On Sunday I ran the Pittsburgh Half Marathon. This is my second time running this race.
I had pretty realistic expectations for this race. Secretly I would have loved to PR (I mean, who wouldn’t?) and with the weather reports and the course being relatively flat (except for the bridges) I thought it was possible to surprise myself. But honestly, I didn’t do any real training for it. I only had 2 weeks between the Hershey 10k and this race, so the most I managed to squeeze in was a 7 mile run followed by a 5k. I knew I was going to be hurting during and after the race, but I was confident I’d finish.
We got into Pittsburgh on Saturday and after checking into the hotel walked around a bit to find the finish line and head to the expo.I think this is the first time I’ve ever been able to actually walk up to the finish line before a race. It was really cool. Thanks to the kind volunteer who took this photo of my dad and I. I refused to actually step on the finish line or timing mat though. I’m superstitious, what can I say.
We walked to the convention center where the expo was being held. I started getting really excited when we were there, I finally was feeling like I was going to be running a half marathon the next day! We also met up with some friends from North Carolina who happened to be in town for the race. It was completely unplanned but we all happened to be in the same place at the same time and met up. After the expo we grabbed dinner (I got my traditional pasta and Cesar salad) and my dad and I headed to bed for the next day.
Unfortunately there was a bachelorette party going on in the room next to us, and those girls were LOUD. I understand a little pre-gaming before hitting the bars but they were yelling, screaming, chanting, laughing, and it STARTED around 10pm. I hated to be a downer but I had to call hotel security on them. I could not sleep and I managed to get a headache – something that never happens to me. They were just so loud. I was glad when they left around midnight. Of course they came back around 2am and woke me up for about 30 minutes but I was able to fall back to sleep pretty easily. So all that being said, not the best night-before-race sleeping conditions.
When the alarm went off I was able to get out of bed pretty easily. I guess it was the adrenaline. After eating my breakfast (cereal + rice milk), I got dressed and my dad and I headed to the start.
Following what happened in Boston we had gotten a few emails from the Pittsburgh Marathon race director that security was going to be heightened. No backpacks were allowed in corrals, corral assignments were going to be strictly enforced, and there were specific runner-only areas (including the start corrals) that you had to show your bib to get into. I expected there to be a little bit of a back up as everyone showed their bib to get where they needed to go. But I have to hand it to the Pittsburgh Marathon team, they handled it all so well. We didn’t have an issue at all. The volunteers were so knowledgeable. I was so impressed. Considering they had only decided to up the security a few weeks prior, they pulled it together and were completely organized on race day.
Around 7 they started the pre-race stuff with a moment of silence for Boston, followed by the national anthem. It was really powerful. There were 30,000 runners, but you could have heard a pin drop. From there they pumped us up with some music, Ryan Clark (a Steelers) blew the start whistle, and corral by corral we moved up to the start line. We were in corral E so we didn’t cross the start until around 7:30.
I immediately started off too fast, this seems to be a common problem lately. I said bye to my dad (he was feeling great and wanted to go faster). I stopped at the first aid station about a mile in and smeared vasoline between my legs – I had stupidly forgotten to body glide that morning.
In the second mile I took my first walk break. When I ran I was still too fast though, I kept thinking things like “stop going so fast!!!” but my legs just wouldn’t listen. Unfortunately, that meant the walk breaks became more and more frequent. Around mile 4 I realized that this probably wasn’t a PR day, and made the deliberate decision to enjoy the course and the experience.
The Pittsburgh Half Marathon course is GORGEOUS. First of all, the weather was perfect. I wore a tank top and running skirt and was comfortable, if not a little cold most of the way. I’d much rather be cold than warm though. The course crosses four bridges (I think?), goes through various neighborhoods and under the incline. The on course entertainment is great – there are many organized groups, and many locals come out to party along the course. My favorite group was an ROTC group that had their hands out for high fives going up on of the hills. Definite motivation to run the whole thing.
In the end, I completed the race in 3:17:10. Far from a PR, but faster than the Disney Half or the first half of the Disney Marathon in January. Considering the whole not training thing though, I will take it.
I really enjoyed my time on the course and found it to be very cathartic as I ran with people with Boston bibs on their back, ran by signs about how tough runners are, and took in my surroundings. When it comes down to it, my finishing time really doesn’t matter because I had a great time out there.
But that PR…I’m coming for it.