RR: Run Around the Square 2009



I love this race. Half the reason I love this race is that it’s a trail 5K in a community that rallies around the run, and the other half is because packet pick-up is one block from my favorite bar that I never go to. D’[s Six Pax and Dogz|http://www.regentsquare.net/ds6pax.html] does just that… beer and hot dogs. And cheese fries. They have a beer cave with hundreds of brews. I clearly rounded up ten of my closest friends (okay, friends who I knew would be up for several hours of drinking) for happy hour. Beyond just being awesome because I was with friends at my favorite bar, happy hour was also cool because two guys who claim to have been motivated by my running were there:

  1. Daniel, a former collegiate runner who signed up for Run Around the Square as his first post- hip surgery race (he was shooting for a sub-3 at Pittsburgh and tore his labrum playing soccer right before the race- ouch!).
  2. Dave, who biked across the US and was inspired to run the Spirit of Pittsburgh half marathon in November (still not sure how I motivated him to do that).

As far as I’m concerned, I could have crawled the race backwards and happy hour bringing people together would have made this race worth it.


I woke up and surely felt the effects of 6 hours of drinking, hot dogs and cheese fries. Smart people do dumb things sometimes. Or frequently if you’re me and keep signing up for ultras. That’s a separate point. I needed to run 10 miles and 20 miles this weekend so I made Saturday my 10 mile day and planned a route that would let me run a 7 mile roundtrip route to the race.

Per usual at race start I see current friends (Lisa who I coached with, Sarah who’s one of my classmates, Jen #1 with whom I’m on a treatment grant, and Justin who was my cheerleader at Drake Well) and make new friends (super fast female Pharaoh Hound, Terp Alum) at the start. I’d like to beat my course record (26:49) but I’ve been putting a lot of mileage on my body and all of my runs have been slower than normal recently. We wait for the start, which has been delayed by– are you ready for this?– a raccoon on the trail. Seriously? I have now had the following animals interfere with race courses: penguin, wild turkey, ground hog, and raccoon. Once the raccoon has been cleared (when did I think that phrase would make it into a race report?) we get started.


Mile 1: Brick streets and lots of spectators. I see an ambulance a half mile in and think that it is really good positioning because the streets are so treacherous. Right before the first water stop I see Sarah’s fiancé, Scott, who cheers for me like he came to cheer just for me. So awesome. Scott’s a really talented runner but he was out there to support Sarah and did a great job supporting me as well.

Brick Streets in Regent Square

Mile 2: Going into mile 2 there is the champagne stop that was there last year! But it’s better than ever because it’s manned by my friend Jen (#2) and her husband, Jon. She yells at me and holds up a cup of champagne and I consider taking it since I know today’s not going to be a PR day. I decide against it and tell her I might come back. The men in tutus from last year’s water stop were dressed as Steelers this year- including a Troy Polamalu wig ! There was also a musician playing “She’ll Be Comin’ Round the Mountain” (elevation increase for this race: 1,144 feet). As we head onto the trails there is an a capella group AND I see Scott again. Awesome. I finish mile 2 at around 19 minutes and realize that’s when Daniel wanted to finish. Man I wish I was fast sometimes! Ok, I wish I was fast all the time.

One of the only web images I could find of the Frick Trails. Of course this was a flat part that didn’t exist in our course.

Mile 3: About 30% of the participants are walking since it’s such a long nasty hill but I know we’re coming up on a killer downhill so I try to encourage people to pick it up. Yelling “it’s all downhill from here!” while true, does not make friends at mile 2.5 of an uphill trail 5K. There are musicians placed at half mile intervals and I hear the bagpiper before I see him. I love this race! I finish and I hear someone yell my name but there are so many faces I can’t figure out who it might be. I’m over a minute slower than last year, and in some ways that’s disappointing, but I also think that my potential for speed would be better accessed if I was a) rested and b) training for speed and not endurance

Post Race

As I go through the chute, they clip my chip, and hand me water and a long-stemmed carnation. I almost immediately run into Sarah, Scott, Daniel and Daniel’s friend, Michael. Sarah didn’t have a strong run, but Daniel had what I would consider a pretty impressive 19 minute finish on his first race post hip-reconstruction. Vendors, dogs and kids are out in force (there were at least three 4 year olds who ran the 1.5 mile fun run- with times around 16 minutes!!) Daniel and I seek out puppies (there was a dog race so dogs abound) and befriend two ENORMOUS St. Bernards. The bandanas for the dog race matched the race t-shirts. There aren’t words for how cute it was.

We grab Rita’s Italian ice, which is the best post-race food that has ever existed in the history of the universe. That good. Panera cinnamon crunch bagels also top the list and wouldn’t you know D’s was there serving beer right next to a grill with hot dogs and hamburgers. We stuck around the after party for about an hour where I also ran into Kasey and David (who I found out was the mystery finish line cheerer) and some other friends.

Mornings like today make me wonder why people don’t run. Actually running the race was maybe 10% of what made last night and this morning so awesome, but it set the stage for everything else. As I ran home from the race I was floating and running felt good for the first time in a long time.

Readers, feel free to post in comments: What is your favorite part of racing? The competition? The spectators? PRing?