Race Recap: 2015 Pittsburgh Half Marathon

My Pittsburgh Half Marathon experience didn’t go quite as expected. While I never stated a goal other than wanting to run the Pittsburgh Half Marathon, I hoped to run well. I didn’t think I would PR and beat my 2014 Columbus Half Marathon time, but I thought I might come in between my 2013 Columbus Half Marathon and my 2013 Cleveland Half Marathon. Cleveland was my first and, prior to this race, my slowest.

When I checked the weather at 5:20 as we prepared to leave the Omni William Penn for the VIP Start Area at the Westin, the temperature was already 54 degrees. I should have known. I should have realized what that meant for my run. I should have taken the whole morning very conservatively.

But hindsight is 20/20, I suppose.

Race Recap: 2015 Pittsburgh Half Marathon

Miles 1-2: I ran these two as a “warm up” with my husband as he hoped to pace between 10:30-11:00

Miles 3-4: I ran too fast, but hear me out. After I left my husband, I felt good. I felt great. Everything you hope to feel for race day I felt. My goal was to find the 2:10 pace team, but it was going to be a hard find as they started ahead of us in the corral and we’d been pacing slower the first two miles. But I caught ’em. I then slowed into their pace and planned on sticking with them for the duration of the race. I grabbed a water at 3.6 miles, managing to choke-jog through the fluid station without much issue.

Miles 5-6: I ran with the 2:10 pace team without much issue. Both miles paced at exactly 9:51, and I felt great. I grabbed a Gatorade and a water at mile 6.1. I started to take note of the heat, but still felt strong.

Mile 7: Up the West End Bridge, I fell off the 2:10 pace team just a bit. I took notice that the sun was really starting to beat down, but once up into the West End, the shade cooled me down. I came out and around the bend toward Station Square…

Mile 8: …and my wheels just didn’t fall off; they exploded. The sun was relentless coming down into Station Square. I ended up walking for a bit, doing some math, and realizing that not only would I fail to PR but I ran a big risk of running my slowest half marathon ever. Then I cried for a bit. Then I ran for a bit. I walked through the mile 8 fluid station. I thought about pulling my phone out and canceling my full marathon registration for Columbus in October. I felt like I disappointed everyone, including myself.

Mile 9: I attempted to run a bit, walk a bit, but I was still too overheated for much progress. I started to get cold chills. My ears started the throbbing thing. And, whoa, my hands started to swell—not just a little bit, but painfully so. And then! My husband caught up with me. At least he caught up with me during a section that I was attempting to run again, but I felt so embarrassed. And then I felt even worse. I sent him on ahead, returned to walking, and cried a bit more. I finished up the mile with a run section and a stop at the fluid station at 9.9. I went with two Gatorades, three cups of water to drink, and two cups of water over my shoulders/front/back.

Mile 10: I started to cool down a bit due to the extra water, so I went back to running. Very slowly. Shortly before the water station at 10.6, I ran into BurghBaby, 3Weasels, Mila, and Alexis. I spotted them before they spotted me, but I knew they would be hanging out round about that location. I stopped for a brief moment to show them my sausage fingers and give hugs. They reassured me I could do it, and while I didn’t quite believe them at the time, I ran off anyway. I walked the water station and continued running.

Mile 11: You know, the Birmingham Bridge is a Jagoff. I saw a sign right before we crossed it that read, “I got 99 problems but a bridge ain’t one.” FOR REAL. Anyway, I ran most of the way to the top, walking for a series of steps when the sun felt like it was too much for me, and resuming when I felt okay. As we crossed the top and started down the other side, two EMS officials were helping a downed woman. They already had an IV in and were giving her fluids. It was at this point that I started to realize my walk breaks weren’t the worst thing in the world.

Mile 12: Uphill. I staggered walking with running up the hill. I struggled a little, but I knew that taking it easy was the only way to survive the still rising temps. A young group of happy marathon spectators offered free beer to runners at this point, but I decided I would throw up five feet from drinking one and opted not to accept. Bummer. Instead, I just hit the water station at 12.2 and repeated the drinking and pouring.

Mile 13 and Point 1: After cresting the seemingly un-ending but not-as-steep-as-the-marathon-course uphill, the finish line was immediately visible. As I headed toward the finish line, I made a choice to speed up just a little but not too much. I picked a point in which I would then surge to the finish. I crossed the finish line strong and a bit overheated, but cooler thanks to the water I chose to pour at the last two water stations.

Time: 2:27:00

I walked through the amazingly secure and organized finisher’s chute very slowly. I accepted Gatorade, water, a banana, and a Smiley Cookie. I saved the cookie for my kids, but consumed the rest myself.

As I accepted my medal, I thought about how hard I fought for that medal. The winter of doom training. The long hours away from my kids. I thought about the hard year I had; the loss, the challenges, the surgery, the difficulty. I thought about the people who supported me through all of that, the ones who donated to my race, the ones who held me up when I couldn’t hold myself up, the ones who believed in me.

And I deemed the race a success.

I went and changed, ate a little something, and charged my phone in the VIP Experience lounge. Then I went to wait for my husband at the finish line. His shared location through our iPhones had him pinging all the way to Shaler, so it was hard to know exactly when he’d be coming across the finish line, but I timed it pretty close. Thankfully I had a little extra time, because I realized I left our car key, which I’d carried in my running skirt, in the VIP bathroom. When I went to find it, I found Kim, but not my key. The front desk had it, however, and I still made it back to the finish line to meet my husband.

What’s the first thing he said when he finished his first full marathon?

“I don’t know how you did that.” And he hugged me hard and tight. And I cried some more, but tears of pride. For him. For me. For us both. I felt so full of pride I could burst.

Race Recap: 2015 Pittsburgh Half Marathon

I got him into the Wyndham, bought him a beer, got him some food, and sent him off to change. After heading out of Pittsburgh via Ohio River Boulevard (no 376/Green Tree detour! no traffic!), we spent the rest of the day at The Farm with friends and family, celebrating the finishing of two big races, my birthday that just passed and my husband’s which is about to arrive.

Race Recap: 2015 Pittsburgh Half Marathon
Hot tub and a drink? Yes, please!

Today I worked, picked up the dog, helped out at LittleBrother’s baseball practice, and ran a recovery mile in the rain. Tomorrow is another day, another chance to run my own race.

I want to thank Our Clubhouse PA for the work they do for families dealing with cancer, P3R for the great event and for having me again as an Official Pittsburgh Marathon blogger, my friends and family for their support, and my husband for training with me, pushing me to be my best, and loving me like whoa.

Will I run another Pittsburgh Half? I guess we’ll see! Or, as they say, #GameOnPGH!


Please check out the rest of the Official Pittsburgh Marathon Bloggers to see how their races went.


15 replies on “Race Recap: 2015 Pittsburgh Half Marathon”

Ahhh!! I am bumming big time. I was with the 2:10 pacers around the same time and fell off around the same time. Walked a lot the last 4 miles and finished 2:26. Not the race I wanted but it was HOT!! Sad I was so close and missed you. Way to stick it out though. Proud of you and happy I got to see you for a bit this weekend!

Oh man. If I would have seen you, we could have run the second half together. What a HOT day. Sending my love to you–and it was good to see you! We need to work on more in 2015!

I’m giving you my stern “stop being a jerk to yourself” face. YOU FINISHED. That’s pretty amazing. It’s especially amazing because the Jenna I first met years ago couldn’t have done that.

Good job, you. You did amazing.

I felt the same way on Sunday…I started out feeling fine and somewhere around mile six taking walk breaks and just feeling off. I ran the full last year and was not ready for those last few hills on the half course; one woman at that beer stop was so encouraging and really got me up that hill! I think I just need to get used to hot weather running again and adjust pace accordingly. Great job to you for gutting it out and finishing and congratulations to your husband on his first marathon!

I’m going to give a second serving of what BurghBaby said. So that! Plus…

No runner – NOT A ONE – PRs every single time. There’s always a better run in us and there’s always a worse. The more you run, the more you’ll do better and not as good. That’s normal. That’s RIGHT. That’s the way it goes.

You knew when you started that you probably wouldn’t PR. You know that you wouldn’t do as well as before. And still, you lined up. You put one foot in front of the other. You kept going. You didn’t quit. You ran your own race.

That’s harder than getting a new PR. That’s harder than all the training. That is the strength of a runner—the strength of finishing even though you know you aren’t better than before.

Be proud of you. You earned that finish.

jenna, this just made me cry: “And I deemed the race a success.”
i wrote this heartfelt long comment about rock stars have nothing on you and then i fucked up so your blog ate the comment, but basically, YOU DID IT! i am so thrilled for you that you know what a huge accomplishment experienced. you stuck with it and pushed through the struggles and did not give up and you did what had to be done in order to you to cross the finish line. that is incredible! YOU are incredible! my heart is so happy that you fought the negative voices and kept going.
sometimes i think it sounds condescending when i say i am proud of someone because who the hell am i, but dude, i am crazy proud of you in the most not condescending way. YOU DID IT, regardless it taking more time on sunday than you really wanted it to. YOU DID IT! congratulations!

I’ve only run two, but that last November one in the freezing snow when I both overheated and froze was so awful … but remembering how hard that one was made me thankful every single time I run and it is beautiful outside. I’m glad you did it, I’m glad you finished and I’m glad you deemed it a success — I know how hard it is because you are so so goal-oriented (raises hand), and it’s important for people like us to have some good-enoughs. ONWARD!

Like you I am incredibly sensitive to the heat. You stuck it out. You finished. YOU. ARE. AWESOME.

Oh, Jenna. Reading this was like going through my own experience again. The only difference is that I started struggling early on, but yes, coming out of the West End onto Carson was *exactly* where my own wheels came off. Same story for me–a lot of walking (more than any other race except my very first half), a lot of misery, a lot of feeling like I was failing myself and everyone else. But I will say that getting to the finish line was that much sweeter because all my goals changed to just wanting to finish. It was a hard-fought race, for sure. Congratulations!!! And congrats also to your husband for completing his first full!

It seems like a lot of people had problems on early on. It was so unfair that we didn’t have at least a few weeks to acclimate to the warmer weather. Hot tub looks awesome! Would have felt great last week.

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