Eventually, one of these years, I’m going to run a race while in perfect health. But not this race. During the Philly Half last November, my right foot and ankle–suffering from plantar fasciitis and posterior tibial tendonitis–had screamed like bitches on a bitch boat. In Pittsburgh, they were quiet, but my stomach more than made up for it.
I made some poor choices the day before the race. I didn’t eat dinner until nearly 9:00 p.m., when I should have already been in bed, and laid down a half hour afterwards. It took a very long time for me to get to sleep. I got a grand total of about three hours of sleep, before awakening at about 2:00 a.m. with an upset stomach. I didn’t fall back to sleep. The stomach upset persisted as my husband and I got ready to leave. I decided not to drink anything but water, despite my fatigue, and not to eat anything. We’d received NuGo bars in our Expo goody bags, so I took one with me.
We parked at Heinz Field and walked over the bridge to Point Park. The walking actually made me feel better, which was encouraging. I felt pretty good as we checked our gear and found our corral. We arrived at about 5:30 a.m., later than we were told to but with plenty of slack before the start time. We were at the very front of our corral; the scene reminded me of New Year’s Eve in Times Square, where the NYPD puts up “corrals” as the blocks fill, and spectators just keep walking toward the ball until they cannot go any further.
Unfortunately, having to wait so long in the corral caused me to feel the full effects of the cold (it was about 50 degrees), my fatigue and my stomach. I got the shakes and felt like I might faint. I was terrified that I wasn’t going to be able to run the race, but I didn’t let my husband know that. I wanted him to be able to run his race even if I had to be carted off the route at Mile 1.
Finally, at about 7:20, it was time for my corral to cross the start line. I managed to yell a hearty “BRING IT!” as I crossed it–just as I did in Philly–and then something amazing happened. The shakes stopped. My stomach quieted. I didn’t feel dizzy or faint. I’m glad I had the NuGo bar with me, because as I ran, I started to feel hungry. I ate the bar in small bites over the course of about four water stations.
Just as he had in Philadelphia, my husband tore ahead of me around Mile 0.25; he is significantly faster than me. We start together, but run our own individual races. Even though I’ve never lived in Pittsburgh, my husband and I had been there several times, and I recognized many of the landmarks as I went by them: the National Aviary, where we’d been the day before; the Duquesne Incline, which we rode the last time we were there; Mt. Washington, on the other side of which my husband grew up; the South Side; and all the bridges.
We ran in Philadelphia a couple of weeks after the New York City Marathon had been cancelled, and had the privilege of running with displaced NYC runners. For the Pittsburgh race, Dick’s Sporting Goods had flown in 37 runners who had been unable to complete the Boston Marathon before the bombings caused the race to be shut down. Pittsburgh did a great job of welcoming them. There were many runners wearing “Run for Boston” apparel, spectators with signs, and businesses proclaiming they were “Boston Strong; Pittsburgh Proud.”
I really enjoyed the live music from local bands throughout the course. I chuckled that one band called itself “The Unemployed.”
The course wasn’t as hilly as I thought it would be, but it was tough for someone used to training in the flatlands. Most runners in my corral took walk breaks on the uphills, and I did the same thing. Someone had warned me that the worst hill in the race came at about Mile 11, as we approached Duquesne University and Robert Morris College, and I took special care not to push beyond my limits going up that hill. I walked most of it, running in short spurts as I felt able.
Even with my walk breaks, I managed to keep up with the 5:30 (full) Pace Team for nearly my entire half, up until about Mile 9 or 10. The lady leading the team was great; her coaching style reminded me of Chalene Johnson’s. If I come back next year, I hope that she comes back and that I’m on her team.
Reaching Mile 8 with no significant pain was a relief for me, because that’s when my foot and ankle had given out in Philadelphia, leaving me to complete the race on one good leg. This time, my foot and ankle held up well. For that, I thank P90X, Dr. Scholl’s Custom Orthotics, and sports tape. I had some pain, but nowhere close to what I’d experienced in Philadelphia. I crossed the finish line shortly after the 3:10 (full) Pace Team, with a chip time of 2:52:20, over 15 minutes less than my time in Philadelphia. It’s amazing what happens when you run the race on two legs! I was able to walk normally through the finish line chute and toward the family reunion area, something I couldn’t do in Philly; I was crippled by then. When I was handed my medal, I kissed it before putting it on.
The Festival in Point Park was happy chaos, but I managed to locate my husband easily. He’d finished only five minutes before I had.
The next stop for me, following another round of Insanity, is the full marathon in Philadelphia this November, and possibly the Los Angeles Marathon in March. Part of me wants to run the Flying Pig next May, but then part of me would like to return to Pittsburgh to do the full 26.2. I really enjoy Pittsburgh, and I enjoyed running there. The race was fun and well-coordinated; there were more knowledgeable volunteers directing traffic, and better signage, than there had been in Philadelphia. The extra security measures taken in the wake of the Boston tragedy were reasonable. The spectators were fantastic. My husband and I had a wonderful time!