RR: Pittsburgh Half Marathon

Today I ran the Pittsburgh half marathon. Typically this would be unremarkable as I run marathons as training runs for ultramarathons. But I am not training for an ultra and I am not training for a marathon. In fact, I did not train for this half (or, for that matter, any distance). I am in dissertation proposal hell where I work a bazillion hours a week and also work in my “free” time. With The Boy out of town this week I got a bit ahead of the game and went to happy hour on Friday where my friend offered me a bib. For free. I took it. Reminder: No training. No running. Nothing. I would be winging this half marathon.

Day Before

At the expo I meet Wayne Kurtz who is a DECA Ironman; that means he’s done 10 Ironman triathlons back to back to back to back to back to back to back to back to back to back (just typing that many “backs” was hard). Wayne and I chat, find out we have some ultra running buddies in common and within 5 minutes of knowing me, he invites me to his home in August for a 6 and 12 hour “fun run” where his Greek wife will cook food to serve us as we loop through his backyard every 4 miles. The winner gets baklava. I. love. ultrarunners.

For dinner I meet up with Theresa and Ryan, my Rome companions. Theresa is running the half and I have a great time catching up and meeting her new beau. I typically have an iron stomach (I’m the only one who didn’t get sick in the Amazon) but something at the restaurant didn’t sit well with me and I barely got home before I started throwing up. Cool. Less than 12 hours before a half marathon that I didn’t train for I get food poisoning. Sarcastic “Yay!”

Half Marathon Day

Knowing that I am not going to PR  untrained, dehydrated and calorie-deficient, I decide to do the following: thank every police person, military person, medical person and volunteer that I can; be spastic and ridiculous with the other runners and spectators.

The race start is of course crowded (it’s a big race) and rainy (it’s in Pittsburgh) but I make friends including a woman who decided to run with her daughter and a guy who is coming back from multiple knee surgeries. We start running and almost immediately I see my friend Ben’s awesome percussion group, and true to form I totally spazz out and jump awkwardly and yell and wave my arms. I’m a total geek.

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Ben made me a sign that I failed to notice because I was too spastic, but he thankfully took a picture.

A little later I hear my name and look next to me to see this tiny pixie of a thing with gorgeous long dark curls; she looks better running a race than I could on my best day ever plus Photoshop. I realize that she attended a workshop that Lucas and I led and it was so awesome of her to say hi in the crowd. She complemented me on my favorite lululemon skirt and flitted off.

Near mile 2 the course comes close to The Boys place, where I am staying, and I realize that I can run home, get the dog and finish the morning spectating as I planned. I don’t have much time to entertain the thought before I get to the Strip, where I usually run when I stay with The Boy. I was thrilled to be running on wide open roads that are typically packed with pedestrian and vehicular traffic. We cross the first bridge which makes me think of two years ago when I ran the full marathon with Shell, who caught me here. We run through the North Side and I see my favorite set of costumed runners: a cop and robber! The race has personalized bibs and they were actually labeled “Cop” and “Robber!” The robber had a full jumpsuit with chains!

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I think this was their costume.

I later found out that the cop was my friend’s boyfriend and the robber was another friend of ours. In previous years the robber has run as a shark and in a hazmat suit during the H1N1 scare. I think he BQed during both costumed races. A few years ago at a local 10K, before I knew him, he ran by me carrying a full sheet cake in his outstretched arms to celebrate his birthday (he was also topless and wearing a very tiny pointy birthday hat). I barely outkicked him.

A spectator is dressed as a chicken and spazzing out like I would be if I were cheering. We run past the Children’s Museum where I get warm fuzzies thinking about my time with The Boy and my family during the 40 Under 40 party. We keep going and I remember our Mayor cheering for me and as we move further West we pass my favorite Thai restaurant in the city, introduced to me by The Boy on one of our first dates. We run by the Humane Society where sweet pups are outside with vests that say “Adopt Me.” I came this close to picking at least one up in each arm and finishing the race with new dependents.

On another bridge I run into Jill and it’s nice to see a friendly face. We shoot through the West End and into Station Square. We run by Café du Jour, another boy-related favorite restaurant and I’m happy to split away from the marathoners. I briefly considered sticking with the marathoners and either running the full marathon or running up to lululemon where I was supposed to cheer today, but I realize I don’t have gels or my asthma inhaler and, oh yeah, I’m not trained and recovering from food poisoning.

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Photo from my 365: Cafe du Jour’s BYOB

Around mile 10 a spectator hops on a bike and I ask, much to the amusement of the other runners, if I could borrow his wheels for the next, oh 5K? As we head across yet another bridge and into downtown I feel physically great but mentally apathetic. I see my friend, Karen, who is as fast as she is smart (MIT grad who is in med school and getting her masters) and I’m excited that I can still say that I’ve had at least one spectator for every race I’ve run (Antarctica included).  Coming into the home stretch I also see Beth, who is a spectacular athlete and fellow PowerBar Team Elite member, who is cheering for her husband. Beth is one of the nicest people and tough as nails as an athlete- if I have a daughter I want her to share those qualities with Beth. Near the end of the race there is a soldier who is directing runners and I stop to shake his hand; it is well worth the few seconds off my non-PR time to thank a hero.

I cross the chute and to be honest, it feels a little anticlimactic. I just winged a half marathon. It was easy. And I feel like a jerk for saying that because I know that people train long and hard to be able to cover the distance. But that is actually one of the things that I love about running- everyone can come out and participate. I saw all different ages, body shapes and types, and people of varying physical ability- anyone can run and that is an amazing thing. It was refreshing to be out and share an experience with people who all got up early on a grey, rainy day, to be healthy, challenge themselves, encourage others and celebrate their ability to be active (whether trained or not).  Even the spectators share in the experience. When I was walking the half block from where I park to The Boy’s place, still wearing my bib and medal, one woman stopped to ask me about the race- I love that I had the opportunity to share my experience with her. As I unlocked the front door which is situated on a  busy street a man yelled at me “Did you finish?!!” and when I said yes, he fist-pumped for me with a huge grin on his face.

I feel so privileged to have friends who supported this race, that I have the physical health to complete it (this time last year I was a spectator with a badly injured back) and that I was able to share this experience with so many wonderful people. Everyone can, and everyone should, run.

I am also always so thankful to the companies that support me and my crazy adventures: PowerBar and lululemon.

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