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.


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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Running a Marathon Explained by New Girl (GIFS)

Hello readers! Since the Pittsburgh Marathon is quickly approaching, I decided to create a post filled with GIF images from New Girl describing what it’s like training for / running a marathon. I hope this post brings you laughter!

When you finish that final long run:

New Girl Dancing GIF-source

When you’re halfway through the taper:

Big Brother S GIF-source

When you start carb loading during race week:

New Girl Pizza GIF-source

When you’re at the expo and want all the things:

Fox Sunglasses GIF by New Girl-downsized_large

When your alarm goes off at an ungodly hour on race morning:

Phil Dale GIF-source

When you use the porta potty:

New Girl Stuff I Made GIF-source

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Why do you run?

Hello readers! For my April blog post as a Pittsburgh Marathon blogger, I wanted to do something different. Looking back at some of my posts, I’ve explained why I started running and continue to do so. I decided to do a little project and ask my fellow running friends whom are participating in the Pittsburgh Marathon events why they run. Here we go!

Morgan Manko


I run because it heals me.

I never gave running a chance until I was about 18-years-old and my father managed to convince me to try a 5k with him. I hated every second of it and finished with a less than satisfactory time of 45 minutes and 32 seconds. I was content for that to be my first and only race, and for some time, it was. Fast forward to about 2 years later and I had just gone through a rather difficult breakup. I didn’t really know what to do with myself, but I figured a walk would help me clear my head. A walk turned into a jog, a jog turned into a run, and after about 30 minutes, I was 2 1/2 miles away from home and winded, but I felt fantastic. So began my running career. I signed up for a few 5ks, followed by a few 10ks, followed by my first Pittsburgh Half-Marathon in 2010, and eventually my first Pittsburgh full Marathon the following year in 2011.

I continued to grow, and learn, and get faster. I signed up for more races, including the Pittsburgh Marathon every year. And then life took an unexpected and rather difficult turn in the early spring of 2014. I was diagnosed with cervical cancer and found my time consumed with hospital visits and radiation treatments. I was too weak and too tired to run casually, let alone motivate myself to try for a few races. But, I was lucky, I got better, I got stronger, and I went into remission almost 2 years after I had been initially diagnosed. I started walking, I started jogging, and eventually I started running again. 2016 was my big return to running in the Pittsburgh Marathon, and I managed to earn my best time with my father and husband driving around cheering for me at different mile points.

My reason for running has always been one of healing. Running has helped me get over heartache, it has helped me let go of the past, it has helped me see my own strength. Running has helped me prove to myself that no matter what, I am capable and running has also given me the strength I thought cancer took away. Running healed me, in different ways at different times, but it is why I continue to hit the trails every day, and it is why I will be competing once again in the Pittsburgh Marathon this spring.

Carla Johnson

BCHM 2017

I run because it’s my happy place.

I started to run after I lost 100 pounds in 2008. It wasn’t very much. I would run 3 to 5 miles 3 to 4 days per week as a way to lose more weight. I did this for probably 2 years until May of 2010 when I ran my first 5k that was held by the YMCA I belonged to. I ended up joining a new gym a few months after my first 5k and pushed myself to take different fitness classes. One of the spin instructors would see me run on the treadmill and she would always tell me I should run a half marathon. I always gave her some excuse saying that I don’t have time to train. One day, I finally gave in and I signed up to do the Pittsburgh Half Marathon in 2013. After that day, I was hooked and signed up to do a fall half marathon that same year. This year, I will be doing my 12th half marathon and I do have the goal to complete a full marathon one day.

I have learned and gained so much from running. In the fall of 2015, I joined the Steel City Road Runners. My first run with them was for the marathon kick off in 2016. I wish I would have joined earlier because I have made so many friends and learned so much about running. I have realized that running is my happy place. After I run, I feel good about myself and that I can accomplish anything I set my mind to. I have good and bad races, but I look at it as doing something people don’t have the courage to do. Most recently, I have set out to get down to my goal weight. I started losing weight in 2004 and was down to a 150 pound loss in 2014. I gained some weight back, and I am in the process of getting back down to my lowest weight. This year, I am going to the 5K and half marathon to complete the Steel Challenge for the third year in a row. I have also become a pacer for the Steel City Road Runners. I enjoy having fun and keeping my group motivated during runs.

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Race Day Tips!

For those of us training for Pittsburgh, you’re probably more than half way done with your program or close to it. Regardless, I’m here to discuss race day tips/advice to help you get to the finish line. But how exciting is it that we’re less than 2 months away from the big event?! If you have yet to register for one of their Sunday races and have been thinking about doing so, you still have time! You can use code CROUCHDSGPM18 to receive $10 off of registration for the relay, half or full! Code expires on 3/31!


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I can’t stress this enough! It’s going to be very tempting to go to the expo, purchase something and then want to wear or use it on race day. NO! NO! NO! Save it for another time. This is part of the reason why we do long runs. These runs are essentially dress rehearsals for multiple components (clothing, gear, nutrition etc.). There’s nothing worse than racing only to realize that your new clothes are causing chaffing or your new nutrition is causing GI distress. Unfortunately, running gear can sometimes be a gamble, so be sure to question return policies. For instance, I’ve purchased a hydration belt and quickly figured out how much I disliked it due to excessive bouncing, etc. Now, I only run with either a handheld bottle or a hydration pack. It’s all about trial and error, and race day is not the time for such thing.


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Please, please, please do this! There’s nothing worse than scrambling around your house in the morning, half asleep, only to realize you can’t find an item as simple as the pair of socks you planned on wearing. It’s even worse when nerves and excitement are already occupying your mind. Something like this shouldn’t be a reason for derailing your entire morning, but imagine forgetting your nutrition, phone or something even more important. And well…if you’re anything like me, you’ll probably still forget a key piece of gear. I forgot my running watch for my first marathon (facepalm). I had a huge meltdown in the parking garage (yes, it took me that long to notice). However, it ended up being a blessing because I didn’t have the option to stress about the numbers on my watch face. BUT, I don’t want this happening to you if it doesn’t have to! Now, I lay my stuff out and triple check everything to make sure nothing is missing!

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The Gift of Running

The day I put on my first pair of running shoes, my life changed. I’m forever grateful that I took a chance with myself. Despite the awkward tan lines, black toenails and chaffing, the amazing gifts running has given me make the not-so-pretty moments worth it.


Around the age of 10, I started putting on a lot of weight year after year until I weighed 230 lbs as a teenager. Food was my only comfort in life, but was realistically a slow form of suicide. In January 2009, I decided to begin watching The Biggest Loser. By the end of the season, something clicked. I was just 20 years old and not living life as fully as I had yearned for. I needed more out of life, so I made the decision to begin my weight loss journey in early April of that same year. After naturally losing a significant amount of weight in a year’s time, I started heading into the opposite direction due to the fear of gaining and not knowing how to maintain my new body. I ultimately ended up with a full blown eating disorder and chained myself to the scale. At just 106 lbs., I was eating around 800 calories per day, punished myself with exercise for eating something “bad“, got into arguments over food and nearly blacked out on several occasions. Food was no longer comforting; I was afraid of food. I was in complete denial until a family member expressed her concern. Then, I met a runner in late 2010 and everything changed. It took some time to spark my curiosity, but once I started, I never looked back. It wasn’t long before I had to relearn what real food was and why I needed it, especially for distance running. Eventually, my chains shattered, and gone were the days I obsessed about food and my weight. Long story short…running saved my life.


Depression and other mental illnesses run highly in my family, so it came to no surprise that I ended up with depression myself. My teenage years were the worst; I was a walking billboard for the hopeless. Depression robs you of your happiness until you’re just an empty shell. It’s an “I’m lonely even when surrounded by people” feeling. It’s an “I’m in a deep hole with no ladder” feeling. It’s an “I feel nothing at all” feeling. I think a lot of us are afraid to discuss our mental health because of the unfortunate stigma placed against it. Maintaining a good mental health is just as important as your physical health. I wish it were as easy as smiling more or changing my thoughts, but I can’t reconfigure my brain chemistry. I can, however, cope differently. That’s where running comes into play for me. I use running as a tool, a form of therapy if you will. It honestly wasn’t until I contracted Lyme disease and had to take a hiatus for an unforeseen amount of time that I realized how much running helped. It’s easy to get carried away in our everyday lives, and running allows me to take a step back and connect with myself. When I first started running, it felt like I was finally arriving to my own life, and my sense of purpose had been born. Some may think I’m running away from my problems, but I feel like I’m always running towards something better.

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