Linville Gorge from the summit of Table Rock

Linville Gorge from the summit of Table Rock

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

2009 Pittsburgh Marathon

Sunday, May 3rd, I ran the Pittsburgh Marathon along with several others and a few who did the half-marathon.

Since the course was generally like Charlotte's Thunder Road (through town and residential) I won't do a mile-by-mile report, just an overall summary.

To start at the beginning, this is the largest race I've run yet (if you don't count walking the Cooper River Bridge Run years ago) though it didn't really feel as crowded as the 10,000 or so finishers might make you think it would be. The expo was pretty good, though not enormous by any means. We looked around for a while, but I didn't need anything so I can't really comment on prices. I don't think they were offering great discounts, though. One interesting thing in the expo was this giant wall, kind of like the Vietnam Memorial, that had every runner's name on it. We took the obligatory vanity pictures of our names.

The race itself is a full loop that begins and ends at the convention center, on the banks of one of the three rivers that flow through Pittsburgh, Alleghany, Mononglia, and they combine to form the Ohio. There are several bridges over these rivers and you'll cross three of them during either race. The marathon and half-marathon use the same course for the first 10-11 miles.

All totaled, there were 22 (yes 22) water stations along the course. Some of these were smaller ones that seemed to be local groups that wanted to help but weren't offical stations, but they were included on the map. Powerade was at the different stations (in three different flavors, depending on the station) and PowerGels on some of the latter tables where the volunteer told us to "take all you can carry" since it wasn't coming out of her pocket...I took three and gave one to a fellow runner.

This was the first time I've been in a race where the entire street was blocked off for runners--even the intersections. You literally never had to look for cars. I honestly didn't notice it at first, but once you realized you didn't have to keep your guard up, I think it might have made running a little bit easier. The course is what they call hilly but not by western NC standards. If you look closely at the elevation chart ( you see that the biggest hill is a 100' climb over the course of a mile. What fools you is that Pittsburgh is surrounded by these high ridges that you think you might have to run up during the race. You don't.

Here are a few other notes:

  • There was a little confusion on pace groups during the course of the race. We saw a lot of people with their name and a time on a bib on their backs, but apparently they were not pacers. Maybe they were supposed to be IN a pace group but either fell off or sped up.
  • There was a lot of crowd support in most areas--well more than I am used to seeing.
  • The local TV station had a webcam set up at the finish line and posted video of everyone finishing (in ten minute blocks) on their website.
  • In addition to information about other races, the packet included samples of wrinkle cream(?), Secret deodorant, Vaseline samples, a water bottle, a $10 coupon for Dick's Sporting Goods, socks, and some other nice items.
  • If there is a baseball game the night before the race, and it's fireworks night, it's probably worth a slower race to stay up to catch the show (the fireworks, anyway--though the ball game was fun, too.)
  • Parking was $5--cheap for downtown in a large city.
  • There's an optional hour early start for walkers.

As someone who doesn't like large races, this one did not overwhelm you like some others might. You also weren't bothered with getting to the starting line nuisances like having to take a shuttle or be there extra early. While I won't regularly do this size race (and may never again) I don't regret Pittsburgh and I think just about anyone would enjoy it. It's not the toughest/easiest, most/least scenic, or coolest/dullest race--it's a solidly good event.

Pittsburgh Marathon

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