Race Recap: The Time the Facebook Algorithm Made Me Run the Pittsburgh Marathon Relay

I opened Facebook on Wednesday, likely to do something for work. That’s the problem with working in social media: the Facebook brings the shiny on the regular. A friend of mine from college posted an update asking for a runner to join their Pittsburgh Marathon Relay Team as another runner dropped out. Actually, she didn’t drop out. She ghosted them. She just stopped replying to anything they sent. Not cool.

I pulled myself from the Toledo Marathon, which took place last weekend, because of a knee injury. My knee injury was healed and I like running as much as the next runner, so I told her if they didn’t find someone by Friday, I’d run. Then I remembered I’d previously scheduled a LuLaRoe pop-up boutique for Sunday. I immediately told them about my previous engagement and pouted for the rest of the night.

On Friday night, my Sunday party host canceled her party and I immediately sent my friend Amanda a message to see if they’d found a runner yet. Nope! I called my mom to confirm she could watch the kids while I ran. She could. And so, it was final: I became a sub on their Pittsburgh Marathon Relay Team.

I ran the Pittsburgh Full Marathon in 2014 and the Pittsburgh Half Marathon in 2015. I’d wanted to run the Pittsburgh Marathon Relay, but I’d never had the gumption to form a team. I don’t really want to run with my husband and his firefighter friends because they pace way faster than me. So being tossed into a team like this, especially one running for Cystic Fibrosis, felt like a little bit of “meant to be.”

Mom woke me up at 3:30 on Sunday morning. I drank some coffee, got dressed, side braided the front of my hair, and drove downtown. No traffic. Liberty Avenue closed at 2:30 AM, so I took Ft. Duquesne Ave up to the Civic Center, turned right on Penn, and parked in the garage on Penn. Smart choice. Since I had no traffic, I sat in my car for awhile and played games on my phone, liked Instagram photos that happened after I went to bed at 9:30, and generally relaxed. The sun started to come up and showed off a gray day.

After I left my car, I found that I couldn’t cross Liberty to get to Market Square where I was to meet the team at 6:20. I asked a police officer and Pittsburgh Marathon staff member which direction I should go to get around the blockade. They told me it wasn’t blocked to cross if I went another two blocks down. So I did. And they were right. I used a super clean porta-potty, waited around, and eventually caught up with my team.

Pittsburgh Marathon Relay, Pre-Race Team Pics

They gave me hugs and thanked me for jumping in at the last minute. We took some photos. And then it was off to corrals and relay check points.

This is the only snafu of the day. Amanda and I were supposed to cross the Smithfield bridge to get to the Station Square check point. But they had all streets blocked to get to the bridge blocked due to the finishers corral. Eventually, we ran into a Marathon Staff Member named Patrice and a police officer who listened to our plight and let us through a blockade. We quickly crossed the Smithfield bridge and waited at our exchange.

In the rain.

It rained for a good hour. And then stopped. Then the wind made me a little cold. Then I dried off. And then our runners arrived and we were off.

Amanda and I lucked out and got to run the third leg of the Pittsburgh Marathon Relay which starts in Station Square, drops down through the South Side, turns left across the Birmingham Bridge (which I have a side story about; go read it), and then begins to climb the hill into Oakland.

When I ran the Pittsburgh Full Marathon in 2014, I let that hill beat me. In fact, I let that hill beat me months before I even attempted to run up it. I made the hill SO BIG in my mind that it couldn’t possibly be run all in one go. I felt really disappointed in myself when I couldn’t run up it that year. So this year? I was going to conquer that monster.

And we did. All the way up. I felt like I could do anything at that point. Which was good because we still had just under four miles left to run—and most of it was still moving up hill. Yes, there were some glorious, but not lengthy, downhills. And no, the uphills weren’t as steep and long. But during one particular hill, as we crested the top, I said to Amanda, “That was a tricky little hill.” It was a, to be cliche, constant uphill battle.

And we won it. Together.

Pittsburgh Marathon Relay, Me and Amanda

We ran up every single one of those hills, down every side, and when we saw the Relay Exchange Point, we kicked it into high gear and finished strong. Amanda claims that she couldn’t have done it without me, and I feel like maybe I couldn’t have done it without her, too. Teamwork is a beautiful thing. I do love my running time as extra-special alone time to recharge my introvert, but there’s something special and forward-moving when you race with a friend. It just keeps you going because you don’t want to let the other person down. I’m glad we did it together.

After grabbing some Gatorade and a banana, we hopped on the shuttle and headed back downtown to meet the team at the William Penn, which is my most favorite hotel in the world. We stunk up the corner by Starbucks and shared our experiences while waiting for the rest of our teammates to finish. Still wearing my bib, my barista wrote my name down on my cup, which is what most people yelled at me while I was running.

Pittsburgh Marathon Relay, Not Abby
Not Abby

I then met the groups’ significant others whom the group refers to as Core Support. They lugged a cooler of water, Gatorade and, uh, yes, beer around the entire city, including into the lobby of the William Penn. I decided at this point that I really liked these people. They made each other laugh and they made me laugh; laughter is good.

Pittsburgh Marathon Relay, Core Support

We then headed down to Point State Park for photos and so I could grab this year’s Dona Jo Fitwear Runner of Steel running skirt seeing as how I didn’t get to go to the Expo because I was a last minute sub.

Pittsburgh Marathon Relay, Post-Race Pics

When I walked back to the garage, I had to walk the stairs up to my car, get my parking ticket, and walk back down the stairs to pay. And then walk back up again. My legs were still functioning at that point, so it wasn’t really an issue. To leave, I turned left on Penn, right on Stanwix, left on Ft. Duquesne, and merged onto the Fort Pitt Bridge without any traffic or problem. It was a smart parking choice indeed.

Back at The Farm, I had a gin and tonic in the hot tub, a hot shower, and a steak. I felt great… and then I drove two hours home. In that time, my legs cramped up. Today I’m dealing with a little more soreness than I normally would with a 10K race, likely due to the hills.

I’m totally glad the Facebook algorithm showed me a post from a friend needing a runner on that day… instead of three days later, like Facebook usually does. Because the algorithm knows I love the Pittsburgh Marathon, I got to run another race. Thanks, Facebook.


I do encourage you to donate to the fundraiser for Cystic Fibrosis. As the member who ghosted my friend not only left them short a runner, she also didn’t do any fundraising and their team is short the money right now. Any help is appreciated.

3 replies on “Race Recap: The Time the Facebook Algorithm Made Me Run the Pittsburgh Marathon Relay”

Way to make me cry. Races that I know challenge me make me so emotional. I am so thankful for you! ?? We all are, for saving the team and sharing our charity.

(Just FYI, it’s Course Support. ?)

That is so awesome!! If you ever put a relay team together, I’d consider joining you. PGH is a short plane ride for me. :P

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *