RR: The Great Race 10K


Yesterday I ran Pittsburgh’s The Great Race. It is one of the largest road races in America and the largest 10K in PA. Last year I had my PR (51:15) on the course and coming in with better training and better times, I was optimistic about my performance. I would have been happy with a PR (I felt it was well within my reach) but my big goal was sub-50. I’m not sure if I had that in me, but heck, it couldn’t hurt to shoot high.


I wake up to cloudy skies and cool temps. It’s in the low 60s but it’s pretty humid. I pick up Chris and his friend, Aaron, who is in town and running with us. The boys are natural athletes even if they haven’t trained, and they aren’t shooting for any PRs, so they’re just enjoying themselves.


We get to the race early because I am meeting Elora’s dad, Dan, a friend I made last week during my 20-miler.  I was shocked that with about 7,000 runners, I was able to spot him almost immediately. Just as I remembered, he was a phenomenally nice person… the type of person who not only smiles a lot, but whose smile makes you smile, too. During our brief chat I learned that he was going to qualify for Boston at the Houston marathon and that the woman who told me to take her food and blog about the event was his wife, who was an adolescent addictions counselor! (For those of you who won’t know, my research focus is on adolescent substance abuse). It makes me think of the old saying, “A stranger is a friend you haven’t met yet.” After chatting with Dan we headed over to unbelievable porta potty lines. I lucked out and was able to finish up before the start, but other members of my party were still occupied. Since I was hoping to smash my PR, I uttered my apologies for abandoning the boys (who could fend very well for themselves) and ran off to the start.

The Race

Crowds! Crowds! People everywhere! No corrals! Agh! (Am I being transparent enough?)

From the second I step over the mat, there is one woman walking smack dab in the middle of the course, and as we approach a hill that raises 100 feet in about a tenth of a mile, more walkers get in the way. I get over the hill and find some people ahead of me who will break the crowds, but there are so many people that once they pass through the space they’ve made, other runners crowd in around them. Less than a mile in I hear someone behind me say “yada yada they’re also running Marine Corps.” I snap my head around only to yell “Marine Corps?!” at a few thousand people behind me. I have no idea who said it, but I thought that yelling in their general direction may prove effective. And it did! The other person in the conversation was my darling co-coach Megan who I thankfully run into lots at races, but don’t see her as much as I would like. We chatted for 30 seconds and then split up, but it was so lovely to see her! Mile 1: 8:20, a little slow, but there was a big hill and lots of dodging.

Mile 2 enormous downhill and lots of old men with bad knees who are completely screwing with my rhythm. There’s a fun band at CMU and things spread out a smidge. Really, just a smidge. Mile 2: 7:57, much more like it.

Mile 3 is rather uneventful. Even though it goes through the University area, apparently the largest road race in PA running by their dorms isn’t enough to rouse them from their rest at 10 am on a Sunday morning. Honestly, the number of spectators is pathetic on the whole course. But, there were some very special spectators- Chris’ Mom and Dad! Chris’ sister, Alyssa, was running her first ever 5K, so they came all the way from Boardman, Ohio, to come and support her and us. Also there were Lyssa’s really good friend, Lindsay, and Lindsay’s boyfriend, Gio. It is the best thing ever to see friends on the course (I later learned the boys stopped to give them hugs, which I didn’t and felt bad about. In spite of a PR attempt, I should have known better!) Mile 3: 8:14 Uh-oh. The sub-50 is probably out of reach, but I can still PR.

Mile 4? I don’t remember it, but my pace was 8:05 which I’ll take.

Mile 5 sucks. I don’t know why they have an elevation increase of 200 feet at the fifth mile of a race. I slowed down big time. It was tough, too, psychologically, because other people were starting to slow and walk. The humidity was crushing me. It was harder to find rabbits to try to pace myself off of. No spectators anywhere.  Mile 5: A pathetic, sub-50 bubble breaking 8:49.

Mile 6 I got it back a bit. A big downhill helped. This part of the race is always tough for me because I’m close enough I want to unleash, but I still feel like I need to reign myself in. I think this is where more racing experience will help. We start to cut through windy city streets and it’s hard to catch a tangent, but I’m going strong. Mile 6: 7:50 (I knew that stupid 8:49 was an anomaly!)

The last section of the race is very curvy and narrow. I’m pushing hard and feeling strong and I come to the finish line to find…. they moved it from last year. AGH! GOOD GRIEF! Ok, keep pushing, Kat. The course turns onto a narrow path and I almost run over a dad who, amongst thousands of people racing to get to one place, thought it would be sweet to have his roughly 2-year-old toddlers walk dad across the finish line. If he wouldn’t have stepped right in front of me, I would have thought it was cute. Instead, he messed up my pacing and I could have killed him. I cross the finish line and the last 0.3 (see below for explanation) were 2:16, or a 7:34 pace.


Well, so which results do you want, because there are a few of them?

Did I crush sub-50. Not by any standards. I’m ok with that because it was a big goal. I think it’s ok to aim high. One day I’ll get there.

Did I PR? Chip results say I came in at 51:17two seconds slower than my PR! That stinks. The dad at the finish line alone cost me 2 seconds. Upon examining my Garmin, however, I realized that I had run an extra 0.10 miles, likely all the ducking and dodging. Taking my average pace of 8:11 and applying it to 6.2 miles, I’d have come in at 50:50, a PR by 25 seconds!  I know it’s not on the books, but to me, it still signals a strong run and an improvement, and isn’t that the best part of a PR?

And for me, the most important measure of a good race: Did I have fun? Yes! Meeting Dan (again) and seeing Megan. Hanging out with the boys and seeing Chris’ family on the course, I am so thankful for the support of those around me. Seeing the sweet moment with the dad and his kids (I’m not heartless, I’m just goal-driven!). As always, racing makes me feel so strong and healthy. It helps me measure all of my hard work and training. It helps me connect with others. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it a thousand times again, I don’t think I’d rather do anything than be with other runners out on a run.

Other Results

Alyssa did great at her first race and she had so much fun. I think we have another runner to join our races  🙂 Other people who did particularly awesome:

  • Chris and Aaaron for finishing strong without any training (Chris wins the supportive boyfriend of the year award, doing races with me!)
  • Kasey, who I ran the half with, for coming in in the 48s… I haven’t talked to her yet, but I’m sure it’s a big PR
  • My friend, Sarah, who came in 4th in our age group for the 5K (reminder: BIG RACE!) with a time in the 20s!!

Great job to all the runners, I hope you truly had a Great Race.