I kicked off my racing season with the Pittsburgh Marathon yesterday. It was my second marathon, but my first open marathon. My first marathon came on the heels of a 2.4 mile swim and a 112 mile bike ride last September at the Cedar Point Full Rev. Needless to say, I was wondering what I could do without having swum and biked prior to. In the Full Rev, I managed a 3:45. For Pittsburgh, I had a goal time of 3:30, but a gut feeling that I could go faster.
The weather was perfect! The morning started around 50 degrees with clear sunny skies. The city of Pittsburgh was beautiful. As I stood in Corral A (runners are assigned to corrals to start the race based on their estimated finishing time), I was admiring the beautiful morning amongst the skyscrapers. I looked directly overhead and saw one of two helicopters televising the event, hovering above. This was really cool! The 30,000 runners and 100,000 spectators were pumped!
|There I am..behind the guy.|
The race began at 7 am, and I eased into the first few miles behind a 3:20 pacer (this is a runner that paces participants to run a 3 hr 20 minute marathon. Even though my goal was 3:30, I thought, "what's the difference?" :) The first minor hickup came at mile 3 as we crossed the first bridge. As I crossed the mile 3 line, I looked down at my watch to check my mile split. For whatever reason, an official Race Timer was standing in the middle of the road with his back to the runners. The guy running next to me tried to warn me, but it was too late. Pow! I ran right into his back. Well, at least I know I don't have a glass jaw... I don't know what he was doing there, but thankfully no harm was done.
At mile 5, after passing a church choir in the North Side of Pittsburgh that came out to "sing-on" the runners, my legs felt good and my pace quickened. At this point, I was really just along for the ride. It was like peering out the car window as your mom or dad drove the car when you were a kid. My pace was comfortable and my legs were strong. Of course, this wouldn't last...
|Crossing one of the City's many bridges on the course.|
As we left the South Side and worked our way up Forbes Ave. into Oakland, it became evident to my body that this wasn't a joy-ride. However, the spectators and bands that lined much of the race course allowed my mind to wonder away from the task-at-hand from time-to-time. As I ran through Shadyside, I gave a quick hi-five to the mother of my good high school buddy, Dan McGinley. She had come out to watch and was as surprised to see me as I was to see her.
As we entered the streets of Homewood and Highland Park for miles 15-20, my legs were hurting. My knees, feet, quads, and calves disagreed with every step. It was time to really start winning the mental battle against the physical body. The hip-hop music that lined the streets of Homewood was encouraging, and I received a moment of relief as I "raised the roof" with one hand to a group of spectators dancing to the music. They returned the gesture, and I continued with a smile on my face.
My plan at this point was to get to mile 20 where my parents and one of my track athletes, Chris Ferari, would be. I knew their support would give me a boost. From there, it would be a 10k (6.2 miles) to the finish, and I kept hearing Oscar's (Oscar Shutt, my good friend, fellow teacher and coach, and great runner) voice in my head, "the marathon doesn't start until mile 20." I knew the last 10k would be the most grueling, but I also knew I could run a 10k. Oscar's other piece of advice was, "if you're feeling good at mile 20, try descending your splits over the final 6.2." I was determined to make this strategy a reality.
I saw my parents at mile 20 and gave my dad five as I went by. They ran down the street and caught me again a half-mile later. This was a big boost during the most difficult part of the race. I didn't see Chris anywhere, so I assumed he decided to sleep-in. I didn't blame him. However, a mile later and totally unexpected, Chris and his girlfriend, Zoe, were on the side of the street. Chris had a super-soaker and Zoe had a sign saying, "Go Ben." It was awesome! Chris soaked me and ran with me for about 100 yards giving me great encouragement. Chris is one of our best track athletes and the leader of the 4x100 relay that I coach. He and the others will put their speed to the test this week at the WPIAL Qualifiers and Team Championships.
The next mile leading back into the Strip District included a long downhill. This was welcomed even though it took a toll on my tired and sore legs. The downhill provided a chance for a fast split. At the bottom of the hill, Oscar had finished his half-marathon (1:18:45, WOW!) and was cheering on other runners. He gave me that final boost of encouragement that allowed me to push the final mile. I knew I was under 3:15 and wanted to keep it that way. The final streets leading to the finish were lined with spectators, and I crossed the finish line with a final time of 3:14:26.
Congratulations to everyone who ran this weekend. Most especially, Team Lebo (13 Mount Lebanon HS teachers that ran the full, half, or on a relay team), Jeremy Cornman (Ballou Skies teammate), and my cousin, Jake, who ran a 3:23:17 in his first marathon. The Pittsburgh Marathon was a success! Next up is the Edinboro Tri on June 1st in preparation for Eagleman 70.3 on June 9th.
Back Row: Oscar, Me, Mike Yazvac, Drew Haberberger, Ben Minnett, Josh Bilak
Front Row: Margaret Davidson, Shelly Saba, Heather Pessy, Veronica Coleman, Sherry Miller
|Relaxing with Luke watching the Pirate game after the race.|