Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Pittsburgh Marathon Recap

Is it possible or even "couth" to recap a race I didn't run?  I have no idea but here goes nothin'...

First, I have to start by saying that Pittsburgh is a cool city.  I had no idea.  Vibrant neighborhoods, many venues on the water, lots of revitalization, major sports teams, AND the people are really nice.  After living in some places that are beautiful and/or "cool" with crappy people - I've come to value nice people above all else.  So "yeah" on Pittsburgh.

'Loft' at Station Square - Lots of veg options!

Race security was tight as expected but it certainly makes things more difficult when you've got 25,000 nervous runners needing to use the bathrooms, checking their race bags and trying to find their corrals.  The corrals were arranged down the city streets like a wagon wheel with a cleared circle in the center.  They started the race in waves, letting each corral empty completely before releasing the next.  We had plenty of warning that corrals would completely close 10 minutes prior to the start and that NO bags of any kind were allowed in the corrals.  Did that stop hundreds of runners from waiting until their corrals were closed to try to get in?  No.  They had to wait outside the gates until all of the corrals had been released before they got go.  Hats off to the security personnel at the race.  They pissed a lot of people off but they held strong and I glimpsed the NEW marathon security.

I did secure an awesome vantage point at the center of the wagon wheel!  NOTE:  If you ever run Pittsburgh, LIE about your projected finish time.  Congratulations, you are now 30 minutes faster! If you don't, you'll be stuck in Corral E.


Corral C heading for the start

Corral D being released

Mark heading out with Corral E

In Corral E, it took Mark 27 minutes to get to the start line.  Once all the runners had gone and I got over the whole unfairness of it all, I tried Starbucks but the line was 50 deep so I headed to the only vantage point I would get that day.  The runners cross seven bridges (I think) and at mile 5 one of the bridge crossings tucks back into downtown close to the start line.  I made my way over to to sit on a freezing cold steel girder - my Barbadian butt was cccoold - but I managed to get a good pic of Staci!


Adorable gal in blue waving at me!  Go Staci!

After the bridge (I was fiddling with the camera when Mark ran by - no pic!) I happened upon a more reasonable coffee shop where I met a gal standing in line.  We hit it off immediately after confessing that we had both dropped from the race due to injury.  Sole Sisters!   We had coffee together and walked around the city for an hour or so before making our way to the finish line and a good vantage point in the sun.  Not the usual stress one experiences at a marathon :)

Then I got the call that my sister-in-law had walked off at mile 17.  We had feared it because she was exhausted from a home remodel and under-trained for this race but it was still a sad call to get.  The medics would arrange for transport back to the start line and we would reconvene in the family meet-up under the letter M.  That was the plan. Then her cell phone battery died.

Then a text from my father-in-law in Raleigh.  He had gotten NO texts on Mark's progress since the 10K mark.  Great.  Jodi had dropped and Mark was unaccounted for.  Things are shaping up nicely.

Tick tock - I'm standing about a quarter mile up from the finish line trying to figure out the math... if Mark got over the line in about 25 minutes, subtract that from the race clock.  Getting a 4:30 would shave 15 minutes off his normal time - which would be awesome.  Did he drop out?  How would I know?  Think positive.  Start looking diligently in about 12 - 15 minutes... Then "BABE!  HERE I AM!"  Mark came whipping around the corner for the finish a full 32 minutes ahead of schedule!  I couldn't believe it.  Tears!  Jealously!  More Tears!  Happiness!

I pulled it together in time to get this photo...

High Fiving the nephew!
Once we walked back to the family meet-up to look for Jodi, Mark was lounging in the grass under the letter M, eating bananas.  Absolutely no sign of the cramps that have plagued his last few races.  We got him on Salt Sticks after the race across Barbados and it looks like they did the trick.

It took another 2 hours for the medics to get Jodi back to us and with her cell phone dead, it was definitely a nail biter.  We fanned out to cover all of the medical tents we could walk to and obsessively checked with the Missing Runner desk.  We even went back to the parking garage to make sure she wasn't sleeping on the hood of the car!   In the end, she was more mentally wounded than anything. Still processing the fact that she actually walked off the course.  But no matter how many you've done, the distance is nothing to be trifled with.  The marathon demands respect and it comes in the form of rest and preparedness.  You can't fool the marathon :)

The takeaway:  The Pittsburgh Marathon is well organized with lots of crowd support in each of the nine neighborhoods.  Mark couldn't stop raving about the quality of the bands along the course.  There are 25,000 runners between the marathon, half-marathon and relay marathon. Parking in the city and getting to the race was easy.  The weather can be a wildcard - last year it was 90 degrees on the day!  But I guess that's all part of the challenge.  The expo and race bag were both good.  I discovered a Pittsburgh company that makes the best tasting protein bar on the planet - NuGo.  All of the bars are vegan, gluten-free - and completely delicious.  Try the dark chocolate mint if you get a chance.

And finally, watching runners run is hard when you're an injured runner.  I cannot tell a lie.  I was as gracious and as supportive as possible but I teared up a few times and cursed every little twinge in my back as I watched the race pass me by.  I know that I'll be back in the game soon enough but that will be the last marathon I watch for awhile :)




4 comments:

  1. Great post Lauren! I'm so happy you met a fellow injured runner to hang out with. I bet there are more on the sidelines than we know every time we toe the line. This sounds like a really great event! So thrilled for Mark! Salt tablets!
    Hope you are healing (physically and mentally ;-)). You WILL be back out there!
    Love and patience,
    Ang

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    1. So true Angie! I'm sure there are hundreds of injured runners along the streets of every marathon. I have such respect :) After some great chiropractic care, I'm starting back - tentatively - on Friday. Fingers crossed!

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