Race Recap: The Pittsburgh Marathon

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In this episode Trevor recaps the Pittsburgh Marathon in beautiful Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. And in the quick tip segment, Angie answers the question, “Does everyone suffer horribly during the final miles of a marathon?”

Race Recap: Pittsburgh Marathon

The Pittsburgh Marathon was held on May 6th, 2018 in the city of Pittsburgh, PA. The race was first held in 1985 and continued until 2003 being sponsored in part by the city. When the recession hit the city ran into financial difficulty and the title sponsor withdrew so the race was discontinued. It was revived in 2009 and is now run by a non-profit called P3R (Pittsburgh Three Rivers Marathon, Inc).

Pittsburgh Marathon by the numbers . . .

  • Over 40,000 total participants throughout the weekend events
  • 75,000 people went through the race expo
  • 4,400 ran the 5k
  • 10,000 in the kids race
  • 500 toddlers in the Toddler Trot
  • 4,400 registered for the full marathon
  • 14,000 registred for the half marathon
  • 5,000 registred for the relay
  • 300,000 paper cups (and another 80,000 in a truck)
  • 22,000 gallons of water
  • 20,000 bananas
  • 9,000 linear feet of fencing
  • 10,000 square foot medical tent at the finish line
  • 26 ambulances on standby
  • 18 first aid stations
  • 500 medical personal
  • 1-3% of runners will need medical attention

In this episode you will also hear an interview with the race director Patrice Matamoros who helped bring the race back after it was defunct for five years.

Patrice Matamoros. photo credit: Pittsburgh Business Times

Pittsburgh is nicknamed Steel City because it was the leading manufacturer of steel in the US and because it has 446 bridges. In the early 1900s it was the 8th largest city in the US and produced 1/3 to 1/2 of the nation’s steel. As times have changed the city has been able to shift its economy into medicine, education, finance and tech. It really is a vibrant city.

Race Expo

One thing I figured out once I got to the city was that my hotel was in walking distance to everything! I stayed at the amazing Drury Hotel in downtown Pittsburgh.

After checking into my hotel I headed to the massive David L Lawrence convention center to pick up by race bib and check out the expo. Along with my race bib they gave me a Pittsburgh Marathon tumbler and drinking glass in a nice box. I also got a yellow long sleeve technical t-shirt.

I headed back to the hotel and got some rest before heading out to the Harrisburg Area Runners pasta dinner.

Race Morning

The marathon started at 7:00 am. I woke up at 6:00 and looked out my hotel room window and could see corral A and runners milling around everywhere. I had a cup of coffee and a Ucan bar and headed down to my corral at 6:45. I had to walk 5-6 blocks to find the entrance to my corral and true to form, I got in right before the race started. Since I was so far back it took a while to cross the starting line.

It looked like we might get rained on but thankfully the rain pretty much held off until after most of the runners had finished.

The Course

Miles 1-3
We started in downtown Pittsburgh near the convention center and ran through the Strip District, where there are many restaurants and grocery stores, including the famous Primanti Brothers, where one can get a Primanti Bros Sandwich. Between mile 2-3 we ran across our first bridge. Pittsburg is situated between 3 rivers (Allegheny, Ohio, and Monongahela).

Miles 3-6
Then we ran through the North Side District which has the Andy Warhol Museum (Andy Warhol was born in Pittsburgh), the Children’s Museum, and the National Aviary.

The rain was holding off and I was feeling good. I was also trying not to go too fast because it’s tempting to run too fast in the first half of a marathon. One thing I knew about this race is that it was going to be hilly.

In the days leading up to my marathon I was feeling a tinge of pain under my knee cap. Although it didn’t hurt I was worried it might be the start of runner’s knee. It ended up being nothing (as Angie had told me to beware of “phantom pain” before a race).

Miles 7-11
Then we ran by Heinz Field where the National Football team the Pittsburgh Steelers play and crossed another large beautiful bridge to the West End.

I remember running along the river for a 3-4 miles and seeing something called the Duquesne Incline -a rail system with two trolly cars that carry passengers up Mt. Washington at a 30 degree angle. It was built in 1887. I remember thinking to myself that I needed to go back and check it out the next day.

Duquesne Incline is pictured here

Continuing along the river one could see the city skyline, bridges, and river boats moored along the shore. We ran to the South Side District -which looked like a fun part of town.

Miles 12- 14
Between mile 11-12 we ran across the Birmingham Bridge, it was here that I saw a dude in a storm trooper costume taking photos with runners. Then there were a series of signs that read “YOU ARE NOW ON THE FULL MARATHON COURSE”. It knew fun times were ahead. I developed the mantra of “chew through the miles!”

After crossing the bridge we were in Oakland where we ran by some really nice home and it felt like the old money part of town. We passed by the famous Carnegie Museum of Natural History and Museum of Art where I remember seeing a huge dinosaur statue with a Steelers scarf tied around its neck.

Between mile 14-15 we turned onto Walnut Street (in the Shady Side Neighborhood) which appeared to be an old part of town turned into hipster paradise. There was an Apple Store, Lululemon, Patagonia (none of which are sponsors of the MTA podcast). All these hips cats were drinking their soy lattes and cheering on the runners.

Miles 15-20
Then we ran through Point Breeze, Homewood, and East Liberty neighborhoods which are definitely more lower income than Shady Side. It was interesting to see the contrast. In every neighborhood we ran through the people were out enthusiastically cheering the runners. In East Liberty we ran by the East Liberty Presbyterian Church, which is a massive Gothic style structure 300 feet high.

Between mile 16-17 I was deep into my running music playlist and my mind began to disassociate from the pain and direct my thoughts out and away from my body. We came to a long down hill and I open up the speed and started passing people. I knew it wasn’t a sustainable pace but it was fun while it lasted. It was my happiest moment in the race. I was pushing my tired legs to the beat of the music and imagining my body feeling the weight of gravity pulling me forward. It was like running on air. For some reason I ran with my eyes closed seeing how long I could go before I was forced to open them.

Miles 20-23
I don’t remember much between miles 20-23 other than how much I was slowing down. We were still running over hill after hill after hill. The last six miles of a marathon can be grueling and I aways start to fade and some negative thoughts creep in. I had to shake this off and just remember my goal was to have fun.

We ran through Highland Park, Friendship, and Bloomfield Districts. The crowds were great! I saw a sign that said, “At least you’re not at work”. Another said, “Smile if you’re not wearing underwear”. There were bands along the course and I might add that most of them were pretty good. Friendly Pittsburgers were giving out beer.

Beer stop at the Pittsburgh Marathon

Miles 24-26.2
At mile 24 we were in the homestretch and back in the Strip District where we started. It was starting to rain a little but the crowds were not assuaged. I started to see people who had finished the race walking by wrapped in space blankets and wearing their medals. I kept pushing on. Before I reached mile 26 I saw the back entrance to my hotel. I could have been on the elevator to my room in a matter of minutes.

The Finish Line

The finish line was in downtown on the Boulevard of the Allies. There we bleachers lining the streets for people to watch the runners. Folks were ringing bells, giving high fives, and screaming support to the runners. Finally I saw the most beautiful sight in a marathon -the finish line! For some dumb reason I kept running after I crossed the final timing mat. It didn’t occur to me to stop. My time was 5:04:00, nowhere close to my fastest time.

I made my way to the festival area looking for a place to sit down. My friend Jeff had told me about a hospitality tent for the run clubs. I was glad I found it because not only were Jeff and his wife Julia there, it was out of the rain and had places to sit down and had hot pizza.

My hotel wasn’t far from the finish area but I was pretty disoriented and didn’t know which direction to head. I asked Siri and she took me a half a mile in the wrong direction.

Meet Up
We had wonderful post race MTA meet up at the Pittsburgh Hofbrauhaus. I’ve turned into a real lover of German food and beer and this place does not disappoint.

Big thanks to Jeff and Julia, Katie and Jimmy, Monica, Bonnie, Dale, Bill, Gina, Heidi and Brian, and Richard for coming to the meet up. Some of these folks have been long time fans of MTA and it was great to finally meet them in the flesh.

Also Featured in This Episode

Quick Tip: Does everyone suffer the last 6-8 miles of a marathon?

Here’s a question Angie answers from an Academy member named Lyndi,

I have lots of questions following my marathon yesterday. Does everyone suffer (horribly) for the last 6-8 miles and it is just part of the experience or is there genuinely a way to train so that it doesn’t end that way? I suspect there may be an unspoken code of silence about how bad it really is and, like childbirth, we highlight the high moments and wink quietly about the rest. -Lyndi

Great question! I think one of the reasons why the marathon remains a compelling challenge for many people is that it defies being fit into a neat little box. There are so many diverse factors that go into your marathon experience (from personal things like training, overall health, self-talk, pacing, fueling, the amount of marathons you’ve done/long run experience, and much more). Then there are the factors that we can’t control as much like course variables (width of roads, amount of participants, hills or other technical aspects), the weather, how your body is feeling that day, etc.

But it’s true that the last 6-10 miles of a marathon are often a huge test of willpower. There have been a few marathons where I’ve questioned my sanity, promised myself never to run another marathon, and felt very negative about the experience. While there have been other times when I was feeling great about those final miles, in less discomfort, and passing people left and right. I don’t think that there’s a magic formula to guarantee a great marathon experience. But each race does teach you more about yourself and help you be more prepared for future marathons (and other challenges in life).

One of the great things about having group support is that we can learn from the experience of others while keeping in mind that we’re an experiment of one. I hope that on this podcast we can delve into the good, bad and ugly about the marathon and present an honest perspective.


This Episode’s Sponsors . . .

The Drury Hotel Company. They have 150 hotels in 25 states (we have stayed at dozens of their locations). They have exceptional service, great treadmills, free wifi, huge breakfasts and free evening food and drinks! Use our link and get 15% off your stay and a free gift from us.

Healthiq.com -Marathon Training Academy is sponsored by *Health IQ*, an insurance company that helps health conscious people get special rates on life insurance. Go to healthiq.com/mta to support the show and learn more.

Spartan Race – With over 60 races all around the country, Spartan is an obstacle course racing company with races for every athletic ability and skill level. Visit www.spartan.com/marathon for an exclusive offer, to find a race near you and view training and nutrition tips.

2 Responses to Race Recap: The Pittsburgh Marathon

  1. Deena Rocco June 8, 2018 at 8:41 am #

    Tremendous recap! Congrats Trevor! I ran the Pittsburgh half last year – loved the venue… I may consider this full marathon, although the hills sound daunting! Pittsburgh is a great host city with lots of great eateries. Always love your’s and Angie’s inspirational thoughts. So true all you say but good to hear and remember! Thanks again MTA! You rock!

    • Trevor Spencer June 9, 2018 at 7:47 pm #

      Thanks for the feedback Deena! The hills were indeed daunting.

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