller and smaller, eventually becoming an alley between row houses on one side and a veritable cliff on the other. Then, as the asphalt turned right and became Nina Way, I noticed stairs. Sure enough, those Montooth Stairs DID intersect West Warrington Ave after all. A short flight later and a steep downhill found me almost at the entrance to the Liberty Tubes. I don’t think there are sidewalks through THAT tunnel, so I made my way up the backside of Mount Washington. I wasn’t done exploring. As I made my way up Southern Avenue I took a few side trips. On the right, the streets just went to Boggs Ave. The left was much more adventurous. I found myself on Penelope Ave, passing a puzzled kid sitting on a brick wall, kicking his legs out into space. Penelope wound its way to Ottawa St and finally to more stairs, this longer flight rising to Southern Ave again. Whew! From here, it was just the hair-raising jaunt down the hairpin turns of East Sycamore until I made it to the South Side Flats again.
Twenty miles in the books! Time to reward myself with pancakes, raspberry syrup, eggs and bacon!
This was a Second Chance Sunday SCRRC run. The second chance at getting a long run in that weekend. I had missed the Saturday run, with all its glorious weather. Now the weather was cool and cloudy. Nonetheless, there I was. When I first parked, a couple of other runners were waiting in cars, blasting heat. Finally, we all crept out and went into the garage. Three people, then five, then twelve. Did I know anyone? Ah, not so far, not so far, then YES! Saw Brittany! She had gained some notoriety by doing the Hell Hath No Hurry 50 miler almost from nothing. She also had done the entire Laurel Highlands Hiking Trail in pieces. I figured I would run with her for awhile. Usually, there’s a GREAT GATHERING OF PACES and the SCRRC Leader barks out the pace groups to start.
Get out of here 8:30’s!”
And groups of 10, 15, 30 people would bolt out at their respective paces.
Today, not so much. Everyone looked at each other, sizing up the people known and unknown and self coalesced into small groups. I went out with Brittany and a woman I didn’t know, Maddie. The three of us were all different. Maddie was youngest, an athletic blonde training for her first full marathon. Brittany, just a bit older, training for the Great Wall Marathon. Me, in my mid-50’s, training for my 24th marathon. (Or is it 25th? I can’t keep it straight.)
We were a congenial and compatible group. Keeping a relaxed 10:30 pace, we chatted the normal runner small talk. Brittany’s entry into the Great Wall Marathon definitely spiced up the conversation. The “long” route this day was 14 miles plus a few miles out and bring it to 16. I was not inspired with this route. I must say, I have a an issue with the whole idea of advertising a longer route (such as 16 miles), while the “real” route is shorter, say 14, with the proviso that you should just do an out and back to take you to the advertised mileage. Why do that? You can ALWAYS add on an out and back to any run to run as far as you want! Grumble, grumble…. Across the Roberto Clemente Bridge, through Market Square, across the Smithfield Street Bridge to the Southside, up Carson, across the Hot Metal Bridge, blah, blah, blah. But the company was pleasant and kept me from thinking too much about the miles or how thirsty I was.
Crossing the Hot Metal Bridge lead us to the Jail Trail, an asphalt rail-to-trails bike path between Second Avenue and the Parkway East. Usually I don’t mind it, but today it seemed to go on forever. The roar of cars on either side suppressed conversation. The sky was a featureless gray cover. Eventually we made it to Grant Street then traversed up Liberty Avenue toward the 40th Street Bridge. That bridge, with it’s Coats of Arms every 20 yards or so, actually leads you out of the city into Millvale.
Coming off the 4oth Street Bridge, we hit an asphalt trail again. This time at least it was quieter with the Allegheny River on one side and the deserted River Road on the other. Maddie and I slowly drew ahead of Brittany. I took a pit stop at the garage, while Maddie was done. She gave me an extra GU she had been carrying and I sorely needed. After the bathroom break, some water and the GU, I felt replenished. Unfortunately I missed Brittany. She must have gone on for her out-and-back without stopping. I went out to do an out and back of 2.5-3 miles.
Solo now, I wandered through the North Side and into the far side of Manchester. It is a rather flat neighborhood. In the last decade or so, there has been a resurgence in the Mexican War Streets and nearby areas. However, where Manchester squeezes between highway 65 and a widening set of railroad tracks, the area is rather run-down. There are row houses, some nicely kept up, some not. There large boarded-up buildings. But people still live and work there. Gospel music spilled from the red-brick Church of God, which otherwise sat alone surrounded by flat vacant lots.
Strangely enough, I once again, ran into other runner acquaintances, even in this area. I saw another Amy, as well as Alicia trotting through on some route of their own. Perhaps they were running Fleet Feet routes. It seems I’m never really alone running in Pittsburgh,
Now hitting my 17.5 miles, I picked my way back toward the SCRRC garage. I took the Columbus Avenue bridge across the tracks and found myself in the California-Kirkbride section of the city. Looking up, I saw a cemetery at the top of the dominating hill. Several flights of yellow-railed stairs lacerated the brown hillside. and drab houses. Below was the large USPS building. My pace slowing considerably, I slugged my way back to the garage having gone way past the 16 of the official run and the 20 I was hoping for.
But I made it to California Avenue, the long way.
Allegheny West, Allegheny Center, Manchester, Downtown, Central Northside, Southside Flats, South Oakland, Uptown, Strip District, Lower Lawrenceville, Troy Hill, California-Kirkbride