RR: Pittsburgh Marathon

 

Pre-Race

Like Shamrock, I have no goals for the Pittsburgh marathon other than to have fun. I skipped my 20 miler between Shamrock and Pittsburgh and I don’t know what effect two marathons in the previous two months will have on my performance. After PRing at pancake flat Shamrock, I don’t have high expectations for a fast time at hilly Pittsburgh.

I wake up at 5 am and Shell, Ike and I eat breakfast and get ready. We meet up with some friends at Craig’s hotel and there is lots of nervous and excited energy. Shell and I line up towards the back of the 10:00 min/mile pace group. I run into my Girl’s on the Run co-coach, Laura, and her roommate, Shannon and after a few minutes of nervous chatter, we’re off and running!

The Race

We take off through the Strip District and my favorite spectator is a Scottish bagpiper. I’m bopping along, running a very comfortable 10 min pace when I see Megan, another Girls on the Run coach, who is running the half with her husband Nathan (who mentioned he’s read this blog: Hi Nathan!). We chat for a few minutes but we subsequently part ways. Shortly after at mile 4 as we cross the bridge to the North Shore, I hear someone cheer for me, then cheer for Shell. I look to see Shell fly past in the beginning of leap-frogging that will go on for the next 10 miles. I catch Shell around mile 5 and we begin to run together. I see a man who looks familiar and after a moment I realize it is Luke Ravenstahl. I point to him, telling Shell “That’s our mayor!” and he looks at me and cheers for me by name. Cool.

I’ve been battling my bladder for around 7 miles when I see an overpass that serves as my first pit stop. I lose Shell as she runs ahead, but I catch her around mile 8 and we run onto the South Side hooping, hollering and cheering for anyone and everyone. I lose her at the mile 9 water stop as it begins to rain. Usually I hate rain, but for some reason, I’m not too bothered. The course support dwindles but I continue to keep thanking spectators and volunteers. Leaving the South Side at mile 12 I head up the hill on Forbes towards Oakland. I was planning to walk the hill if needed, but I felt really strong for mile 12 so I ran it, excited to be in Oakland where I work and go to school. I’m particularly excited to see my office where I make pit stop #2; just one of many benefits to being on my home turf.

As I go back on the course I catch up to Shell around mile 13.5. I lose her for the last time just after the water stop after mile 14, but not before I tell her some of Mister Rogers’ Pittsburgh history (i.e. he was a pianist and all the piano music in the show was music that he played; Mr. McFeely is currently faculty at Duquesne). Mile 14.5 I see volunteers from Shadyside Presbyterian Church, where Megan (see above) is a member. I know through Megan’s blog that they put a lot of thought into supporting the marathoners so I make an extra effort to thank them. As I come upon the relay exchange point I see two friendly faces: Steph and Jen! I excitedly do a crazy arm-swinging windmill run across the course for high-fives and then head onto Walnut Street. I see my friend Rich, an incredibly accomplished runner. I realize I want to hug him but also realize I can’t stop, so I run into him full speed with my arms out, embracing at impact. I later found out he wasn’t running because of cracked ribs! Ah! I’m so sorry!! He runs a few paces with me and passes me a bottle of Powerbar electrolyte drink and I happily take it and run ahead. Not more than a quarter of a mile later I see my friend Aimee and her husband Patrick (more crazy windmill arm-swinging excited running) and Aimee runs with me for a brief bit. I’m on a total high from seeing so many friends when I see another- Laura’s roommate Ryan! This is the best mile ever!

Around mile 16 I realize that I am feeling exponentially stronger than I ever have during a marathon. I’m still keeping my pace between 9:50 and 10:10ish and I don’t feel the need to slow down. We run through Homewood and I see old women in housecoats on their porches staying out of the drizzle. I wave at them and they’re so happy to be acknowledged. As we turn into Highland Park I am happy to be back in familiar territory. I didn’t realize all the people I would see here. I see a faculty member who I wave at then no more than a few houses down I see another faculty member and a first year grad student who so sweetly cheer me on. The spectators here are fantastic and as I run by a coffee shop men start chanting my name- “Kat! Kat! Kat!” I feel like a rock star! As I continue to run I see another graduate student friend and I’m so thrilled by my good fortune that I forget to look for my running partner Jen, her husband Robert and their daughter Abby. She saw me and yelled, but I had my iPod on by this point, so I unfortunately didn’t hear her. One man actually turned to me to comment on my popularity! I felt so supported on this course!

Coming out of Highland Park I’m still not slowing down. In fact, I feel really strong and I know there’s a big downhill ahead. As I start to pick up the pace a bit I see one of the girls I coach and I freak out, I am so excited to see her! Running through Bloomfield is a huge party. There are bands and tons of loud and awesome spectators. There are also lots of officers out in support of the three police officers who were killed in early April. There’s no way I’m slowing down in Bloomfield. Returning to the Strip, Jen flies by me as part of the relay and I try not to get demoralized by all the relay runners who are so much fresher than me. My pace has picked up to the mid-9s and I wonder if a PR is a possibility (I’m unsure because my watch auto paused during my pit stops). I dig deep and hammer out the last miles in 9:19, 9:26 and 8:54 pace. The last 0.1 I see Steph and Jen again as well as Ike. Having friends cheer for you at the end is the best way to end a marathon. I fly through the chute and I feel great even though I think I missed a PR. If nothing else, I just completed my first marathon where I didn’t need to stop to walk. At the family link up area I run into Lisa, a third Girls on the Run Coach, and am thrilled to catch up with her and to hear she came in sub-4.  I hung out with Ike, Shell and Len to cheer in the last runner and it was such a gift to be able to pay the cheering karma forward, especially since I would later find out that the last runner was running for Elora.

Post-Race

It was a great day with lots of support and solid running and the icing on the cake was that I PRed (as did Shell and Ike)! My chip time was 4:28:01, even with two pit stops. It was the most fun I’ve ever had and it was the easiest marathon I’ve ever run. Coming up next: Vermont City marathon on May 24th.

 

 

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