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It is now a few hours after completing the 2017 Dick’s Sporting Goods Pittsburgh Marathon so I decided to put down some thoughts.

I signed up back in October with the long term goal of easing back into marathon training but with injury and weather, my plans went a little awry. However, with the help of Coach Anna Tunnicliffe Tobias and my CrossFit training (#bradletes), I re-adjusted my 3 goals and met 2 of them. So thank you.

The race itself went according to my plan. I started at a good pace, the one I had originally hoped for but I knew I wasn’t going to be able to maintain it. My strategy was to run to the 16 mile mark and then switch over to walk/run for specific time intervals; which I did. I did managed to run all the way up the hill from the Birmingham Bridge into Oakland about which I was very pleased. There were support runners running up and back down the hill to help encourage us participants to make it to the top. Can’t imagine how many times they ran that hill. Ugh! God bless them.

That hill was one of the milestones in my head that I had to beat in order to be able to finish the run. As it went well, I ran through Oakland, Shadyside, Homewood etc with more confidence, knowing that if I stuck to my plan, I would finish.

The next milestone for me was the relay exchange at mile 22. I forget where it is located but I remember last year, when I ran the relay, watching the ‘full’ runners coming through there with their heads down and really struggling. I needed to run through there with my head high in order for me to make it.

I did. All was good with the world. Though I do have to admit, I was struggling just a little by then. Conscious thought: left foot, right foot, 1,2,3,4……. All the way to 100 and then start again.

I love the downhill finish into Pittsburgh. Knowing that there is considerable loss in elevation after the incline as we turn on to Liberty Ave is a great motivator to get up the hill. And let’s face it, by the time you get to that point, it is less distance to keep going than turning around and going back the way you just came.

The neighbourhoods did their thing and came out to cheer for us. It was cold but they stuck with it, even the little kids. Always tried to ‘high five’ them if I could. They get so excited, it makes me smile and smiling is good running therapy.

Homewood/N Braddock area was amazing. They were so full of energy and encouragement, it was impossible not to smile, wave to them, say thank you for turning out in the cold, offering their own water and chopped orange stations. Other areas did that too but the vibes that came from these people were wonderful. Thank you.

The other group I have to really give a ‘shout out’ too were the small group of supporters just before the 22 mile mark. They were offering chopped oranges but then things got real. They had popsicles. Such a good way to hydrate when the last thing you really want to do is drink. By that time, lifting one’s water bottle to one’s lips is quite an effort.

A few of ‘funnies’ that happened on the way.

The weather was such that when running with the wind and the sun was shining, it was really warm. So much so that I had to take off my long sleeved shirt. I had made it a T2 shirt by applying a car sticker to the front of it. So when I took it off, I tied it around my waist with the T2 sticker showing; runners coming up behind me could see it. I had just crested the Birmingham Bridge/Oakland hill when a girl (running the relay) ‘sprinted’ past me and commented, “A bit longer than a WOD but you can do it.” Again, made me smile.

A little further down the road I heard, “Hey, Jo” and a big smile from Libby Jones (one of our members) as she ran past me. Thanks Libby, I picked up my pace for a little bit.

One of my favourite running tunes is “Chariots of Fire” and blow me, as I ran down Highland towards Bryant, there it was playing full blast. And further down, I heard “Flash Gordon”(?) by Queen, another of my running songs.

I passed the 26mile marker and decided to look at my watch to see my elapsed time. I had, probably, just over half a mile to go, and my watch said 4:25: and some seconds. I was so close to my 2nd goal. Could I keep going to the finish? Running along Smithfield to the Boulevard of the Allies seemed to take an eternity. It just didn’t seem to get any closer until, boom, it was there. I turned the corner and there was the finish line. I tried so hard to push just that little bit harder. I crossed the line with 4:30 on the clock, which was all I wanted. Then I got emotional. But I always do. I walked down the finish chute, collected my finisher’s medal (what a weight), collected Dole fruit cups, a banana, a bottle of water and thanked as many volunteers as I could – many of them had been there since very early this morning.

I collected my bag of dry clothes, changed shoes (have two blisters) and then hit up Starbucks. Oh my goodness, coffee and banana nut bread (absolutely not Paleo) never tasted so good.

Caught the T back home – nearly got on the wrong train – and listened to a couple of guys complaining about how the marathon really wrecked their day because they had to take the T rather than drive into and out of town. Ho hum. It’s not like they didn’t get any warning.

And then Paul was there to give me a huge hug when I got out of the car. Thank you Paul for being patient with me by humoring me and my whims. Love you. Also got licked to death by Ebba and Bella.

I wasn’t fast enough to qualify for Boston but I hadn’t even thought about it until I got home. But that’s OK. Wasn’t a goal.

I had something to prove to myself with this race. I can still do it; maybe not as fast as I used to be able but I am a little older than I was back then. I don’t have to beat myself up by running countless miles just to run 26.2 miles. With my strength training, CrossFit training and cross-training along with limited running, I can do it.

And yes, I am wearing my Skins USA recovery tights! Feeling better already.

Thanks for reading. And I know it’s not really Boating with Dogs but we will be soon.

Joanna

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