Running in and around Pittsburgh is something really nice you will enjoy for sure. However, there are some spots you would probably like to avoid and other that make your overall experience better. As a daily runner around the city, I tried to make a list about the do/don’t, the specific area to go or avoid to particular type of people that can impact your overall enjoyment of your workout.
Frick Park: put a leash on the beast
Frick Park is a fantastic park to run … except that it is invaded by dogs and most dog owners do not use a leash! Many dogs walk to you, bark at you, making their owners so happy to “show how it behaves so well and is so cute”. I understand that people can have a different definition of the word cute, especially when a huge big and wet dog chase you while you are running (at best) or try to bite you because it has the worst idiot as a owner (at worst). So, be careful, you can control your behavior, not the stupidity of others. Be careful about the dogs, their owners.
Thinking I am the only one complaining about the dogs and their owners? There are plenty of people that already did it. And some had a very bad experience. For information, the fine is $200 to have his dog off leash and Frick has specific off leash areas. So, if you are a dog owner, please consider that (1) a dog that is chasing somebody is not friendly at all, no matter what and (2) the only real fact is that you just do not respect the law.
One suggestion for the city: having some officers around, give fines for a couple of weeks. That would then reduce the city taxes while improving the park safety (no dog that chase anybody or fight each other!) and cleanliness (no more dog poop, yay!). After all, the taxes are already used to build dog parks where they can be unleashed, so, why this is not enforced?
Oakland: beware of the students
Oakland is known to be the college place. Major universities (Carnegie-Mellon, Pittsburgh) are located in this neighborhood, which makes it very active and interesting (as long as you consider seeing naked drunk teenagers funny). But when running, Oakland can be very painful because is is packed with people having difficulty to understand you need some space. So, when running, people that takes all the sidewalk for themselves and their beloved one will not move to let you pass them.
Most interesting: when you alert the folks by saying/yelling “LEFT” or “RIGHT” (in order to say where they can expect you), it turns out that most of the time, they move to that direction instead of letting you pass them on that direction. So, the workaround would be easy: you yell “LEFT” and then, try to pass on the right! But it turns out that only a few misunderstand! So, running in Oakland is a challenge on his own: in addition to running, you have to guess where the drunk-sleepy-student will move his ass to let you pass. For sure, there are many other reasons why people will not pay attention to you such as the usual dude that puts the volume of his iphone so loud that he never hear you when you try to scream to tell him to move.
On the other hand, Oakland has the wonderful Schenley Park that has no stupid dog-owner and just some nice trails! Being close to CMU, you can then have a nice workout and finish in a good university where you will be sure to have water available to say hydrated. Not a good plan at all.
South Side: get the high without running
South Side is not really well known for its great running routes and rather for all the bars, restaurants and more generally, its night-life. However, running in South Side can be interesting because this side of the city is connected with many big bridges. Going there in the morning is recommended because you will avoid all the junkies that invade the place in the evening. However, junkies are like pest and rodents: this is very difficult to get rid of it. So, even if you are running in the morning, you can still find some of them around. Not a real problem expect when you start to cross a bridge and you find yourself alone next to three guys totally wasted with needles in their hands. Definitively not the best experience but it might happen everywhere. On another note, as this neighborhood is active at night, you can easily find broken bottles on the sidewalk. So, as for everywhere, just be careful and use common sense.
Pittsburgh is a great place for running and training. One of the perks for runners is its hills. In fact, the city has one of the most big hills. One I usually run with my running family is McCardle. At the end of this hill, you have a fantastic view all over the city. Another known part for hilly street is Dornbush. It is known as one of the steepest street in the world and will really help you if you want to improve your condition.
North Side and the Strip
North Side has the reputation to be an unsafe location with some drug lords and potential troublemakers. Having lived here for a couple of months, I never had any issue and the location is fantastic for running. Not crowded at all, you can run on your own (do not worry, even if you think the place is packed by drug addicts, they are not able to walk more than three steps and thus, will not chase or follow you) without being interrupted. Also, this neighborhood has fantastic areas such as the Mexican War Streets!
Also, this area is closed to the Strip District, an important place for shopping, especially during the week end! So, if you are running around, you can pass to see how people are excited about the different shops but also stop by to refuel after your workout!