March 29, 2014
Although the name might suggest it, the Just a Short Run, is not just a short run. This well organized race takes place in North Park (just outside of Pittsburgh) and offers distances of 5k, 8.1 miles, 13.1 miles and 18 miles. I like the size of this race as it attracts approximately 2,000 runners. It's not crowded and it's not too lonely either. It's also a nice departure from the runs I usually do in the city, as this course winds through the woods and around a large lake. This was my second year running the race, and once again I was using it as a "test run" to help prepare for the Pittsburgh Marathon.
Many of my fellow Fleet Feet runners participated in this race, and we got together before the start for a photo. Whenever I'm running a race it's always encouraging to see a Fleet Feet shirt next to me. It feels like I'm never alone when I'm running and I spot someone from our group.
I was also excited to have my husband along with me for the race. He was running the 8.1 mile course, as he prepares for the Pittsburgh Half Marathon. We would get to run his entire race together and then I would only have an additional five miles to run by myself to complete the half marathon.
The weather was actually ideal for this race. With a start time at 8:30 AM the temperatures were in the high thirties. Normally I would consider this cold, but considering the weather we've had this winter, it felt like a mild heat wave. I was happy to be able to shed a layer, and wear only two shirts and one pair of pants for this race! My only hope was that the rain would hold off for the race.
Here is the race break down mile by mile:
Mile 1: The race begins and there's nervous excitement in the air. I love this feeling at the beginning of the race. We start out at a slow cautious pace as the first mile includes a large hill. Right after the descend from the hill we hit Mile 1. It's nice to get that hill out of the way and not see it again. (11:15 min/mile)
Miles 2-3: We settle into a nice slow pace. It's important that our pace feels "easy" at this point and we don't go out too fast. At mile 3.1 we get to see the finsh line for the 5k and get a boost from the crowd. As we pass the boat house we begin the large loop around the lake. (10:35 min/mile)
Mile 4: We cross the bridge over the lake.
Mile 5: There is a slow gradual uphill climb. It's adding a little difficulty to keeping our pace. (10:40 min/mile)
Mile 6: I decide to take my energy gel at the water stop. In the past I've taken my gels at specific miles. I've recently changed my strategy and now take them based on time instead of miles. For instance, I took this gel one hour into my run. I think this strategy has been working better for me. After taking my chocolate outrage energy gel, Bobby tells me that it's all over my face. I quickly wipe it off with my sleeve. It sure is nice to have him as my running partner!
Mile 7: It's starting to feel tough. We are pushing our pace a bit more and my energy gel is taking it's good old time to settle in my stomach. (10:05 min/mile)
Mile 8: I encourage Bobby as he goes in for the finish. He tells me to keep it up and I'll do fine. It's great to hear encouraging words like that in the middle of a race. I get to watch him cross the finish and then I continue on for one more loop around the lake. After passing the boat house again, I grab a cup of Gatorade (by accident) at the next hydration stop. I hope that it doesn't mess with my stomach too much.
Mile 9: I actually feel pretty good. I decide to pick up my pace and see how it feels. (9:49 min/mile)
Mile 10: I'm still feeling strong. I'm actually surprised at how strong I feel. I pass the 2:20 pacer. Now I just want to see how far under 2:20 I can get. (9:41 min/mile)
Mile 11: I'm starting to hurt and wear down. I'm tired, but I just want to hold on to my pace and finish strong. (9:51 min/mile)
Mile 12: Just one more mile. I keep telling myself that because I hurt and I want to stop. I look at my watch and realize that I can get a personal best for this course, but I have to hurry. (9:11 min/mile)
Mile 13: I make a final push towards the finish and cross at 2:16:49; a personal best for this race.
Overall, I'm really pleased with how I ran this race. I met my goal of beating my time from last year's race. I also did a good job of running this race based on how I felt, rather than some preset plan I had for myself. As I continue to run longer distance races, I'm learning to run the race as it comes to me, rather than try to dictate the race. Racing can be unpredictable at times and it's ok to make adjustments based on how you feel. On this day I felt good and pushed myself to go faster. This is a bit of a departure from previous races where I felt like I had to stick with a certain pace.
After receiving my finishers medal, I felt the first drop of rain and we started to walk back to the car. We celebrated by eating a large meal at Kelly O's Diner and drinking large amounts of coffee. It's always a great feeling to be eating a large meal at 11:30 AM and knowing you already have 13.1 miles in for the day. It was a great way to start Saturday!
After two years of doing this race, I think it's becoming one of my favorites. It's always nice to be able to sleep in your own bed before a race, and not have to drive too far afterwards. And although the race is small compared to the big city races, it offers a lot of the amenities of larger races including running shorts, finishers medals (for half marathon and 30K) , post race snacks (bagels, bananas, oranges, pretzels and chips) a disc-jockey, bag check, plenty of water stops, pacing groups and shuttles to and from the surrounding parking lots. It also doesn't have the hassle of larger races like parking issues/public transit, start corrals, and shoulder to shoulder running. Just A Short Run strikes a good balance. It has a lot to offer runners, but it won't overwhelm them either.
Author: Sarah Warman
I like to run, take pictures and write. I've combined all three in this blog.