Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Pittsburgh Marathon Weekend

Living in Pittsburgh, I LOVE marathon weekend. Really starting the week going into it as well. I haven't ran the full since 2011, and have never done the half, but am actively involved in the marathon in a different way, a way that I think gives me a fun and unique way of experiencing it.

The Week Before
So many Facebook posts, really I probably could just leave it at that and it would be self-explanatory for anyone that is on Facebook and living in Pittsburgh. But in case you aren't, or are one of the few people who isn't on there... let me tell you how exciting Facebook gets pre-marathon weekend.

If I had to make a list of the things most posted about it would probably be something like this
1.) The weather... OMG the weather posts. Lightening, Rain, Wind, Did I say Lightening? Are they going to delay? Are they going to cancel? How do I deal with running in the rain? Wait the forecast changed five minutes ago- here's the update. Weather on Weather on Weather posts. Slightly controlled panic.
2.) Bib being sold/people looking for bibs. Lots of both of these! People getting last minute injuries, people deciding last minute they want to run. Fortunately Pittsburgh is one of the few marathons that allows transfers up to the day before as long as you pay the fee. (Good For Them!!!). So there is a lot of bib transferring.
3.) Inspirational Quotes and Funny Memes.  Lets get inspired and have a chuckle to decrease the anxiety of race week. I have been known to post a few (I even came up with my own Pre-race poem---*Posted at the bottom*). Takes the edge off and keeps everyone talking.
4.) Outfits, What is everyone wearing? Shorts vs capris? Tank vs sleeves? Poncho vs throw-away? Hat vs visor? "Flat" so and so.
5.) Race preparation: One of the best things about the Pgh marathon is that ALL The neighborhoods come out in full strength and there are a ton of posts by the groups getting ready. The best known neighborhood is Homewood. This year they actually had posters out on the course telling you how many miles until you got to them. They posted many times about the clean up and preparation they were doing.
6.) Bitching. This is usually done by the non-runners, the people who will be inconvenienced by all of the road closures. This is tough as a runner to see. Especially since I know how hard people have trained for this one day, and people are angry that for one day they can't get around with ease *chuckle chuckle* (no such thing in this city). I can't tell you how many people posted things like "Can't they just run around the park?" or "Why do they have to run in the city". I wisely kept my opinions to myself so not to ruin perfectly good friendships, but......

Race Weekend
Saturday- The 5k. I have never personally experienced this, but it is highly posted about so I feel confident talking about it. A lot of the racers use this as their shakeout run. It is part of a series where you can get an extra medal for doing both races. Decent crowd support shows for it and it is a great kick-off to the weekend. It is a nice course and a good amount of people run it.

The Kids Marathon- This is I do every year. 5,600 children were signed up this year, most of whom belong to the Kids of Steel. Through Kids of Steel they train all winter/spring, running 25 miles throughout that time. Then Saturday they get their last 1.2 miles. They start by PNC park and get to cross the bridge, go through downtown and finish on the same finish line as the marathoners. The kids LOVE it. And for many parents it is their big athletic event of the year too. There is a huge mix of everthing from 3 years old to 12 years.
Every year me and my co-coaches run a KoS program and this year we had 54 6th graders who participated and about 30 5th graders. About 30 came to the the city, and we were able to witness them running their mile, utilizing the running advice we have taught them and using the running etiquette of saying "excuse me", " on the left" and "great job" to people as they passed. Then they get to have the finish line experience as they listen to a band, hit the food trucks, and wander around Point State Park.

The Expo- Pittsburgh puts on a helluva an expo! Seriously! I spent two hours there, and probably could have been there longer if I didn't have other stuff to do. If you can imagine a store that has running stuff, it is at the expo. And once you have your running stuff, and have checked out local races, then you can also get some food, order some windows, and get new gutters (no joke!) I am always amazed at how many runners I DON"T know! Seriously! I feel like when I am out running I know a lot of the people I see, then I show up at the expo and I am like "and who are you?"

Race Day
It is so exciting! Up early, out the door at 5am! Pittsburgh has a Full Marathon, Half Marathon, and Marathon Relay. I have created a relay team, and I am leg 1. Head to the North Shore to meet a friend who is doing the full, his gf who is doing the half and we all head over. Now it just so happens that my running group, Steel City Road Runners, has this nifty race day perk that we have our own huge conference room with tables set up, a continental breakfast, and private bathrooms. (Worth every penny of the $40 yearly fee). So we head in and see so many people! I eat my oatmeal (that I had brought) and catch up with my friends. We drop our bags in our specially marked spot, since we also have VIP services for bag drop too! It is time to head to the Start line.

Race Time: 5 Corrals, for the first time ever I am starting in A with the super fast folk. I wander around and say hi to the people I know, I look for a friend from out of town (but don't see him) and get ready to go. Ready, Set ,Go. Runners are off. Man, whose bright idea was it to try to run a fast relay leg the week after a PR marathon? (see previous post)... not bright. But I push through seeing friends along the way.  Hit my relay exchange, hand off to leg 2, grab a porta pottie (which this race has a TON of everywhere!), a glass of water and I jump back onto the course to run the second leg. Here I run into my first person, my friend Jessica who I ran with this winter while she was Boston Training. We run together for a few miles and get caught up about running Boston. How was her experience, any advice on doing it the next year, etc. We run through the NorthSide where Urban Impact is out in force even with the rain and enjoy interacting with them. After a few miles I decide to scale back the pace and say goodbye. Then I run into the 3:30 pacers. One of which is a friend. So I run with them for a little while. Chat about the race, and about how his 50k had gone the weekend before. After awhile I decide to scale back just a bit again, I know how many miles I have ahead of me for the day. I want to take it easy. I run through the West End where they have out a dance group doing the dab as we run by, I cheer, because well you have to really. Then I pass by the rapper who is free styling about running the marathon. I hear the runner next to me  make a snarky comment and I snicker, I can't help it. We head to station square where I have to stop and say Hi to Bob, the owner of Fleet Feet. That is my go-to running store and I have to stop! Then I hit station square where the 2nd relay exchange is, of course my relay runner has already long come and gone but I am able to run into a friend waiting on her second person. We sit and B.S and I shout and cheer for the runners as they pass. She heads out and I start the treck to the finishing line so I can change.

By time I get to the tent I am mile 10 for the day. I change into dry clothes, grab a water and a banana, check my text updates on the gazillion runners I am tracking, and I head out. I run the back roads to avoid the crowds that are several people deep cheering for the half marathoners as they come in. I eventually end back up on the course and I start running it backwards (uphill of course). I get to see the elites coming down and give a shout and then as I run up to mile 22 I am yelling and cheering for every runner coming down. I pass a big group who have a whole cheer set up including blow up Alpacas. Ummm okay, but they are enthusiastic and I end up seeing them many times that day (and appreciating their enthusiasm).

Bloomfield (mile 22) I am standing watching carefully for people, specifically for my buddy Jeremy. He should be the first I see. Then I see Tim, my friend from out of town, I snap a few photos, give him a shout of encouragement, and then return to my vigil waiting for Jeremy. Here he comes, he looks like he is tired. So I jump on the course and off we go. I chatter at him about who knows what for the next few miles ( I have mad talk about random shit skills). I give him stern words about making it to the end without walking and I leave him at mile 24. I start the treck back up to Bloomfield. Hector is next. I find him within a mile, not quite at the top of the hill. I turn around and back down I go with him. He is having some cramping. So I chatter at him for a few miles as well. He is holding a pretty good pace and I pick it up a bit because I know he can handle a little push. We get to almost 25 and I leave him with words of encouragement, and I turn around and head back up to Bloomfield. Ali is next.

Up, UP, and Up I run. As I a climbing I am yelling at every single runner, words of encouragement "You can do it" "You are doing great, keep up the good work" "I know it hurts and sucks, but you made it this far you can make it the rest of the way". As I go I see a lot of people I know and am able to give them a special shout-out.
Here comes Ali, and down I go again. I run with her about 1.5 miles, giving her some "Ambyrisms" alongside with Brittany. When she tells me her legs are going to fall off I tell her "Yes, they are, now lets run". hahaha. And she does, she KILLS it! She is in great hands with Brit, so I turn around and you guess it.. head back up,

Phew. I am now at almost 20 miles for the day and I am super tired of climbing stupid E. Liberty. But up I go again, hollering the whole way. I see more people I know, some who see me (or probably hear me) before I see them. As I am heading back up I see Lesley running with Joe. She isn't feeling great, so I jump in and run a little while with them. She is good with Joe, so I turn around and head all the way back to the top. By this point the spectators and EMT in this area are laughing because they have seen me so many times. I get to the top (after stopping for a beer sample at the Church Brew cheering station (I got a cookie from there earlier), and I talk to a couple out waiting for their kid for a bit. I am waiting for Karen, she is my last person I want to run with. I continue to yell and encourage every runner I can, I know how much the last leg of a marathon feels, hopefully I am helping someone out. We are now in the 4 1/2 + hour of runners, and people are tired. I try to give them the best words I can, anything to help them out as they have 4 more miles to get through. Those four miles are tough!

Then I see my friend Alyssa. Her hip is screwed up. So I jump in, and back down Liberty I go. We chatter away, doing a run walk-method, whatever she needs to do. I am still yelling and encouraging others, but Alyssa has become my person. We joke about how many race photos I am going to be in that day and we make our way down to Downtown. We see another friend who is headed back up (he is doing the same thing as me that day) and I  ask him to look for Karen. I am worried about her and want to make sure I can get to her. I stick with Alyssa for a couple miles, getting through the rough stretch. Then I do my final turn around to find Karen.

I get to Karen and we finish out the race together. As we head into downtown I am yelling at the crowds to get louder, give us some love. The absolute joy and emotion of hearing those hundreds upon hundreds of people raising their voices. in support of complete strangers chokes me up just a little. Karen crosses that finish line like a champion and we celebrate her amazing accomplishment. I have gone a total of 28 miles for the day, and I am surprised I still have a voice.

Now onto the post-race tent. Another perk of my running group, access to the VIP tent with amazing food, changing rooms, and massages if you want one. I meet up with Brittany, get a sandwich and some chips, catch up with runners I saw on the course, and a few that I missed. Then we go grab a beer and head home. Race weekend is coming to a close.

The Aftermath: 
The Facebook posts, the screenshotted photo's from the official race photography sight, the messages checking in and race conversations go for days. Fall marathons are being discussed and plan, the marathon juices are still flowing. Eventually the excitement decreases and the post marathon blues will set in.  Actually as I sit here writing this, I am thinking about the nap I took instead of running today because I am just plain tired from all of the excitement. I am pretty certain my relay team has taken 3rd place in the Co-ed field of 938 teams, so that is exciting! We are already talking about next year :-)

Now onto my next adventure, getting ready for my road tip across America, trail running through as many areas as possible! 33 Days to go!

Happy Running!

T’was the night before race day
And all through the city
The runners were prepping
And pretending not to be giddy

With carbs in their tummies
And water by their sides
They were packing and repacking
All of their supplies

5 gu’s, make it six
Spibelt with phone
Should I grab the  miniature lube?
“I know I’m forgetting something,” said with a moan

Outfit is laid flat
Bib pinned with care
Don’t forget the photo
No runner would dare

Race shoes are checked and set by the door
Dry clothes put in a clear bag
The pre-race jitters are starting to come
And feet are starting to drag

But worry not dear runners
Your training is solid
Trust in yourself
And don’t do anything stupid

Check facebook one more time
Send out that last text
See you in the morning

~Ambyr Hinton~

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