The Mario Lemieux Foundation 6.6k Run and Family Run was held on October 5, 2014. It turned out to be a rather chilly morning with temperatures starting off in the 30's! I spent most of the night before the race digging out my cold running gear that had been packed away for the summer. Even though it was cold, it was an absolutely beautiful fall morning.
October 5th also happens to be Mario's birthday! Before the race all the participants sang 'Happy Birthday' followed by the national anthem.
So what is a 6.6k anyways? It's a 4.1 mile run. I like to think of it as a 5k plus one mile. Mario shot off the starting gun and we were off. By off I mean a very steep downhill. Between the steep downhill and the glare of the sun I just wanted to maintain control and not run into anybody.
"Ouch! My knees hurt."
The end of the downhill was actually a relief. We headed on Fifth Avenue towards downtown. The theme of the race was two bridges, one tunnel. Our first bridge was Smithfield Street bridge. One of my favorite parts about running Pittsburgh is running the bridges. Smithfield Street provides great views of the city. Once we crossed our first bridge we made a left onto East Carson Street. We didn't stay there long but cut down a side street to run some back streets in the South Side.
One of my favorite things about this race was running streets I've never ran in a race. Every turn was a surprise and I was always wondering where we would go next!
Next we were on our way to the 10th street bridge. The incline on this bridge felt pretty steep. I was relived when we reached the crest and got to coast on a downhill. Next we did a quick loop on Second Avenue. I didn't expect this loop but it was really cool to see some of my friends on the turnaround.
After the turnaround we headed to the Armstrong Tunnel. I've ran in this tunnel before but it was always the opposite direction (downhill). Now I was going uphill. I decided to be aggressive in the tunnel and try to get up the incline as quick as possible.
I was speeding up the incline passing people as I went. When I got to the top I felt gassed.
"Maybe that was too aggressive."
Fortunately there was a nice downhill and some friendly supporters when we exited the tunnel. But the downhill didn't last long.
As we made a right onto Sixth Avenue the long climb to the finish began. My goal going up the hill was to not slow down and to not stop running. As we turned onto Centre Avenue that goal became more and more difficult.
I could see the finish but I was gasping for air and trying to hold on to my breakfast. Bobby was right next to me.
"I should grab his hand."
I looked ahead. There was Mario standing at the finish. One of the greatest hockey players of all time.
"I should give him a high five."
"I feel like I'm going to throw up!"
I put out my hand. Not quite far enough. No high five. I crossed the finish line and immediately go to my knees trying to catch my breath and hold on to my breakfast.
No high five from Mario. No hand holding finish with Bobby. Oh well. Maybe next year. I ended up crossing the finish line in 40:02. So close to being under 40 minutes!
After the finish we made our way to finish area. We were presented with our medals which matched our long sleeved technical shirts.
In the finish area we were presented with water, sports drink, bananas and of course a smiley cookie!
There was plenty of food and lots of space to meet up with fellow runners.
After the race we were invited into Consol Engery Center to watch the Penguins Practice. There were concession stands open so we grabbed some coffee to warm up and chicken fingers to eat and then headed to the seats to watch the Pens practice.
I never watched a hockey team practice before so it was pretty cool to watch Sydney Crosby and company go to work. I wish I could skate like them. Or just skate as well as I run!
This race provided a unique opportunity to run, support a charity and then watch a professional sports team practice. I can't think of any other race that presents this combination. Along with the 6.6k there was a one mile family walk that also permitted dogs. This race really had something for everyone! The race was really organized and the volunteers were some of the nicest I've met. My only gripe would be the long uphill finish, but I really did feel like I earned my medal at the end of it! I'll definitely keep participating in this race for years to come.
Author: Sarah Warman
I like to run, take pictures and write. I've combined all three in this blog.