Almost no running last week. Or almost nothing: 45 miles. With almost no elevation. I spent the week in Montreal and had the opportunity to run over the Jacques Cartier bridge. Amazing view of the city.
I mostly worked on new projects (more on that later), drive my Prius for more than 1000 miles in less than a week.
On Saturday, I participated to a Gingerbread house contest. As some of us are very competitive, there was no way our team (Cabin Fever) would lose it. So, we put a lot of efforts and eventually won the contest. Of course, with the new Star Wars movie coming up, we included Han Solo and a Wookie.
The temperatures here in Pennsylvania are incredible and it would have been a crime for not going out on Sunday. I put my ass on the Laurel Highland Hiking trail to go from mile 0 to 8 with a total elevation of 4354 ft. Two years ago, it took me 4:10 to complete it. It took me 3:13 yesterday. Seems there is some improvement over time.
Life is like a game: you try to do your best and never know what will happen next. You have to be ready to lose everything without regret but also have unexpected good news. This is what makes it so exciting.
Last week, I volunteered for Eastern States 100, at the Aid Station Barrens. While I was considering running it, it was not possible because of the recent finish at Burning River but also because I am still under medical attention for the next few weeks. Of course, considering our location (mile 91), we met all finishers and people were pretty toasted at that time. Our aid station provided all what runners need: grilled cheese sandwich, peanut-butter and jelly, candies, gels but also Rum, beers and vodka. The right fuel at the right time for the runners.
During this 18 hours stay in the woods, I had the time to discuss with fellow runners about almost everything: life, running, work, politics. One topic raised by someone that night was the lack of diversity in ultra running. Not in terms of gender: there is a lot of women that compete in ultra races and women are now the majority in short distances (60% in half marathons). But in terms of race: I do not remember having seen any black dude during an ultra. Sure, we still have the cliché that the fast guys are Kenyans, but taking apart the elite field, black people accounts for less than 2% in road races in the USA.
Something more interesting pointed out during that discussion is that this topic has never been addressed/discussed in the media. We can find some articles on the web but not in media such as Trail Runner Mag or Runner’s World. And while diversity (male vs. female representation and performance), age (running ultra at 60 years-old) or even parenting (“should I let my 10 years old kid run 100K with me?”) concerns have been discussed several times, race representativity was never discussed. Is it the taboo of ultra-running (or just running)? Is there anything people do not want to discuss about it? I hope this aspect would be investigated and discussed, it definitively seems to be a topic worth considering.
After running more than 3500 miles and a few races in 2014 (including 7 half-marathons, 5 marathons, 1 50K and one 50M – complete list here), there is a list of good races in the Pittsburgh area. As many running friends are asking for good race, I hope such a list could be useful! This is definitively not complete and you might find your perfect race elsewhere. However, I am hoping this might help some runners out there!
Happy new year 2015 and run happy!
5K & 10K
There are a lot of small races: easy to organize, they do not need to much administrative work (compared to half-marathon of full marathons) and many folks can join (you can even walk a 5K within a hour). There is a good choices for 5K and 10K around. The following are particularly recommended:
Run Around the Square (August): very friendly 5K that includes a beer stop and hot dogs at the finish. The race go into Frick park and can be challenging for beginners. Even if the race can be seen as expensive (almost $30), Forbes Magazine reported that you can eat for two days after running so it pays off. See the race website and the 2014 race report.
The Steel City Road Runners “Flash 5K” (several races during Summer): the Steel City Road Runners club organize Flash 5K. These are a series of 5K around the city. Races are free of charge and very friendly. You need to be a member of the club, but considering the membership price, this is definitively not too expensive. It gives you an opportunity to gauge your performance without paying an expensive entry fee. See http://steelcityrrc.org/
The FAAP Fall Classic 5K or 10K (September): yes, the website sucks but the race is fun! With a registration of $20 that supports a charity, this is a fun race in North Park. Different from the hype of many other race, it can be also challenging for runners not used to trails! See the website http://faap5krace.yolasite.com for more information and the race report of 2013.
Marathon week-end 5K (May): yep, the highlight of this week-end is definitively the marathon on Sunday. But the marathon week-end has also a fun 5K, a great way to get started for the week-end! At $40, this is definitively an expensive race but if you are just looking for a first race and discover the marathon events, this is a good event to go. More information on the race website.
The Great Race 5K or 10K (September): never run it so far but heard a lot of good things inside the running community. The route is not too difficult and the event is really big. More information on the race website.
Dirty Kiln (April): dirty kiln is not a race, this is a real challenge! There are two options: a 5 miles and a half-marathon. This is a very challenging course on muddy trails. Very cheap (between $25 and $30), friendly with Pizza at the finish, this is a must-do if you are looking to run trails! More information on the race website or the 2014 race report.
Pittsburgh Half-Marathon (May): looking for a half-marathon and not running the Pittsburgh marathon? Do the Marathon! And if you are a member of the Steel City Road Runners, you will have access to a pre-race breakfast and finisher area! More information on the race website.
Run to Read (January): a very low-key half-marathon in West Virginia in January that benefits the Volunteer. More information on the race website on the race report.
Pittsburgh Marathon (May): of all marathons I have done so far, the Pittsburgh marathon is probably one of the best experience. The race is very well organized, go through many different neighborhoods and let you discover the city. More information on the race website or the 2014 race report.
Richmond Marathon (November): probably the best marathon I ran after Pittsburgh. The route is beautiful, the support across the different neighborhood is fantastic. One issue: it is far from the Burgh, so, you’d better make a week end of it rather than driving on race day! More information on the race website or the 2013 race report.
Erie Marathon (September): flat course with two loops, it can be boring if you expect to have different views during your race. However, Erie is a very easy and scenic course in Presque Isle. Plus, this is a Boston Qualifier race, so, if you want to qualify to go to Boston, this is a good candidate! This event used to have a half and full marathons but, because it is a popular Boston Qualifier, it will be only a full marathon for 2015. More information on the race website, the 2013 race report and the 2014 race report.
Columbus Marathon (October): I never run the Columbus marathon but heard many good thing about it! If you want a wonderful fall race, this might be the one for you! More information on the race website.
Laurel Highlands (June): a challenging 50K or 70 miles race. The first 8 miles have more than 1500 feet of elevation which are very hard to climb. The support is limited (not as many aid stations as in other races) but this is definitively a wonderful and scenic course. If you are in love with trails, this one should be on your list! Be careful, the races have a hard cap and are sold out every year! More information on the race website.
Groundhog Fall 50K (May): The biggest surprise of 2014 with Dirty Kiln and Rock’n the Knobb. One of the most friendly race, a lot of support with aid stations about every 5 miles (with people baking cookies for the runners!) or so, a very affordable race ($25 for 25K or $50 for 50K), support of veterans and team RWB. Very good first ultra (if you do the 50K) or trail race (for the 25K). The race director is very friendly (however, a new RD will take over in 2015). More information on the race website or the 2014 race report.
EQT 10 milers (November): there are not so many 10 milers races in this area. The Pittsburgh 10 milers is definitively a good race even is the route is not so scenic. For the price, it provides a good workout and provides the ability to log a long run on a Sunday. If you like to run in the city, this is worth to have a look at this race. See the race website for more information or the race report for more information about the race.
Rock’n the Knob (September): a trail run organized by the Allegheny Trail Runner group. Very hilly and challenging course! There is a 5 and 20 miles option to accommodate different running needs! This is a very friendly race and there is a beer brewed just for the race! Definitively a good one if you plan to run on trails! More information on the race website or 2014 race report.