"Why do you like Marathon Day so much?" I grumbled yesterday as Lauren's 5:45 a.m. alarm sounded off. This past Sunday, the first Sunday in May, marked the annual running of the Pittsburgh Marathon. Now Marathon Day has long been one of Lauren's favorite days of the year ranking second only to Christmas. So when she heard the alarm, she sprang out of bed and began to get ready. I, however, was slightly less enthused. I sat up and began to rub the sleep from my eyes when she appeared in the bedroom doorway to answer my question, "Why do I love Marathon Day? Because it's a day where the entire city comes out to support total strangers--it's inspirational and positive--a feel-good day." Less than two hours later I found myself standing at the 16th Street Bridge breathing in the morning mist as joggers ran past thinking to myself, you know what? She's right.
Having run the half marathon a few times, and the full marathon once (never again, thanks), I've experienced this race firsthand and I've always found it to be thoroughly enjoyable. The city of Pittsburgh makes for a wonderful marathon course (at least in the opinion of this casual runner). The route passes through a variety of neighborhoods, crosses several bridges, and allows runners to trot down some of the busiest streets in the city traffic-free. There is seldom a stretch of race course without spectators cheering the runners on. Along several stretches, live bands line the street and play for the runners as they pass. It's a wildly entertaining race to run and an experience I recommend everyone try once.
However, watching the race as a spectator may be just as rewarding. Lauren and I first headed down to the North Side end of the 16th Street Bridge (approximately Mile 3.5 of the course). There we watched as the hand bike racers and elite runners sped up the slight hill towards Deutschtown. Shortly after came the huge mass of amateur marathoners and half marathoners. People of all ages and races, dressed in all sorts of outfits (Batman! A banana costume! Tutus!) strode by--many with smiles beaming, waving to others in the crowd.
Once the main group of runners passed us by, including a few of our friends and family, Lauren and I booked it back to Highland Park to catch the marathoners around Mile 19.5. There, many of the runners' smiles had faded into looks of steely-eyed determination. But the racers' spirits were not broken. Neighbors and community members lined the streets clapping, cheering, and holding signs of encouragement, their children reaching out to the runners for hi-fives. The sense of community amongst the spectators and the racers was palpable. It was then that I came to understand Lauren's excitement for Marathon Day. Marathon Day is an event that makes you feel like you're a part of something much larger. It's a day that truly brings the people of Pittsburgh together. It's a day that I forever want to be a part of--whether as a runner or a spectator. And it's a day that makes me proud to call Pittsburgh my home.
Post by Arnie, Photos by Lauren