Race Report: Pittsburgh Half Marathon

Alternatively titled: Weekend Report: Pittsburgh and My Friends Are Awesome

I’m not going to keep you in suspense.

Photo of me after the race standing in front of a "2016 Finisher" backdrop holding my medal and wrapped in a space blanket.

I finished the Pittsburgh Half Marathon!

Thanks for waiting so patiently for me to write my race report, seeing as how the race was May 1. I hope you waited appropriately.

My friend and I clearly waiting in front of a sign that says, "Please do not wait in this area."

My friend Bec and I are brazen scofflaws.

I arrived on Friday afternoon for the Sunday race and checked into the tiniest, cutest little hotel room in Pittsburgh. I mean, first I walked in little circles in front of a confused check-in clerk because I’d patted my jacket pocket for my wallet, panicked when I didn’t find it, come to the conclusion that it was still in the car, started off to retrieve it, then found it in my pocket—the very pocket I’d originally patted.

Things turned around though when I got to said adorable room. I took a selfie and then texted Alex to tell him I was never coming home. I was on the 12th floor and had the best view from the hotel. All my friends were on the 11th floor and had views of roofs and walls and other hotel rooms.

Selfie of me in front of my window overlooking a park in Pittsburgh.

Let’s just get this out of the way right now. There are going to be SO MANY photos of me in this post. I am sorry.

My friends Lyda, Bob, and Heather were also running the half marathon and Heather brought her whole family, which was fun. Plus! My friend Bec and her kids were in town, which was totally delightful because even though neither of us lives in Pittsburgh, we got to hang out in Pittsburgh.

Friday night I went out to dinner with Lyda and Bob and we shared this amazing poutine tots dish that changed my entire world view about tater tots.

Photo of my beer next to a plate of tater tots, cheese, BBQ meat and some other delicious stuff.

Hey, look! I’m not in this photo!

Maybe the best thing about going out of town and having your very own hotel room is that after dinner you get to go to your room (alone) and lie in your bed (alone) and surf the internet (alone) and maybe watch some Hulu (alone) and then eventually fall asleep (alone).

But as day follows night and naps follow parenting, people follow solitude. Saturday morning I met up with my running people and we walked several blocks to find a packed bagel restaurant with a line out the door and stood there for 30 minutes to order bagels even though there was another location of that very same bagel restaurant literally in our hotel lobby. I did get to hang out with my friends though and the restaurant refilled my soda for free, so it really worked out fine.

After breakfast, I got to hang out with my buddy Bec and her kids. Because I was running a half marathon the next day, we decided to wander aimlessly all over Pittsburgh on foot. We visited all of the major sites, like the ticket booth for the incline and the little dinosaur ride in the weird empty mall and also that intersection where I made that fucking amazing u-turn the last time she and I were in Pittsburgh together.

Photo of a sign that reads "PAT employees permit parking only," but because of the window it looks like it says "FAT employees"

No one was parked in this spot outside the incline ticket booth (even though I think that first letter is supposed to be a “P” for “Pittsburgh”).

Photo of me in a yellow dinosaur kid ride.

Bec took this photo on a prior trip to Pittsburgh. The dinosaur has since been moved, but we were able to find it nonetheless. Our detective skills are fucking impressive.

Photo of me pointing at an intersection.

The scene of my u-turn triumph.

Yeah, for real, those are the things we went to see. We are not exciting people. I suppose that is what happens when two people not from Pittsburgh try to go sightseeing in Pittsburgh. We also went to a CVS pharmacy and told the store clerk that Bec had come all the way from Australia to go to the CVS. I’m starting to think it might actually be true.

From there, I rejoined my runner friends and related hangers on and we headed over to the runners expo to pick up our bibs and swag.

Photo of Bob, me, Lyda, and Heather posing in front of a pretend bridge labelled "Pittsburgh Marathon."

See us? See how ready to run we are?

The expo was like a more frustrating Easter egg hunt where there is only one egg and it is in the form of a headband that doesn’t cost thirty dollars and doesn’t have a joke about running for beer on it. (Hint: It will be at the last booth you visit.) Also, I made everyone go to t-shirt pickup first when we were required to go to bib pickup before we could get our shirts and they were on total opposite sides of the giant expo. That was me, paying it forward, making my friends walk a lot the day before a half marathon as well.

We also took in the view of Pittsburgh, which is way prettier than a city with “pit” in the name should be.

Photo of the river in Pittsburgh and a yellow bridge.

I don’t know if we ran over this particular bridge, but I do know that the half marathon sent us over a bunch of them. At one point, I didn’t even know which side of the damn water I was on.

After all of that, I went back to the hotel and took a nap. Because I needed to regain my strength before I headed back out to eat more food with my running people.

Now, I could tell you all about the delicious spaghetti I ate at dinner or how looooooong it took the valet to let me trade my car for that little piece of paper they give you, but I think instead I will tell you about the balloons.

Because we had two delightful young women with us, the roaming balloon animal artist (let’s just gloss over the fact that this restaurant apparently has a balloon animal artist for dinner service) approached our table. One of Heather’s daughters asked for a rabbit and the other one asked for (wait for it…) a snake.

But, and this is the important part, someone asked him to make me a mouse. Because these people know me. Sadly, one of the other balloon animals was a natural predator.

Photo of a small balloon animal mouse being vaguely threatened by a fancy balloon animal snake.

If I’d made a balloon animal snake, it would have been a straight balloon with dots Sharpied on the end for eyes. It probably wouldn’t have had eyebrows.

I saved him though.

Then I went back to my hotel room (alone) and slept some more. It was lovely.

In fact, Saturday was such a nice day that I almost forgot I had to run 13.1 miles the next day.

I was up early on Sunday morning so I could choke down my pre-race food, which includes chicken salad that I’d brought along from home. If you’re ever looking for something unappetizing, stare down chicken salad at 5:45 in the morning. But that is my pre-run food and it works for me and I wasn’t about to change it up before a half marathon. So choke it down I did.

It was supposed to rain, but at least it was warm, so it could have been worse. We walked toward the start line where Heather peeled off for her faster people starting corral and I headed to the back corral, which was NOT close to the start line.

Photo of the back of Bob and Lyda's heads. The start line is waaaay off in the distance.

There are Bob and Lyda in the foreground and there is the yellow start line arch waaaaaaaay off in the distance. We’d already come a fair distance from Corral D by that point.

It started to rain right before the race started, but it didn’t rain long and the air remained the perfect temperature. Honestly, we couldn’t have asked for better weather. What I could have asked for is a third porta potty break before I started running, because I spent the first EIGHT MILES thinking about how I wanted to pee but I didn’t want to stand in line.

I finally stopped after about 8 miles and waited in line for nearly ten minutes. It KILLED me. Up to that point, I had been making really good time. Frankly, I am still pissed that I stopped when I did and for that long. Practically instantly after I had gotten back on course, I started seeing rows of unoccupied porta potties with no lines.

Seriously. Still mad.

I gotta tell you though, training properly for a race is the shizz. I felt so good running that damn race. I really enjoyed it.

Photo of me smiling mid-stride.

Also notice my headband on my wrist. Thank God I purchased it at the expo.

I can understand how people get addicted to half marathons. Although, to be fair, I did take a substantial break while I waited for that porta potty, so I’m sure that didn’t hurt my stamina.

The Pittsburgh Half Marathon course is largely flat, which is awesome, but there is a hill at mile 11.5. I had been thinking about that hill for MONTHS while I was training. I purposely ran up and down a gajillion hills on training runs so that I’d be prepared for this one hill. In my mind, I was all, “This hill is hard, but it’s nothing like what that hill will be like at mile 11.5 in Pittsburgh.”

I may have overprepared.

I was aware of the hill, but I ran up that motherfucker—past, I might add, a LOT of people walking up it. (I also walked past the bystanders offering cups of beer to runners because, really? They wanted me to barf right there?) Now, when I say, “I ran,” what I mean is, “I ran reeeeeaaaalllllly slowly,” but I ran. Yay, me.

Then there was a downhill stretch to the finish line, which was killer, especially when I saw Heather’s family cheering from the sideline and I was able to run over and give them high fives. (Except I missed your hand, A, and I apologize for my terrible aim.) There is no better motivator than seeing someone you know on the course cheering just for you. Thank you, Team P! It was the perfect way to end the race.

The crowd support in Pittsburgh was really wonderful throughout the race. I don’t think there was anywhere that didn’t really have people cheering. And the support stations were fantastic, well spaced, and stocked with really cool people.

But. There was something that happened right around mile nine that eclipsed all of that. Remember Bec? She had told me she was going to come down and cheer me on and I knew she was going to be right around mile nine, which is one of the hardest miles because (a) you’ve run nine miles but (b) you still have to run a long way. I started scanning the crowds for her because I didn’t want to miss her if she’d come all the way out of her hotel just for a 30-second moment with me.

Dudes. I couldn’t have missed her.

And you have no idea. Just no fucking idea.

Photo of two people in full-body chipmunk costumes. They are each holding a sign. One says, "ROYGB!" and the other says, "FULL FORCE STIMEY!"

There are so many inside jokes in this photo that I couldn’t even begin to explain them to you.

That is Bec and her friend Dawn, who I don’t know, but who was delightful enough to answer yes when Bec asked her if she wanted to dress up as a chipmunk for the race and cheer on someone she’d never met.

When I saw them, I think I jumped three feet in the air, started screaming, and then ran directly toward them. I don’t think I tripped anyone but I don’t know for sure because I kind of blacked out from wonder for a second. After that, I had to give them hugs, even Dawn, who introduced herself as I wrapped my smelly, smelly, sweaty body around hers. Sorry about that, new friend.

I still can’t believe I didn’t have the presence of mind to take a photo with them. I so wish I had one. If anyone is planning to go support a friend at a race, you might as well give up now because it’s already been done and done better. I smiled about them and their ninja chipmunk outfits all the way to that hill at mile 11.5. Thank you so much, Bec and Dawn. I hope you had as much fun out there as I did when I saw you. You rock.

I think that is about it. My official finish time was 2:45:07, which still makes me so mad. (Stupid bathroom line.) I think if I hadn’t stopped, it would have been about 2:37:00 or so, which is by no means light speed, but makes me happy. According to my Garmin, my moving time was 2:35:28, which is an 11:40 min/mile pace. Fuck you, bladder. And lesson learned.

Said lesson: Even if you just peed six minutes ago, if you start to wonder just before you cross the start line if you should go again, YOU SHOULD. Okay, no more excuses, no more bitching. I ran a half marathon in 2:45:07 only walking through water stops and I am damn proud of myself.

Photo of me with my medal.

This is so not the most flattering photo of me, but it captures my happy just after the finish line and I love it.

Now, after finishing a half marathon, you don’t get to immediately sit down. You have to walk through a long finisher’s chute where you are handed things like bananas and water and a space blanket. I shuffled through there feeling pretty good and headed over to the spot where I knew my friends Bob and Lyda were meeting up.

Me wrapped in a space blanket

I was always skeptical that space blankets really helped keep people warm. I kinda thought it was a big hoax perpetuated by the space blanket industry and runners who were afraid to speak out against them. Turns out, they really do make a difference. I’m a fan.

Shortly after I took this photo, all the micro injuries and soreness that I hadn’t felt yet started to kick in. I located my friends and then we hobbled back toward our hotel.

I was staying through Monday morning, but Heather and her family and Lyda and Bob were leaving after the race, so we had a post-race shower fest in my room and said our goodbyes. My friends departed to slowly cramp up in their cars, while I stretched out on my bed for a nap. I definitely made the right decision.

I had made this decision so I could see Bec and her family again, which was also the right decision.

I left the next morning to drive home by myself, taking with me happy memories, a sore knee, a heart big with love for my friends, and encouraging signs that now live in my office to remind me of my friends and my achievements. All I left behind in Pittsburgh was a tip for the maid and a small balloon mouse.

5 thoughts on “Race Report: Pittsburgh Half Marathon

  1. Okay what kind of asshole would make their friend walk aimlessly around the city the day before a huge race? Oh wait, that was me.

    That u-turn was the stuff of legends so it was only fitting that we made my children visit the hallowed ground upon whence it happened. Don’t let their blank expressions fool you, they will never forget that moment.

    We may not have gotten a race selfie with you but we did get selfies with several hundred other runners who for some reason thought we were there to cheer for them. I’ve never before felt so loved and appreciated by random sweaty strangers.

    I’m really glad we had that time together and I’m so so proud and amazed and inspired by you. I would cheer for you anywhere, anytime.

  2. Congratulations! Your friends are awesome. And yes, finishing a half-marathon is amazing, but I am really impressed than you can run and smile at the same time.

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