Fireflies in the Dark

Squirrel Hill North

Another Wednesday in January. Running well after sunset. Running in Squirrel Hill, away from the bright lights of the Murray Avenue shopping district. This hadn’t been a bad January yet, but tonight’s run featured patchy ice and snow on the sidewalks. I was in no hurry to fall, so I fell back to run with one of my favorite groups of runners; Amy, Kristen, Dayana, Denise, Haley, and Nicole. Honestly, I’m not sure if everyone made it that night. Did I mention it was dark? Somehow, when the weather is damp all lights seem weak. Blackness seemed to spill out of every crevice and crack. We ran away from Dunkin Donuts, away from all that fat, sugary deliciousness. We ran toward Homewood Cemetery. Great.

Homewood Cemetery in Pittsburgh's East End on a sunny Fall afternoon. Large trees overhang old graves and a young deer standing next to an American flag stops to look up.
Homewood Cemetery

Now, on a day like that in the picture, Homewood Cemetery is quite interesting. Deer, turkey, rabbits and other wildlife scamper along the endless paths bordered by full spreading trees. Visions of past lives rise from the ornate mausoleums, old headstones, and fresh graves. On the other hand, on a cold, wet January night, the half-mile, uphill, run along the blackened stone cemetery wall is dull drudgery. You try NOT to think about past lives rising up. In fact, you only try to keep the fireflies of light; the pulsing ankle lights of Dayana and the Tracer target of Kristen in sight as you scurry by.

And scurry by we did. No one fell, the warmth from running and friendship pushed back the darkness. We returned to the lights of Highland Avenue and back to the runners cove of goodies called Pro Bike and Run. It was a good night after all. Five miles in the books. Fireflies put away until the next dark run.

Run All The Streets 0008: Squirrel Hill North and Shadyside

Catching Up in Squirrel Hill

One of Pittsburgh’s larger neighborhoods – Squirrel Hill South
One of Pittsburgh most beautiful neighborhoods – Squirrel Hill North

Today’s run was another group run. This time with Pro Bike and Run. It is a friendly group with neighborhood runners mixing with graduate students and Pittsburgh running stalwarts. Squirrel Hill is a large area, with rolling hills and relatively big houses. Squirrel Hill North has magnificent houses with stained glass, large porches and nice yards. Squirrel Hill South houses are typically smaller, but still relatively large. There are also many three to five story block-wide apartment buildings in Squirrel Hill South. Then there are people, lots of people. Walking on Murray Avenue, you will likely see young Chinese students and large Jewish families while hearing Russian, Spanish, and other languages spoken. I love this neighborhood.

For this run in particular, I was a little late. The group had already done their run preview and taken their picture and gone out in pace groups from faster to slower. OK, perhaps I was very late. Nonetheless, I got a map and made sure my GPS was ready then took off. It was already dark, but I knew the route and felt safe. Down one hill, up Beechwood Blvd to Forward, I was pouring it on to catch up with some of the runners. Then, as I’m passing the side of Taylor Allderdice High School, I see some blinking lights ahead. (BTW, if you want people to see you, check out these Tracers .) I eventually approach a group of runners as they’re turning onto Wightman from Pocusset.

And I stop here to mention that even if you’re pretty quick, the difference between you and a slower runner isn’t that much in real time. If someone is running a average pace of, say 10 minute/mile, and you running a very quick 7 minute/mile pace, but happen to show up ten minutes late, it’ll be over three miles before you catch them. These are all hypothetical numbers, of course, but the real point is, don’t be a pace snob.

So, I did finally meet up with some of my friends. They were chatting and making sure a slower newbie felt welcome. I caught up with their news, the new job, the work woes, the latest ski trip. But then, the hills relented and my legs took me away. Something was on my mind, pushing me on. I passed a couple of other runners before making it back to the store, our starting spot. In the store, Kim, the leader, the indomitable Kim, laughingly said she never sees me at the beginning of a run, but always afterwards. I like to catch up.

Run All The Streets 0004: Squirrel Hill

Point Breeze on New Year’s Day

Outline of the Point Breeze Neighborhood in Pittsburgh
Point Breeze (click on map for more info)

So, this run actually started in Shadyside and ran through parts of Squirrel Hill North, but followed most of Point Breeze’s borders. This “Resolution Run” was a group run organized by the Steel City Road Runners Club. Luckily for everyone who put New Year’s Eve to good use, it started at 11 am in the morning!

I have run with Steel City for a number of years and the crowd was friendly and festive. I was able to catch up with several runners I had not seen in awhile; from the Cincinatti ex-pat who’s always up for a quick one to a 20x marathoner I haven’t talked to in a year. My running peeps were also there. Running can be a very solitary sport. Group runs combat this with encouragement and camaraderie. You get the endorphins from the run, a positive social setting and a little bit of competition – it’s really a wonderful thing.

Group runs often bring out the fast runner in me. This day was no exception. As a running route, it starts as a speed demon’s dream. Penn Avenue is flat – perhaps a 50 foot elevation change in the first two miles. Forbes, along Frick Park and Homewood Cemetery is a more challenging, a 200 ft change in about a mile. But then you get a nice downhill along Shady Avenue for a strong finish.

RunAllTheStreets 0003: Resolution Run