California Avenue, that is.
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