Back in 2009, the Pittsburgh Marathon was brought back to the city after being on a long hiatus. At that time I was living in Maryland but desperately wanted to be back in my home city participating in this event. In 2012 my husband and I moved to Pittsburgh and I've been participating every year since then. While the marathon celebrated its 10 year anniversary this year, I was looking to make a comeback. The last time I had run a half marathon was in May of 2016. My son was born in March 2017 and I've been trying to get my running legs back ever since then. Last year I ran/walked a few 5k's and also did a 4 mile race, but I knew, deep down, my ultimate goal was going to be to run the half marathon. I had some serious doubts. If I was having trouble running 3 and 4 miles how the heck would I string together 13? Nonetheless, at the beginning of the New Year I signed up and committed to doing the race.
I started building up my mileage in March and eventually built up to 10 miles. But I was a far ways off from the runner I used to be. I was averaging 14 to 15 minutes per mile; a long way away from my sub 10 minute miles. I knew that I could cover the distance on race day, by it would probably take me much longer than usual.
Mile 1: We start! I've started between the 12 min/Mile and 13 min/Mile groups. I notice some people are also using the run/walk strategy. This is good for me. I need to be reminded to walk and not get carried away in the moment. (12:29 min/mile)
Mile 2: At the start of mile 2, I walk a little bit. I don't feel like I need to, but it seems like the smart thing to do. I also walk through the water stop at the end of the mile. (12:04 min/mile)
Mile 3: This mile includes the 16th Street Bridge which I planned to walk the uphill. (12:40 min/mile)
Mile 4: The North Side is one of my favorite places as the crowds are always great and motivate me. It's obvious as my pace has picked up. (11:58 min/mile)
Mile 5: It's mile 5 and I feel awesome. It then hits me that everything is clicking for me and I have a good chance to blow away my goal time. I start to get emotional, but it messes with my breathing. I then quickly tell myself to snap out of it.
Its mile 5! You can't get emotional yet! (12:17 min/mile)
Mile 6: This mile goes around PNC Park and Heinz Field, which is new to me. Since this isn't exactly a neighborhood I thought it would be boring, but there are a lot of people here cheering! (12:11 min/mile)
Mile 7: Uphill we go to the North Side and eventually the West End Bridge. I walk up the bridge and look towards the city. As I reach the top of the bridge, I start running the downhill to carry me into the West End. (13:00 min/mile)
Mile 8: I turn the corner and run down the hill onto the Main Street. What a party! I feel motivated to keep going, but also wish I could join the party. (11:44 min/mile)
Mile 9: I hate running. Maybe I shouldn't have signed up to do this. Everything is starting to hurt. The volunteer at the water station notices the distress on my face. 'You're doing great. Just keep going!" He's right. I just need to keep moving forward. (12:37 min/mile)
Mile 10: I start looking for my friend, Susie. I know she's here somewhere and then I spot her. I scream her name a few times and she sees me and starts cheering. I keep moving along to the South Side. (12:47 min/mile)
Mile 11: I'm getting so close to the end, but my body just wants to stop. I leave the South Side and start up the dreaded Birmingham Bridge. There is no downhill on the bridge. It's only uphill and it's so painful. I run/walk my way through it (12:06 min/mile)
Mile 12: After crossing the bridge I start up Fitfth Avenue to the final stretch. I start walking and have flashbacks to the Duquesne Hill on the old course. I feel so happy they took that hill out. (12:26 min/mile)
Mile 13: The final descent begins. I start pushing the pace and look at my watch to see I'm running under a 10 minute/mile. I haven't run a 10 minute/mile in two years. I feel like I'm either going to puke or my legs will give out. I dislike both of these outcomes so I let off the gas a little bit and run something I can sustain. We make a left, then a right, then a left. I'm starting to wonder where the heck the finish line is to put me out of my misery. I know it's close and we make one more right turn. I see it: the finish line, in all it's beautiful glory. I keep pushing all the way through the finish. And then the tears start flowing. (10:19 min/mile)
I was in total shock over my performance. Today I had somehow ran 12:30 min/miles. I couldn't believe it. I started crying a lot. I hate when people see me cry so I tried not to go into a complete sob in front of strangers; but it was very emotional for me.
This was a hard fought half marathon. I didn't run during my pregnancy. I also developed hypertension towards the end of the pregnancy. The hope was after I had my son that the hypertension would go away, but that wasn't the case. For the past year I've been battling high pressure and put on medication twice. My ultimate goal is to get off my medication and running is helping me reach my goal. I also lost my full time position at work while I started training for this race. Obviously running doesn't cure losing your job, but it did take the sting out of it and helped me deal with it better. In some way, that can't be understated, this race made me believe in myself again.
I want to say thank you to Bobby who watched our son while I went on my long runs. Often running a half or full marathon is a family effort and I'm so fortunate to have my husband's support. I also want to thank my son, Luke, my one and only training buddy this year. Thank you for coming along with me and enjoying the view! I just want to make you proud.
Author: Sarah Warman
I like to run, take pictures and write. I've combined all three in this blog.