Injury: As I’ve perseverated on 800 million times now, my last month of training was scant due to glut med/trochanteric bursitis issues. I rehab-ed my butt off this month. Any runner will tell you about the blues that accompany getting sidelined right before your big event, and I was feeling that in a bad way. Come race week, I was feeling well-enough that I could make it to the start line, but also not totally healthy enough to be confident I wouldn’t get another injury.
My parents and grandfather were able to come to town! To be honest, knowing my family was coming was an added reason to show up at the start line. Pride and all that. I so desperately wanted to be able to share this marathon with them, injured or not.
I had two potato sacks of worry on my shoulders while walking through the expo. I had pictured this moment as full of excitement and hope for the race ahead. Bogged by injuries and suboptimal training, I wandered around the expo contemplating whether it was A) feasible and B) intelligent for me to still give this race a go. I bought the yokozuna, grandpa, and parents t-shirts to commemorate the event, and just couldn’t get excited about buying myself anything. After all, what if I was an inevitable DNF?
My dad immediately said he would use said shirt as a way to start a fire in the fireplace this winter. He obviously hearts Pittsburgh. #CINCYPRIDE or whatever. I’ve got plenty of room in my heart for both cities, for the record.
Pay, beg, or bribe a friend for a ride to the start line. I hitched a ride with a couple other residents, and was dropped off a mere block from the B corral. I gave my dad a quick squeeze, as he had wandered down to the start line in search of morning coffee, and hopped in the corral. Truly, I could have left the house at 6:45 and made it on time. Corral B was released in mini waves. I waited longer than anticipated, freezing my tail off, and prayed it wouldn’t rain.
Mile 1.5 > I’m surprised by the yokozuna + a bunch of my favorite humans cheering! Such a good surprise to see friends so early! My hips feel tight but nothing acute, I focus on keeping a nice slow pace and starting to enjoy the scenery as we wind into the North Side and around Allegheny City Commons. I run into Jessie and Gretchen, have an entirely natural conversation about the state of my butt (guys! we must meet for a drink), get a big old smile on my face and continue onward.
Mile 6 is when I normally settle into my groove, and the marathon was no exception. The sun (!!!) started to peek through the clouds, I was feeling warm and loose, and I felt full of joy when greeted with a beautiful view of the city from the mighty West End bridge. Cruising onto Carson was no big thing, I ran into Steff and gave her a side hug, as promised (this running community is so lucky to have you!) and carried on into party zone, the South Side. I strategically ran behind some dude with American flag-themed-everything and giggled down Carson at every “USA! USA” chant generated by the spectators. It was so goofy. If you’re not running a marathon with a big grin splattered across your face for at least 17 miles, you’re doing it wrong.
(After 17 though, all bets off),
While I had tackled the Forbes hill into Oakland several times without injury, I had yet to tame the beast post-setback. The Birmingham Bridge was a beautiful mile, we split from the half marathoners and I continued to feel strong and positive for the hill ahead. After the right turn off the bridge, I immediately noticed the “What the hill?” runners, jogging back and forth as encouragement for those of us making the trek upwards. What a blast. I high fived spectators, thanked the hill runners, gave a silent nod to the residents staffing the Oakland hospitals, and carried down Forbes without a second thought. Hill, accomplished.
Surprise! The yokozuna was waiting for me right before Schenley Plaza (he was zipping around the course by bike). I hugged ( / crashed into?) him, handed over my Ohio State jacket (had to represent for a bit!), and carried on. To the humans handing out Freeze-Pops just off of the CMU campus, GOD BLESS. That thing was money.
My family was nestled at the corner of S. Aiken and Walnut holding some serious signage! I gave each one a kiss, noted some mild cramping in both my feet, and continued on to Point Breeze/Homewood.
Heading down Penn into Homewood was a blast. I was tickled to find a few more friends on the course (Elana & Jeremy! You guys da best!) Homewood was as fun as everyone says it is, with dance parties, greyhounds and tons of friendly faces. Miles 17 and 18 brought the beginnings of hamstring, calf and foot cramps, and hip and knee pain. The unrelenting hills were only furthering my discomfort, but I tried to continue with high fives, thank yous to the volunteers, and a positive attitude through Highland Park.
Marathon brain really kicked in around Mile 20. I remember running through Friendship’s “festival” and being thankful for a sprinkler dousing runners. I remember finding my chief/residency mom and commiserating about hip and knee pain for a stretch.
I remember coasting down Liberty and seeing the best cheer squad a girl could ask for.
I remember thinking the flat stretch of Liberty through the Strip would never end. I remember thinking I’d need a butt amputation. I remember seeing my family at Mile 25. I remember seeing the finish line and thinking “don’t trip, and don’t cramp.” And then, it was finished!
Pain level: Fo’ real.
Joy: Off the charts
While it wasn’t the time I trained for and know I’m capable of, I had an absolute blast. The sun was shining, I saw all my favorite people, and literally smiled through 26.2 miles of Pittsburgh streets (hills). I am beyond grateful for this journey, for the friends and family who made it possible, and for a strong body capable of things like surviving residency and running a marathon.
More than anything, know that we can do hard things.