In need of some time away from the city, I decided on Thursday to register for the Cook Forest half-marathon that would take place the next Saturday. Some of my friends at Steel City Road Runners were also doing the race, so, it was a good opportunity to join these happy runners! The race is cheap and you have what you asked for: a simple run in a state park with a scenic view. No more no less!
At a glance
This is a nice and low-key race in the cook forest state park. Do not expect any big swag: there is nothing – all you get is a bib (that you have to return after the race) and a t-shirt. The race started at 11:00, is pretty flat and is all next to the river. This is an out and back race, so, you just have to turn around at 6.5 miles and come back. The race is timed by runhigh.com timing services which offer chip time and the results are posted online. Once you are done, no big post-race festivities, some normal post-race food with fruits.
Driving from Pittsburgh & Parking on site
This is a 2 hours drive from Pittsburgh. The drive itself go through the country side and is very beautiful.However, the road is hazardous and I would recommend to drive carefully. Also, in this part of the country, you may not have cellphone service all the way. So, take a map: in case of a cellphone crash or battery issue (what happened to me!), you can still figure out what road to take. Also, be sure to have enough gas because there are not too many gas stations on the way (it happened on the way back!).
Once you get there, parking can be challenging. In fact, there are two main parking spots: the one next to the starting line and another further. It turns out that the first one fills very quickly so you have to park at the second one. There are shuttles to drive you to the starting line but I rather jog/run to it. This is almost 1 mile, so, this is not so bad.
The race started at 1115am after some delays, probably to wait to last guys that wanted to register on race day. All the course is pretty flat an go along the river. Hopefully, the weather was really nice: some sun with a mid-temperature so that you can have your t-shirt and not be too sweaty. Some cars use the road during the race so you have to be carefully but in 2 hours, I only see one or two, so, this is pretty safe.
There are two water stops and, as this is an out and back race, it makes 4 opportunities to have a sip! Water and gatorade. Unfortunately, the water was so cold that all I got was a bunch of ice. Not a real issue and volunteers cannot control the temperature! On the other hand, for a half, having 4 water stops is a real plus so that you do not have to carry anything.
There are some fruits available for the happy runners at the finish (banana, apples, oranges) so that you can refuel. Awards are available for the fastest guys but also for each age group. On my side, I did not have any award, which is normal considering that I have a fatty ass and am a slow runner. So, as usual, a terrible time, but who cares? Once you finished, to get to your car, if you are parked in the further parking, a shuttle get you to the other parking lot as well. To sum up, the race is well organized, beautiful and let you discover a wonderful state park while enjoying a scenic Saturday race. There is nothing more you can ask and this was definitively a nice experience.
- Pictures from flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/cngodles/2672198846/ and https://www.flickr.com/photos/yayad/5327357223/