Another half marathon is in the books — number five! I’m officially 13.1 x 5 and 26.2 x 1. Does this make me a legit runner? The DICK’S Sporting Goods Pittsburgh Marathon weekend has come and gone and it’s been so fun tracking my journey as an official blogger. Here’s a look back at the weekend.
Friday I grabbed a Starbucks on my way to work and walked down Liberty Avenue, where the start line was. It was fun seeing the corral signs all lined up in prep for Sunday. After work, I hit up the expo and the party they held for VIPs. I always love to walk through the expo and experience the hype of marathon weekend.
Saturday my alarm went off at 6 a.m. I grabbed a banana, coffee, and water and headed downtown with my husband in tow. He signed up to run the 5K with me! We don’t run together often and I do most of my training runs alone, so it was nice to have him with me. We parked near Market Square and took the T over to the North Shore and we were ready to run in plenty of time. At 8 a.m. we were off!
The 5K is a great, quick course which ends downtown, giving you a little bit of flavor of the half and full marathon course. I don’t remember a lot of my times for 5Ks, but I was able to pull two past ones:
- The first 5K I did in 2010 was in 28:14 with a pace of 9:06.
- The second was in 2011 with a time of 27:54 and a pace of about 9:00.
- I haven’t really tracked any since but this year, I ran it in 28:49 with a pace of 9:18. Here are my splits (I’m proud of mile 3 if I do say so myself and I’d like to run my next 5K in an 8:30 pace to hit a PR)
After Saturday’s run, we walked over to Market Square to grab coffee and a bagel, then I was on social media duty. A fun commitment I made being an official blogger was to volunteer in P3R’s social media command center and answer questions. Was a cool look behind the scenes. Dave picked me up after my shift was over and we got Aladdin’s for dinner, one of our favorites, and I carbo-loaded with rice and pita while watching the Kentucky Derby drag on.
It was finally here — Marathon Sunday! My alarm went off at 5 a.m. (but my body decided to get up at 4:40) and I did my typical long run routine: made coffee, chugged some water and changed into my running gear (which I’d laid out the night before). I also made my usual long run breakfast: wheat toast with peanut butter and a banana. Never fails. My husband usually drives me and then goes to watch, so thankfully I had him with me and we were on the road by 6 and parked in the North Side around 6:15 a.m. Gotta love living so close to the city on no traffic days. We walked down to the Tenth Street Bridge and crossed over, and we were downtown. I made my way to the Wyndham to use the VIP bathroom since the porta potty lines were insane, per usual, then we split off and I was in Corral C. I got in line about 6:50 and was bummed to miss the National Anthem but there was plenty of time to stand around and get pumped. By about 7:20 I crossed the start line and we were off! Crossing that line never gets old and gets me choked up every time.
Like clockwork, we were running down Liberty and everyone gave some “woo-hoos” as we passed under the overpass. My hat was annoying me the first mile (I forgot to tighten it before the race) so I finally got it adjusted and we crossed into the Strip District for our first neighborhood. This is always a favorite of mine since it’s early and you’re feeling good. My strategy was to start conservatively because I always start too fast and weave in and out of people at a 9-something pace (or even 8’s in my second half marathon) and this always kills me the second half because I slow down. So I purposefully stayed around 10:30, 10:40. I looked for the 2:10 pace group at the start and didn’t see them, so it was up to me to pace myself.
Soon we were across the 16th Street Bridge and into the North Side. I had to pee again but opted to wait since I did not want to wait in line for the porta potty, so I kept going. This year the course changed a bit since the Ninth Street Bridge is closed, but it stayed pretty similar. I knew my family was in front of PNC Park, so I sent them a text when I was getting close. It was nice to have my Apple Watch and I just told Siri what to send so I didn’t have to deal with getting my phone out. I also kept my phone in my new belt the whole time and if I wanted to skip a song, I would just use my watch. So nice not to hold it and just focus on my run with two free hands.
I passed my family at PNC Park, gave them some high fives, and kept going. Soon I spied a porta potty with only one person waiting so I snuck off and did my business and was back on the route within 45 seconds or so. I had to adjust my running skirt when I got back on the course (sorry people behind me) and soon enough was back on the usual route and on to the West End Bridge and into the 10K zone. I was still feeling great and kept it up into West End, where I took my energy gel. I hadn’t trained at all with these this year but I slurped it down and felt fine and then on to West Carson Street. Good view of the city on one side but I usually hate this part until you get into the action in the Southside on East Carson. I remember on West Carson in my last half marathon (2016) I was feeling burned out here and we were only on mile 7 or 8 and now I was still feeling good, so my strategy was working! Also Blitzkrieg Bop came on my playlist and got me pumped.
In the Southside I saw the mile sponsored by EZ Pass, which is the fastest mile on the course, so that made me happy. So did the gummy worms some kids were handing out. Give me all the sugar. Next was that inevitable split from the full marathon. This is a huge mental part of the run for me since it symbolizes when the race is beginning (for the full marathoners) and when the race is coming to an end for the halfers. In 2012, I mentally prepared for another 13+ miles and today I was like “Thank God I am only running the half!” We split on the Birmingham Bridge, which is the worst part of the course in my opinion. I hate this bridge. It sucks to drive on too. It’s just a hilly piece of garbage (sorry, Pittsburgh) and it’s just brutal. Especially because if you run the marathon and keep going into Oakland, you leave the bridge into a giant hill. No thank you. But I kept myself as positive as could be and snacked on two Twizzlers while I ran from some other friendly folks. I was ALL about the candy this year (not sure why) and it helped me keep my energy up.
Finally we were done on Satan’s bridge and it was the final countdown. Only about 1.75 miles left! In 2016 and 2014 I distinctly remember walking here for a bit. But not this year. I kicked it into gear and just RAN the rest of the race. I picked my speed up because I felt great. Homestretch!
As always, the last half a mile is simply the best. You’re back downtown and the crowd is picking up and then suddenly, you can see the finish line. People are cheering and you feel like you’re Shalane Flanagan or something with all the cheers. I picked it UP and sprinted (well, the sprinting version of post-13 miles) past the finish line. And my girl Meghann took this badass pic of me looking like a legit runner or something (LOL). Speaking of badass, Megan was the first female in her age group. You have to check out her nutrition blog.
Half marathon #5 was complete! My official time was 2:19:25, with an average pace of 10:39, exactly in line with how my training went. As a fun activity, I gathered all my times, along with how old I was and the temperate:
- First half marathon, age 25 (2010): 2:20:10 (10:42 average pace). Weather: 71 degrees
- Second half marathon, age 26 (2011): 2:03:28 (9:25 average pace). Weather: 68 degrees <– Fastest! This is my PR
- Third half marathon, age 29 (2014): 2:09:27 (9:53 average pace). Weather: 63 degrees
- Fourth half marathon, age 31 (2016): 2:20:59 (10:46 average pace). Weather: 73 degrees <– Slowest and hottest
- Fifth half marathon, age 34 (2019): 2:19:25 (10:39 average pace). Weather: 65 degrees
My half marathon times have been pretty consistent, so it’s no wonder I finished at the time I did. It was technically my third fastest. I would love to set another PR but I am going to have to put in the work for that. I am not sure I have the time, the dedication, or the ability, but it would be cool to get my pace down back to my PR. We’ll see. I was also 26 when I ran my fastest and I’m not getting any younger! What I did get a taste of was speeding up at the 5K and the end of the half marathon Sunday, so I’d like to try and work on my speed in the 5K and 10K areas, as I mentioned. Here are my splits:
Running for me is all about fun, so as long as it’s still fun, I’ll still run. I am already ready to run again this week and will get back out there tomorrow. I hope to run as long as I can and there will be another half marathon in my future, for sure. A full? Still TBD. I would like to do another one, one day.
I can’t forget: my playlist! I created five hours worth of jams, on Spotify for your pleasure. Disclaimer: I made this after watching Bohemian Rhapsody on a plane so please forgive the influx of Queen.
Thank you so much to the P3R team (Erin is a rockstar) for making me an official blogger this year. I had a ton of fun. You can see my highlights on my running page here on the blog and the Run PGH highlight in my Instagram stories. Thanks for following along!
This post is part of my 2019 Dick’s Sporting Goods Pittsburgh Marathon / UPMC Health Plan Pittsburgh Half Marathon training series.
Disclosure: In exchange for promotion of the event, P3R is providing me with free race registration and merchandise. All opinions are my own, as always.