Friday Night! Southside! To most people, that brings up to mind something like the Birmingham Bridge Tavern. To me, it meant another stab at finishing the streets and numerous stairs in the Southside Slopes. I started on Steve Seventy Street. That is such an unusual name, I had to look it up. Luckily, I’m not the only one curious about it and found this article which summarizes Steve Seventy’s life. Essentially, he was a local politician who pushed to get that street reopened. At any rate, Steve Seventy Street takes you under the hulking train trestle and directly to the 30th St Stairs as they travel, first up to Jospehine Street and then, alongside Monongahela Park to Northview Street. In and out, along Orkney, Stromberg and Flynn I went. This area almost feels like a small country hamlet, with large yards and an isolated feel. Running to the end of Flynn, I thought it would devolve into a driveway, but it actually continues, becoming Berg Street.
Then the sky opened up and the light faded. So, too, did my plans of finishing this area that night. By the time I got to Clover Street, nighttime had fallen and those omnipresent creatures of the night, deer, were out in full force. I had better come back in the daylight.
So, I came back Sunday. Just a couple miles of streets and stairs. The Oakley Street Stair Mural is quite interesting. From a couple of blocks away, it looks like a narrow, bright mural painted on a wall, but up close you see that it is a mosaic on each step.
Most of the elevation was stairs. As always, cool views of the city.
This was an evening run in the Southside Slopes, focusing on Sterling Avenue. Starting in the flats along Mary St, I crossed under the railroad trestle and made my way up. Very quickly Sterling Street acquires a “stair sidewalk” – that is, stairs alongside the street, interspersed with flat, sidewalk, landings. Many of the public stairs in Pittsburgh are of this variety. This is as opposed to the street-free stairs which zip up a hillside, where no street has been laid. There’s also the “alley stairs”, like Caesar Way, a disappointing little flight which ended in a grassy goat path.
Finally getting out of these dizzying streets, I explored the streets below Spring Street, then took Spring Street all the way through Arlington Heights. At this point, the scenery became surreal. Tall chain link fences protected acres and acres of flat, empty land. I dubbed it the “Arlington Heights Serengeti” as the stark trees and grassy flat land looked like a nature preserve.
I made my back via Josephine Street. The cool thing about running up here is that you’re always treated to great city views.
… 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!
Like any good battle, this one started innocuously enough. Just run a few streets in the Flats, scurry up a street in the Slopes for the elevation then come back down. I didn’t realize then that I had picked a fight with one of the toughest hills in town, Billy Buck Hill. Perched above the Southside Flats, on the right as you go up S 18th St, Billy Buck is reclusive. I had actually come up a section of Josephine St and wasn’t even planning to visit Billy. But then short, straight, Pius St seemed so benign that I couldn’t resist. And the quaintness of “Yard Way”, with its street sign and cute stylized pedestrian climbing it sucked me in. How bad could it be? Well, Yard Way stairs start at Pius St and goes six rounds, crossing Gregory St, Magdalene St, Roscoe St, Baldauf St, Huron St and Shamokin St before the final bell. Luckily, each round I was able to take a break and run the little streets just mentioned. It was a modest neighborhood. The mostly well kept spectators, neat little houses, watched in silence. On Baldauf St, as I huffed along, a large brown deer with dark splotches on its coat, froze in silence just feet away.
The driver’s way up, on Oporto street, was nearly as steep as the stairs. Then Oporto St becomes a set of stairs! Ha! But I had had enough and found my way down to the flats again. I had missed a couple of streets, but I’d be back.
Billy Buck Hill, the rematch.
This time, I knew what I was in for. I wanted to avoid Billy’s left hook and make it past him to Arlington Ave. My route was up South 12th St which becomes Brosville St. That’s right, I was going straight up the gut. The tight curve which took me from South 12th St onto Brosville wasn’t too bad. Broad sidewalk stairs quickly put me above the rooftops on the Flats. A short bridge over active railroad tracks put me at Billy Buck’s foot. I feinted right, going up Welsh Rd. That proved exhausting. A dead end-street with a 15% grade. (Or something like that). No sign of life, except the light brown cat washing himself in the middle of that street. Pausing at the bottom of Welsh, I took a couple of pics of the church steeple towering on the hill above.
Now for the main round, up Brosville St to the end! I paused a moment at St. Michael’s street (another long set of stairs), but didn’t fall for the “oh come up the stairs trick”! No, I kept punching up Brosville St. This area was pretty deserted. A few houses sprawled out on the wooded hillside. To the right was an entrance to the Knoxville Incline Overlook Park. Only giving it a quick glance, I kept on. Finally I got to the Penguins of Allentown. Yay! I had made it past Billy Buck once and for all! Now I glided down Arlington Ave, back to the South Side Flats. Nice knowing you, Billy. Lots of respect.
Not a long run, Just take Eleanor Street up from Josephine Street. If there are stairs, take ’em. If the hill is epic, keep your arms and legs going. Even six inches a stride if you need. Whatever you do, don’t stop (unless its to take pictures). Watch yourself coming down, that’s almost worse than going up. One trip and it’s tumble-sault time.
The graph above is from Strava and shows the distance along the bottom axis, the elevation along the left axis and three squiggly lines. The blue and dark purple lines are my actual pace and my “gap” pace (which takes the grade into account). The nice flat magenta line is my “cadence”. It is remarkably steady, but makes sense, given that I was trying to keep an even effort. I daresay the two sharp dips in cadence just after 0.5 miles and at 1.5 miles were picture-taking opportunities.
Running up these streets always takes my breath away, both literally and figuratively. Eleanor St is incredibly narrow and steep. Starting from Josephine St, the pavement only goes a block before it gives up and becomes stairs for a tenth of a mile. That might not seem like much distance, but it is 282 steps according to Mis.steps (see Trip#212). Not willing to hit the steps just yet, I veered off onto Leticoe St, only to suffer Barry St and Holt St before rejoining Eleanor on the upper side of the stairs. Unwittingly, I was taking on the Twelfth Hill in the Pittsburgh Dirty Dozen. You might think it is the last one, but Pittsburgh is generous that way, there are thirteen hills in the Dirty Dozen. But I digress. This area has houses of all sorts of sharp angles, clinging to the hills, with decks and porches high in the air looking out toward Oakland or downtown. Cobden St ends at an overlook, where I took a picture and exchanged greetings with a woman sitting on her rocking chair. I always expect people to ask what the hell I’m doing, but in this case, she said that lots of people come there to take pictures. Ha!
I traveled a bit into Arlington, running the rest of Eleanor Street. I returned to the South Side Flats via the Eleanor Street stairs. On the way down, I kept an eye out for stairs and streets not taken. I’ll be making another appointment with South Side Slope streets soon!