You Never Forget Your First

First moments – they are equal parts exciting and scary. You never forget your first kiss, your first love or your first heartbreak. Life is full of firsts. As a runner, you never forget your first taste of the coveted runner’s high, your first finish line or your first marathon. I was never athletic growing up. In fact, I was quite the opposite. I was winded playing tag with my cousin and our childhood friends. I cut corners in gym class when the gym teacher wasn’t looking. I secretly hated running. It made me feel weak and inferior to my peers.

Then, something happened in late 2010 following my success with weight loss. I met a runner. They say people come into your life for a reason. It’s true. He was an avid runner who primarily ran marathons and ultra marathons. At first, I thought he was insane. Who runs for fun, I thought? Let alone 26.2+ miles? I associated running with painful memories. But, the longer I knew this person and the more he talked about running, I became curious. What was this “runner’s high” he was talking about? Why did he put so much effort into running? I needed to figure it out for myself. So, I started running in January 2011.

It was a slow process. It was a couple of minutes at a time on the treadmill. The first time I ran 10 minutes straight left me speechless. Who was this person I was becoming? Months went by and this person convinced me to sign up for my first race in April 2011 – the Mount Summit Challenge. It was a 3.5 uphill race. It probably wasn’t the best race to choose for my first race, but I signed up anyway. I finished the race and was instantly hooked. I. WANTED. MORE.

But how much more? On May 15, 2011, I spectated the Pittsburgh Marathon. I was so moved that morning, I went home and ran 13.1 miles which ended with me crying in front of my house because I was so proud. My previous distance record was 6 miles. This is not something I’d recommend anyone doing, but I was exploding with inspiration. This is the day I decided I wanted to run a full marathon.

I dove into distance running headfirst. I put in the work for days, weeks…months. My progress went from slow to fast. In the summer of 2011, I was consistently banging out 18 milers every single weekend. I wasn’t training for anything. I just loved running. I’m surprised I didn’t end up injured for as quickly as I had increased my mileage. Fall was suddenly upon me, and registration for the 2012 Dick’s Sporting Goods Pittsburgh Marathon had opened. And after spectating the race just several months prior, I knew I wanted to be a part of it the following year. I jumped on the opportunity and registered. I joined the Steel City Road Runners club, which was new at the time, in order to find others to train with. Once January 2012 rolled around, it was time to start training. I had never trained in the snow, ice and bitter cold before, so it was an interesting learning process. But before I knew it, I was at the starting line of the Pittsburgh Marathon on May 6, 2012.

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I’ll never forget the atmosphere. You could literally feel it – the excitement, the nerves and pretty much any emotion you can imagine. I knew my life was about to change.

There I was standing within starting corral C among thousands of other runners about to embark on the same journey, but for a million different reasons. I, for one, was chasing my fears. Then, the echoes of the National Anthem made its way throughout the streets and into our ears, instantly giving me chills from head to toe. In that moment, it was when I knew I was right where I had always belonged.

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The corrals were made up of an ocean of people wearing neon colors as far as the eye could see. I was lined up with the 4:10 pacer – my B goal. My A goal was to finish because REAL TALK, I had no clue what awaited me out there. Moments later, I crossed the start line. It was the end of what I had worked so hard for, but the beginning of so much more.

The first few miles were unforgettable. The streets were filled with smiling faces and handmade signs. The sounds that rushed into my ears were comprised of cheering, clapping and cowbells – a melody of praise and encouragement.

I’ll never forget approaching the 12 mile mark and seeing the marathoners and half marathoners split. That’s when it truly hit me; I was running a freaking marathon! This moment was no longer a dream. It finally became my reality after months of early wake up calls, bone chilling cold mornings and times when I questioned my sanity.

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Pittsburgh Marathon Weekend: Part 2

I woke up suppperrrr early on Sunday…I think around 3:45 in the morning. I wanted to make sure I left my house no later than 4:15 to get to the David L. Lawrence Convention Center parking garage before streets began to close. Last year, I ran into problems because roads closed much sooner than they were supposed to, so I couldn’t get to the garage I planned on parking in. This year, I made it with no issues at all, so I was very very grateful for that! I gathered my stuff and made the quick walk over to the Westin for the SCRR pre-race lounge – one of the best perks of being a SCRR member.

When I made my way to the lounge, I set my stuff down, grabbed a bagel with jelly and forced myself to eat.

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Eating before a big race is difficult for me. My stomach is usually upset because of nerves, so I have to force myself to eat because it’s necessary. Once my friends started showing up, I perked up and was able to relax my brain. When it was time to leave the Westin and head to the start line, keeping track of my friends was a lot like trying to herd a bunch of cats. Every time I turned around, someone else disappeared. Normally it wouldn’t matter much, but we wanted to cross the start line together. Eventually, we all got together for a few group photos and made our entry into Coral D.

We were in the corals for maybe 30 minutes after the gun went off.

Just before crossing the initial timing mat, our group chanted “WHO RUNS? WE RUN?” It’s been a tradition over this training cycle, so it was a must! I went into this marathon with the mindset that it was a training run, so I had absolutely no time goal in mind. The first few miles are always a blur because they are filled with so much excitement! I do remember having terrible left knee pain that literally came out of nowhere, Abbie running over to her hubby in the North Shore and Carla screaming “BALLS” several times. If you know Carla, that will not come as a surprise.

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Pittsburgh Marathon Weekend: Part 3

Okay, finally – I’m writing my race recap for the Pittsburgh Marathon!

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My annual Instagram countdown!

I painstakingly woke up at 4 AM after getting mayyyybeeee 2 hours of sleep. But it was time to make the donuts! I got ready and then headed to pick up Ashley so we could make our way downtown. The Steel City Road Runners have a WONDERFUL perk for being a member. We have the luxury of meeting inside the Westin Convention Center, where we have food and drinks, real bathrooms and a place to sit. I left my house around the same time as I usually do, so I figured everything would go smoothly in terms of parking.

WRONG.

We made it downtown rather quickly (5:15 AM), and we had just 2 more turns before we arrived at the garage. The road we needed to take was already blocked. Last year, I didn’t have any problems. We tried to ask a cop for help, but she was very condescending and basically said “I don’t know what to tell you.” At this point, I was shaking between being nervous about the race and also not knowing where to park. I was on the verge of tears when we came across another police officer in the midst of our 2nd U-turn, and he told us the roads closed earlier than anticipated. He advised us that the only way to get to the convention center was to get back on the parkway. There was absolutely NO WAY I was going to leave the city. I thanked him for his help and then frantically drove around in circles until we found a sketchy garage in an alleyway. The garage was steamy, dusty and there were several bicycles in the corner that clearly hadn’t been touched in years. We couldn’t even figure out the correct way to exit as pedestrians, so we left via the non-pedestrian ramp; we came across another runner who had the same problem!

After fussing with our dollar store ponchos, we walked to the Westin, and I found my group of friends whom I’ve been training with for months. I grabbed a plain bagel with jelly and tried to eat it without dry heaving. My nerves were definitely getting the best of me. After using the bathroom, everyone went outside to take our annual group photo, where we almost got plowed down by a driver who was either blind or a total psychopath. He literally tried to drive through us. Perhaps he couldn’t see the GIANT chain link fence behind us either.

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Annual SCRR group photo!

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Pittsburgh Marathon Weekend: Part 2

I woke up around 6:30 AM to get ready for the 5K. I love running the 5K because it’s fun and a great opportunity to do a shakeout run for the next day. This race was my 1st official 5K, following the 3.5 mile uphill challenge in April 2011 (Mt. Summit Challenge). I’ve also run the 5K in 2012, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017 and now 2018. I’m so glad P3R decided to create a challenge (Steel Challenge) for those who want to participate in both races and/or love extra bling!

The 5K starts in the heart of the North Shore, near Heinz Field. This 5K is memorable because you get a small taste of the half/full marathon route and finish line. It also brings people of ALL ages together to get outside and be active as a family! It’s wonderful!

The Steel City Road Runners are the official pacers for the race, so it’s cool to personally know the team. Lining up with a pacer keeps me from getting excited and running too fast, which is easy for me to do. I normally run with pacer Sanchez, and this year was no different! He’s good at entertaining the crowd; that’s for sure.

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He was the 11:00 minute per mile pacer, which is a far cry from my usual 5K “all-out” race pace. It worked out good! I finished with a 10:59 average (34:03) for this race! Thank you Sanchez for the laughs and perfect pacing!

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Pittsburgh Marathon Weekend: Part 1

Hello readers! I hope my fellow Pittsburgh Marathon event participants are still riding that high from this past weekend! This year, for me, was a special one! I was one of the official bloggers for the marathon, so it was a lot of fun to be more involved than I have ever been as a participant for the last 7 years. I truly enjoyed my experience as a blogger and hope to have the opportunity next year! If I was able to inspire just one person to sign up for any of their races or help them cross the finish line, I’ve done my job!

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The 2018 blogger team!

A couple of weeks ago, I received an invitation for a VIP event: a party for the behind-the-scenes folks, elite runners, bloggers etc. It was held on Friday, the 4th, which was also the opening day of the GNC Live Well Pittsburgh Health & Fitness Expo! I took the day off from work, so I was able to head downtown early to listen in on the press conference and watch the ribbon cutting ceremony. The last time I was able to attend was in 2012!

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Ribbon cutting!

After that was all said and done, I started making my necessary rounds throughout the expo before the general public was allowed inside.

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I loved that the carpet looked like a road!

It was VERY nice being able to grab everything I needed without waiting in any significant lines. I, for the 4th year, participated in the Steel Challenge, so between the multiple goodie bags, shirts, pint glasses/tumbler, I felt like I needed a suitcase to be able to maneuver around the various vendors. Once I got my life together, I did some shopping, chatted with friends and called it a day! I didn’t do too much damage to my wallet this year – 4RUN2 sweat shirt, 48.6 keychain, a runner of steel buff and a couple of magnets/stickers. I also got to pick up the shirt I won from Brag Swag on Instagram! I went home, but not for long, because I had to get ready and head back downtown for the VIP event.

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