On Sunday, I completed my first half marathon in one of my favorite cities – Pittsburgh! Let me first say that it was incredible to have the opportunity to run in downtown Pittsburgh. Although I grew up in the country, I have always associated this city with home and a lot of hometown pride. The people and the culture in this city are one of a kind, and I am grateful to have grown up in this special region. The crowds and volunteers here did not disappoint as they cheered for the runners in a true Pittsburgh fashion. This was one of the most exciting things about the race and they definitely made a difficult and hilly course less daunting.
I am extremely excited to write up my race recap for the Pittsburgh Marathon and let
everyone yinz know about my experience. There were definitely some things I could improve upon, but I am still very happy about accomplishing this.
My sister and I visited the expo on Saturday afternoon. I had never been to an expo before and it was honestly pretty overwhelming. I did purchase some Pittsburgh shirts (which I was very happy with) and we stayed for quite a while looking at the booths and exhibits. We switched from corral D to corral C on race day and it was extremely quick and painless. My sister ordered her shirt a size up since they were extremely tight last year and it ended up being far too large. She was unable to switch it out for a smaller size – which was disappointing. I also heard from a lot of people who were unhappy about the colors of the shirts. Women were given pink shirts and men received green ones. I didn’t dislike the pink ones, but I can see why people were upset about this notion that women would be happier with a pink shirt.
The first few miles of the race were great. My sister and I were in corral C since we had switched from D, but we actually could have started in either corral based on our finish time. The starting line and the first two miles were congested so it was impossible to pass people, but that wasn’t a huge problem for me since it was my first half and I wasn’t trying to pass people (or go for a PR). My sister and I ran together and we initially started with a pace group. We decided pretty early on we wanted to do our own thing and keep our own pace – which may have been a mistake – but we were still pleased with our overall time. After leaving the group, we tried to maintain a comfortable pace, but it was somewhat hard with all the adrenaline and excitement.
Miles 4-8 went by like a breeze. I used my runkeeper app to track my speed and this part of the race was, by far, my best. There were plenty of aid stations and I was still feeling pretty good throughout this part of the race. By this point we had ventured up a number of hills, but even with my lack of hill training, it was still manageable.
In all honesty, I was pretty comfortable until about mile 9. My feet started to hurt at that point and, although the rest of my body felt great and my energy levels were fine, things started to get rough. I have been battling plantar fasciitis throughout my training, and last week my work schedule kept me away from doing my typical pre-race routine. I usually have a strict regime of yoga, ice application, epsom salt soaks, and various stretching exercises to keep plantar fasciitis pain at bay. But I had several nights where I was at the office from early morning to late in the evening. I did not have time to properly stretch that week or even do light running. Coupled together, this made miles 9-12 of the race extremely uncomfortable. The hills were also taking their toll at this point. I had been training in DC – which is relatively flat – and I was ill prepared for the hills of Pittsburgh, despite my efforts during training. One final note about this portion of the race – I fully dispute the claims made by E-Z Pass regarding their portion of the race being the “flattest mile on the course.” Mile 11 was THE WORST!
The final stretch
My adrenaline rush returned at this point and I picked my pace back up a little bit (I was barely trudging through miles 9-12). Even though my feet still felt awful (and I wanted to take my shoes off and soak my feet) I was able keep going until the finish. I loved that this part of the race was downhill.
I had a great time at the race. It was wonderful having my sister by my side for my first half marathon. We had a great time visiting over the weekend and hitting up the expo. During the race she was an expert motivator and, even when I started to get negative, she encouraged me. My sister could have cut a few minutes off of her time if she had ditched me, but I am so thankful she stuck around. I was not completely happy with my time, but still extremely satisfied to have finished this race. Our final time was 2:10 (9:59/mi pace). I ran my 10 miler quite a bit faster, but I attribute that difference to the hill situation and my lack of energy from a tough week at work.
I have spent this week recovering and feel pretty good now – I have even started some light training again. I would definitely recommend the Pittsburgh Half Marathon to any runner. It was an extremely positive atmosphere and the people of Pittsburgh work very hard to make this a positive experience. As a caveat however, I would advise anyone hoping to complete this race to focus their hill training. That was my biggest struggle.
I also want to extend a special thank you to my sister’s friends for their hospitality and allowing us to stay with them. We would not have been able to do the race without you!