Tuesday, May 7, 2013

I Am a Runner of Steel

This past weekend we headed to one of my favorite cities, Pittsburgh, so I could run the Pittsburgh Half Marathon. This race marked my 12th half, and it was, unequivocally, my favorite race I've ever done. I had some challenges along the way, but there is nothing I would change about the race.

We arrived in Pittsburgh around mid-day on Saturday. Our hotel, the Pittsburgh Marriott City Center, was nearly a mile from the expo. We headed downtown from our hotel as soon as we arrived. I had a stellar cheering section - my husband and my parents. As we neared the expo we realized just how huge this race was going to be. There were so many people, and the expo was packed. That being said it was the best expo I've ever seen. There were so many vendors, and despite the crowds everything was extremely well organized. I left with both my purse and race bag full of goodies and new race ideas to try. I also snagged a "Boston Strong" headband I decided to wear during the race the next morning.

My parents and me with our chocolate milk mustaches from the expo
I hadn't been to downtown Pittsburgh since law school, and even though I'd always liked it, I fell in love with it all over again (I know what you're thinking - this is just me with another city love affair). It's a very dense and walkable downtown. There are hoards of restaurants and shops. It also has several colleges, professional sports teams and numerable cultural institutions. We only had one night in Pittsburgh, but we could've spent days and still not done everything.

Race morning came early as I woke up at 5:30. My husband and I walked over to the start. Security was tight due to the Boston bombing, and that made it seem a bit strange. I completely understand and appreciate the need for increased security, but it was weird not to have my husband near me at the start. The race started right on time. I was in Coral C, so it was a few minutes before we passed the start.

The elite runners at the start
And me...several corrals later
I loved, loved, loved the energy on the course. There were engaged spectators EVERYWHERE. I cannot even remember a quiet spot along the way. There were bands, cheering and energy at every turn. I loved running across the beautiful steel bridges in Pittsburgh and through all of these vibrant neighborhoods. I actually feel sorry for the runners who ran in headphones (or worse - who were talking ON their phone...so annoying). That energy is part of what makes this race incredible and all of those runners missed it.

Around the 5k mark I realized I was going too fast. I forced myself to slow down and felt better when I saw my husband at mile 4. Unfortunately I had to make several bathroom breaks which never happens to me during a race (despite my Crohn's.)  By the 10k I knew I had started off too strong, and I dialed it back significantly. While the race was not as hilly as I expected given Pittsburgh's terrain, there were several really long,slight inclines that were challenging.  I saw my husband again at mile 9 and told him I was struggling. Seeing him helped keep me going.

Looking for my husband at mile 4
Pushing through it at mile 9
At Mile 11 it started to get real. My body was so tired, and it didn't want to cooperate. I started thinking about those who had died or been injured at Boston. Those people will likely never run again. I could endure a little pain for a few miles. Thinking about Boston helped me push through. Runners are resilient - the way the running community has come together since Boston proves that. 

Whoever designed the end of the course - a significant down hill stretch in the last mile - is a genius. I would like to kiss him or her on the mouth. I was so pumped running downhill toward the finish. The marathon winner finished just a few minutes before I did, and the roar of the crowd was amazing. I can't say enough about this race's energy - just fantastic. 

The marathon winner. I love all the half marathon runners cheering him on.

I've got to be smiling after that downhill finish
Final surge
After sprinting to the finish I collected my medal, heat sheet and two Eat 'n Park smiley face cookies. Doing a race in Pittsburgh was like coming home - we used to go to Eat 'n Park in college all the time (generally at 3 a.m.)  I met up with my husband and parents, and we headed back to the hotel with a detour to Dunkin' Donuts. I don't eat before I run, and after 13.1 miles (plus a mile walk to and from the hotel) I was starving. A Boston Kreme doughnut and cappuccino were exactly what I needed. I'm not one of these people who runs a race and then eats healthily. Give me a break. I just ran 13.1 miles. I wanted a bloody doughnut, and I was damn sure going to have one.

Dunkin' Donuts...serious business.
It was a fantastic weekend spending time with my family, reacquainting myself with the Steel City, and running the best race I've ever participated in. It wasn't a PR, and my body was not thrilled with me. But I loved it nonetheless. Anyone can run a race when they feel great. It takes a Runner of Steel to push it. Push it real good.

1 comment:

  1. Glad to hear that you enjoyed Pittsburgh and the Marathon. Sorry I missed it. I owe you a phone call.