The 2016 Pittsburgh Marathon was held on May 1, 2016. Unlike the past few years, weather become an issue in this year's race when thunderstorms and rain was predicted. I didn't really know what to expect with the conditions on race day, so I just told myself that whatever happened would happen and everyone would have to deal with the same conditions.
Fortunately the weather conditions kept changing for the better as it was updated throughout the day before the marathon. When I awoke at the wonderful time 4:45 AM on Sunday it wasn't even raining!
Mile 1: We start! Excitement is in the air. The rain is falling but it’s not too bad. I can deal with this. I look at my watch. Normally I would hold myself to certain pace but I just want to go with what feels good today.
Mile 2: The rain is really starting to come down right now. It’s just giving me flashbacks of the Rock and Roll DC Half Marathon last year when I ran in a monsoon. I hope that this isn’t going to be the weather for the rest of the race.
Mile 3: The rain is letting up. In fact, I barely notice it. This is a good sign, but my left foot has fallen asleep. I remind myself that his happened last year too around Mile 3.
Mile 4: I see someone wearing a shirt that says, “You’re getting beat by someone who had open heart surgery.” I run next to him and tell him that he’s doing a great job. I show him my American Heart shirt. A few seconds later I feel a tap on my shoulder. It’s my friend Josh! We chat for a while and run together before getting separated at the water stop. I run over the bridge back in downtown. This always a favorite part of the course for me and yet again it does not disappoint.
Mile 5: Woohoo! I’m almost to mile 5 and I feel great. It almost scares me how good I feel, but I tell myself to just go with it. We climb cross back over the bridge to the North Side and it’s a tough climb but the Urban Impact group is at the top of the hill. They inspire me to get to the top.
Mile 6: We continue through a park on the North Side and then make a left onto a side street. This side street is new to the course this year and boy does this hill ever suck. What kind of awful human puts this hill into the course? Then I remember the finish line was moved back this year to get rid of a small hill at the end of the race and I just have to deal with this hill sooner than later. I forgive the awful human.
Mile 7: I hit up the water stop and take my gel before crossing the bridge. At this point I know the honeymoon is over and things are going to get serious. I push myself slow and steady to the top of the West End Bridge and cruise into the West End neighborhood.
Mile 8: The West End neighborhood makes me forget all about my aches and pains. Cheering! Bands! Screaming! This place is awesome. It’s so awesome, I really want to stay instead of climbing up the next hill.
Mile 9: This hill climb is no fun. My breathing is heavy and I’m struggling. It also doesn’t help that I’m in the land of office buildings, inclines, strip clubs and retaining walls. Not exactly inspiring stuff. I just need to get the heck out of here and make it to Station Square and the South Side.
Mile 10: This is getting crappy. I’m not sure how much longer my legs or my pace will hold up. Out of the corner of my eye I see a girl in a pink shirt bouncing ahead of me like the start line of a 200 meter sprint. Who the heck looks this good at Mile 10 of a race? I see a ‘relay’ bib attached to her back and immediately feel better about myself.
Mile 11: After pink girl passes me, I look for my friend Suzy who is on the South Side. I see her and my spirits are uplifted. Maybe I just can hold this all together. Even though I’m excited to make a left off of Carson Street I’m scared of what’s next; the Birmingham Bridge. I tell myself to just keep moving. Slow and steady is okay right now.
Mile 12: I’m almost over the bridge, but more trouble is ahead; the dreaded uphill to the Boulevard of the Allies. The trek up the bridge has completely gassed me and I’m totally out of breath, as evidenced by another runner turning back to look and see who is hyperventilating behind him.
Off the bridge ramp and to the hill we go. I decide to walk a bit to begin the hill. I start running. I stop. I start walking. I run. I walk. My…legs… will…not… go… At this point my body was protesting and the uphill is not helping. I tell myself that I need to get to the top of the hill and then gravity will help me on the other side. Also, I know that Bobby is waiting for me on this mile and I don’t want him to see his wife wimping out on the last 1.5 miles of a half marathon.
I was mad and even perplexed that I was having this mental battle with myself
This is your 10th half marathon! You know how to do this! Move!
Mile 13: Finally between walking and running I get to the crest of the hill. I start pushing myself down the hill. I was falling apart, but I just needed to hold it together for a little over half a mile. I heard Bobby yell my name and felt relieved he didn’t have to see that walk/run mental breakdown. The downhill is fooling everyone into thinking I was feeling awesome at this point.
I look at my watch. I know I’m in reach of a 2:10 half marathon and if I let it slip away I will be so angry with myself. I dug down as deep as I could and ran as hard as I could to the finish. “That’s the way to finish a race!” I heard someone yell from the crowd.
I crossed the finish at 2:10:16. A new personal best!
This race ticked off a lot of boxes for me. I was able to achieve a new personal best. I ran my 10th half marathon and I was also able to raise $1,050 for the American Heart Society. This was my first year running for a charity and it really made the race all the more special for me. Thank you to everyone who donated!
For some reason, it also stuck out to me how wonderful the volunteers are that help make this race possible. Every time I grabbed a water a smiling and encouraging face on the other side handed it to me. Maybe it was in contrast to the damp, dreary day but the people who volunteered and cheered for the runners really stood out to me during this race. The community always comes together on this day and I'm always proudest to say that I'm from Pittsburgh on Marathon Sunday.
Author: Sarah Warman
I like to run, take pictures and write. I've combined all three in this blog.