Wednesday, April 19, 2017

2017 Pittsburgh Marathon Weekend Tips and Tricks

It's taper time! One of the things I do during the taper is really cement the last minute plans for the race. I read a ton of race recaps, watch any course previews and if I can I will drive the course. If this is your first big race, it is also good to familiar yourself with some practices that happen during a race.

This is where I can help! Pittsburgh will be my sixth full marathon and I have completed 23 half marathons. I've done this before, learn from my mistakes/knowledge! Today I am going to share some general "race rules" and some that are specific to the Pittsburgh Marathon!

General Race Rules:

1. Line up in your assigned corral - I don't think I can stress this enough. You are put in a specific corral for a reason. If you want to run with someone and they/you are in a slower corral, move to the slower corral. This is not just for pacing, it's for your safety.

2. Raise your hand - If you are going to walk, put your hand up. DO NOT just stop. You will get run in to. If you are running intervals and you know it's almost time, move to the side and keep your hand up for a few seconds. It will make everything so much easier.

3. Use the water stop - As much as you may want to take the first cup you see this can cause a crazy log jam. Grab your cup and move along. If you are not taking a cup move towards the middle of the road. A lot of people walk the water stops to begin with, there is congestion and it is slippery. Be careful.

4. Use the crowd - People are there to cheer you on. Feed off of it! Running a race is a big deal. Treat is like it is. You are the athlete they are coming out to see. Take candy from a stranger, give that little kid a high five and thank all the volunteers.

5. Make friends - You have been running right by this same person for miles and you both are keeping amazing pace, introduce yourself! They always say misery loves company. Everyone has a story, and making some new friends during the race could be all the motivation you need. If someone is wearing a charity bib/singlet make sure you congratulate them! Some people might even be celebrating a milestone, it's all of these moments that will make your race that much more memorable.

Pittsburgh Race Tips:

Pittsburgh Marathon weekend is broken in to four races. Saturday is the 5k along with the kids races and dog walk. Sunday is the half marathon, full marathon and marathon relay. Each race is different and has its own strategies. I have run all of the Pittsburgh Marathon weekend races, and here is what I can share from my experiences!


This will be the fourth time running the Pittsburgh Marathon 5k. It was my first "adult 5k" back in 2012. I love this race. It is in my top three Pittsburgh area races. It is a pretty easy course that starts on the North Shore by PNC Park and ends at the usual marathon finish line on the Boulevard of the Allies. The best part about this race is that you still get to run across a bridge!

Wow, five years ago! I got second in my age group that year!

There are usually pacers for this race, and a water stop about half way through. The best advice I can give for this race is HAVE FUN! It's the kick off to race weekend and it should be a celebration. There is a We Run Social meet up planned for the morning of the 5k and when everything is set in stone I will share it with all of you. It's time to make those connections with the people who you have virtually trained with.

Marathon Relay

I ran the last leg of the marathon relay in 2015. It was hot and a very long day. I had enough time that I actually cheered the first few miles of the race right off the strip. Hopefully by now you know what leg you are running, but you need to know how you are getting to your exchange zone. You can find the relay information for Pittsburgh here and I would highly suggest reading it.

I am begging you, if you are running the relay DO NOT BRING YOUR ENTIRE FAMILY TO THE EXCHANGE ZONE! This is a starting corral. It is not meant to hang out it. Across the street, sure, but not in the actual exchange zone. Relay exchanges are usually on the left side of the street. There will be signs but make sure you are paying attention. If you are one of the later legs, bring water and a snack. Like I said, the year I ran the relay it was very hot and I was glad I took my own water bottle. Know what your bib number is because they will be yelling numbers out as your teammate is coming in. It can be confusing, but can also be very smooth.

Make sure you have a meeting area set for the finish and get an awesome group shot. You earned it!

Half Marathon

I ran the half marathon in 2014. The course has changed A LOT since I ran it. The biggest advice I can give for the half marathon is to take the beginning easy. When you get to Station Square, the fun really starts. The hills become a little more rolling and, at least to me, it seems a little more crowded. There are also a lot of spectators out around this point. Feed off of it. Make sure you take any extra hydration in these miles as well.

As I said in the marathon relay section, relay exchanges are usually to the left. Make sure you stay to the right when you start seeing signs for the relay exchange. It just makes things easier. Also, when you get to the South Side, stay to the left! You will go across the Birmingham Bridge on the left side of the road. Full marathoners will be on the right.

When you finish, please be mindful of the other people on the course and DO NOT take handfuls of finish line food. I remember when I finished the marathon there was very little left and I ran a 4:29. Be courteous of the other participants still out on the course.


Pittsburgh was my first marathon in 2013. I finished the Pittsburgh Marathon exactly one year to the day of my first "adult 5k". Despite a mild foot issue, I ran a pretty good race. I probably should have done the half before the full, but in any case I finished.

The full marathon can be a very lonely place. There are a lot more people that run the half. You have to be prepared for it. It can be a huge mental block if you are not.

For me, Shadyside is the worst part of the course. It is quite rolling and not as much crowd support. I have worked a lot more rolling hills in to my training this time around, so I feel ready for it. There are bands out too and that should bring more spectators out.

I promise, when you get to the final relay exchange at mile 22 it is all downhill from there. It is the most amazing feeling and use it to your advantage! A lot of times this is where towels and sponges are being passed out as well. Take them. Also, take the beer around mile 24 from Church Brew Works. Trust me.

I know this is a lot of information, but I hope it can help ease your mind going in to race weekend. There is still time to get out there, drive or walk part of the course and get a feel for how things will be race weekend. I guarantee it will be one you will remember forever!

My collection of all the Pittsburgh Marathon medals!

If you have any other questions about Pittsburgh Marathon weekend please leave a comment and I will answer them!


  1. I agree with the beer! Gave me some much needed energy last year :)

  2. Ah thank you so much for this! Getting pretty nervous for my second half marathon!