Pittsburgh Marathon: my First Race in Green and Blue

Good Morning Pittsburgh

Good Morning Pittsburgh, City of Bridges

I chose the Pittsburgh Marathon on May 4, 2014 (yes, Star Wars Day) as my first race of the year because it’s early, it’s drive-to-able, and the last time I ran it, I was blown away at the amazing crowd support. Besides, it isn’t nearly as hilly as you would expect from the city at the juncture of three rivers, and runners get to cross no less than five bridges (for those who don’t know, I love bridges as much as Sheldon Cooper loves trains).

My training this year has been focused on not re-injuring a severely messed-up hamstring tendon that compromised my last two years of racing. And with 2014’s cold and snowy and long Cleveland winter, I only managed to get in one run over 14 miles, so I wasn’t expecting much out of my legs in a marathon. In fact, I fully expected (and planned) to walk the last 6-8 miles. The real goal was to have a little fun in a city I love while reacquainting myself with the 26.2-mile distance in preparation for a future ironman. And because I’m a glutton for punishment and I refused to break my triathlon training, I went to Pittsburgh on tired legs and without a taper.

On race morning, I did find myself enjoying the familiar feeling of the marathon starting line – just runners, pavement, and running shoes. No bikes. No wetsuits. No transition zones. No goggles. No caps. No tires to inflate. No wet grass. No mud. No worries. The only damper was that it was cold (low 50s) and raining at the start. Being a first-year team member, I didn’t even have threads yet, but teammate Kevin Krol lent me one of his old singlets (and as you can see in the photo, the fit is outstanding).

Finishing Pittsburgh Marathon

The finish line will put a smile on anyone’s face.

The first mile was extremely uncomfortable because my legs were heavy after a 50-mile bike ride in rain and wind with Krol the day before. But after the first three miles, my legs started to warm up, and I was able to enjoy a 7:30-7:45 pace through mile 12 when we hit the steepest upgrade. I fell in with the 3:20 pace team for a few miles, but then decided to pick up my pace a bit at 15 miles to see what might happen. I truly expected to hit the wall at 18 miles, since that was the distance of my longest training run – but surprisingly, it never happened. Considerable muscle soreness and pain kicked in around mile 22, but knowing we had a screaming downhill at 23 kept me running. The final two miles were agony, but again, I had to come up with a mental strategy to dominated the pain. I telling myself that if I walked now, how could I ever expect to conquer the marathon in an ironman? And, miraculously, I managed to cross the finish line with all my mile splits under 8 minutes and 3:20:something on my watch.

It was officially my third-slowest marathon ever – chip time was 3:19:33, I placed 3rd (of 129) in my age group (W45-49), and 24th (of 1789) of women overall. I was mostly pleased that I didn’t walk, I drank at every aid station, I had no nutrition issues, and I re-learned how to push through discomfort. But the important goal – to enjoy the race and the day – was also accomplished. And celebrated.

Post race ales

Post-race celebration took place in the pub.

I would recommend this race to any local runner looking for an early-season marathon that’s fun, well attended, and close to home.

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