Monday, May 17, 2010

Pittsburgh Half-Marathon

Okay, this post is running a little late, but it is because I wanted to upload a photo to go along with my accomplishment!

So, I am very proud of myself for having run in the Pittsburgh Half-Marathon. I had started my training in January with the help of a friend from volunteering at the hospital, Becca. She suggested the race and I was a little nervous to do it wondering if I could be ready in time. But then I thought, why wait? When would I have another opportunity to plunge into this before my classes get more intense? Becca was great in giving me her training schedule so that I could mesh it with the one I had to make something work for me. We ran together on a couple of weekends, but it was mostly checking in with each other to hold ourselves accountable to reach the goal. Now I can say that I have run in a 5K, 10K, and now a half-marathon. I can't wait to run another one or to try for a full marathon! I love running and it is even better when training for a race.

As for race day, I was not able to run with Becca. We tried to meet up, but I should have known better when there were 16,000 people in the race! Even leading up to the day of the Marathon, someone commented that it seemed like everyone in Pittsburgh or someone they knew was running in the race. My friend, Michele (in the photo above), drove down with me to the race, leaving my place around 5:45 am. It was great to run with Michele and as I was driving there, she had looked at the race map for the first time. She giggled in awe, "Oh my gosh, Jamie, this is a really long course!" I agreed and said that I didn't realize just how long 13.1 miles could be either. I had been training with running twice around a small lake* and then a little more. But when it was mapped out over the city, it looked a lot longer! The course started downtown by the Heinz Historical Center. Then it went into the Strip District and back up again and across the 16th Street Bridge. Then it went down East Ohio Street and did a loop before coming across the West End Bridge and along Station Square. From there it continued into part of the Southside on Carson Street before looping back into downtown. It was a great run through the city and across so many bridges!

As Michele and I found our starting spot around 7:00 am, we were both feeling nervous and excited. The energy from the crowd was great as there was this feeling of unity before undertaking something big. Runners were full of happy chatter and smiling ear to ear with the excitement of it all. Then we listened to someone sing the national anthem and waited for the signal for the race to start. It took us five minutes to get to the starting line once the race had officially began. It was crowed for the first two miles or so as runners fell into their pace. There was a bit of a drizzle just as we finished the first mile, which made the air humid and heavy. Then it began to rain fairly heavily for the second and part of the third mile, which made it difficult to see. But it didn't matter because everyone was just so pumped up with energy and there were so many people lining the streets to cheer on the runners. And there were bands playing music all along the route of the race. It was better than running with an MP3 player! Slowly, the rain tapered off to a steady light rain. If it was going to rain, this was the best kind of rain to be running in, at least. Michele and I kept in check with each other to see how the other was doing. Michele lead the way when it was time to pass other runners and I kept a watch out for the clocks along the course to calculate our pace to keep us on track for our goal. Running with the rain could be tough, mostly because my shoes got wet and made them heavier for running. Around half-way through the course, I was feeling the challenge of the slow incline up the West End Bridge as it was kicking my arse--in more ways than one. But just as it was getting tough, there would be a crowd of people cheering on the runners with such positive support or the can-do music of a band or a pace leader yelling words of encouragement. And I just kept telling myself, "You can do this James!" It was amazing to see so many people running, especially from certain vantage points where you could see the seemingly endless stream of runners ahead packing the streets. I told Michele, "So this is what 16,000 people running looks like!" At this point in the race, the marathon runners were going to continue up Carson Street and the half-marathon runners were turning back into the city. There was no easy mile for me in this race, as I had to keep focused and give it my all, but I also did it with a big old smile. When running a race of this distance, it is not a matter of just running, it becomes a mental challenge to endure and come out on the other side.

As I crossed the finish line, I had a great feeling of accomplishment with a huge payout of personal satisfaction after four months of intense training. It wasn't until after the race that I could really step back and appreciate the hard work and dedication I put towards building to this moment. To top it off, I got a finisher's medal! That was a fun surprise--not to mention, that we were also given Gatorade, bananas, and smiley cookies!

Goals Accomplished: run the whole half-marathon, keep at a 10 minute mile pace or less, have fun, and be awesome

Time: 2 hours, 7 minutes, 12 seconds

(*small lake--I say this with a slight eye-roll. In Pittsburgh, people consider the "lake" at North Park, well, a lake. I think of it as a large pond. Having grown up in Cleveland along one of the Great Lakes, a lake is not something you can see across to the other side, let alone be able to run completely around in an hour. I am a lake snob.)


  1. Good for you!!! I keep saying I'm going to do this but haven't yet. I love to run and do it all of the time just for fun but I haven't even run a 5k yet! I better start with that first, huh? :)

  2. You should definitely pick out a race! It is not like I run in a ton of races, but to pick one out every few month adds to the motivation. Plus there is something different about running in a race with other people who enjoy running, too. And that is how I started--I told myself to pick a 5K and then go from there. Maybe one day we could run in a race together!