Race Report- 2022 Dick’s Sporting Goods Pittsburgh Marathon

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“The year racing returned” continued in Pittsburgh, PA this past weekend with the return of the Pittsburgh Marathon, a weekend long celebration of road racing in the City of Three Rivers. The race organizers, P3R, presented a wide variety of events to engage the local community and visitors alike.

From registration to the Expo through the finish-line festival, P3R provided a solid and fun race experience for all participants and spectators.

The relationships between P3R and their race sponsors was evident throughout. In the runup to race weekend, there were raffles for free running shoes from Brooks and Dick’s Sporting Goods. There were free chicken sandwiches from Chick Fil A (the title sponsor for the kid’s race), health screenings from UPMC  as well as beer samples from IC LIght at the Expo,  and multiple local gyms had free workout classes on offer. The packet pickup process was extremely easy to navigate, and I was even able to exchange my race t-shirt to a size that fit.

The course was well-marked and in good condition. The fluid and aid stations would have benefited from more prominent signage and better training for the volunteers- especially in the first half of the course where the volume of runners obscure the stations. Otherwise, stations were well-stocked and frequent enough to support the participants.

On Saturday, 15,000 people participated in the festival-like atmosphere of a 5K, Toddler Trot, Kids Marathon, and Pet Walk. The weather was perfect, with sunny skies and mild temperatures. My hotel room overlooked the Andy Warhol bridge- one of four of Pittsburgh’s iconic bridges to be featured in the weekend’s racing. I enjoyed my morning coffee while watching the 5K from my window. Then, I suited up for a shakeout run and ran out to watch the participants in the Kid’s Marathon (one mile run) cross the same bridge. The kids were so much fun to watch, I briefly considered adopting their “sprint for 50 meters at a time” pacing strategy for my own race.

The main event on Sunday included a 26.2-mile full marathon, a 13.1-mile half marathon, and for the first time, a “back-half marathon” for a limited number of fundraisers. About 17,000 people participated across these events. The organizers gathered a small but impressive elite field for the half-marathon that included running luminaries such as Caroline Rotich, Aliphine Tuliamuk, and Sarah Sellers representing the podium in the women’s competition. Wesley Kiptoo, James Ngandu, and Jared Ward rounded out the men’s podium.

The corrals were grouped by pace and mixed by event, which made for a fun combination of energy and nervousness leading to the starting gun. The weather on Sunday was markedly different than the celebration on Saturday, with the rain starting just as I checked into my corral, continuing for the next 10 miles, and reappearing sporadically (and epically) throughout. As runners, we sometimes like to blame the race organizers for not sacrificing enough to the weather gods to ensure perfect running conditions. If that is the case, I also have to give P3R credit for providing a fantastic rainbow just as I crested the 16th Street Bridge over the Allegheny, the first of the three rivers I would traverse in my 26.2-mile journey through 14 of Pittsburgh’s neighborhoods. About 4 ½ miles into the race I found that I had caught up to my wife and primary training partner, Sharon. We spent the next 8 miles running together in the rain, which was probably the most fun I’ve ever had in a race. We crossed the Ohio River on the West End Bridge to go from the North Side to the South Side of Pittsburgh at mile 7. At mile 11, crossing the Monongahela River on the Birmingham Bridge, we left the half-marathoners and the flat part of the course behind.

The second half of the marathon course in Pittsburgh is HILLY. The run from “The Mon” into Oakland is a steep ¾ mile grind that is difficult enough that teams of volunteers run up and down the slope to encourage racers along. My hill training on the treadmill all winter in anticipation of this hill paid off as I crested the top with a great view of the Cathedral of Learning at the University of Pittsburgh. Sharon and I attended college at Pitt, and we were looking forward to running through campus. Unfortunately, Pitt’s graduation occurred the day before, and the students were gone, and Oakland was desolate.

The negative energy of the empty campus streets was, thankfully, temporary. There were many highlights on the course to bring us back to happy racing. There were live bands playing every few miles along the route– mostly classic rock; and notably– one polka band and one death metal band. At one point, there was even a band rocking out near the pumps under a gas station canopy. The volunteers and spectators who came out and withstood the weather were inspiring the entire day. There were not one, but two separate women on megaphones making up marathon-themed lyrics to popular songs. A special shout out goes to the aid station in Homewood- you guys BROUGHT IT! All runners received a boost at the Greyhound Mile, a section of the course at mile 18 where runners can “high-four” and run with retired greyhounds cared for by volunteers from Steel City Greyhounds.

When you start thinking about spring races for next year, the Pittsburgh Marathon should figure prominently in your planning. P3R provides a great event in a great city that is especially fun for running families. I’ll close with a mention of one additional sponsor for the 2022 Pittsburgh Marathon- Magee Women’s Research Institute and Foundation, the sponsor of the PR bell, which I got to ring. Racing is definitely back in 2022!

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While Todd was a swimmer throughout childhood, he led a mostly sedentary, career-focused adulthood until the age of 45, when he fell in with a crowd of triathletes, runners and cyclists. Under their influence, Todd embraced the adventure that is endurance sports, completing his first full distance Ironman race in 2019. When not obsessively poring over his data on Strava and Training Peaks, Todd can be found in the kitchen cooking food to fuel athletic endeavors for him and his wife Sharon, also a runner. Oh, and can't forget the cat.

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