PGH Marathon: Training for Cheering

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In a week, I’ll be waiting, anxiously, to have dinner with my friends who have successfully dominated another Pittsburgh Marathon weekend.  I’ll also be basking in the warm glow of my success as one of the best cheer-ers that the Pittsburgh Marathon has ever seen.  Since I’ve run the course about 790 times, I have scoped out all the great places, as a runner, where people’s yells, snacks and funny signs meant the world to a marathon-weary runner.

especially that time I ran 2 marathons back to back!

Miles 1-5

The first 5 miles are amazing for the cheer squad.  The bridges back and forth between downtown and the Northside are my personal favorites to see signs, hear cowbells and get lots of looking goods.  If you’re one of the people that find themselves in Pittsburgh but don’t love bridges, worry not, the Strip District’s main drag is right at the beginning of the race.  You can get from the start line to see your runner off, to the Strip District to see them right before they head over their first bridge.  You’ll get a few hundred extra steps in and a second chance in a few miles to cheer for the runners.

Miles 6-13

If you were one of the mile 5 bridge cheerers, take this time to go get yourself a Diet Coke and a bagel at Market Square and enjoy them on the speed walk across the Smithfield Street Bridge.  From there, you can pick up E. Carson Street and and you can see your runner as they run the flattest mile during the race.  You can continue walking up the street, cheering as you go marveling at all the volunteers and citizens of the South Side who spill into the streets to support people running the half and the full!

Once you’ve had enough of that flat part of the course, head over to the Birmingham Bridge and cheer the half marathoners onto their last few miles.  This is an important place to be if you have a marathoner.  They’re about to loose over half of their friends and start to take on a very long, slow hill.  They’re also not quite  halfway done.  So now is a good time, if you’re so inclined to bust out your bluetooth speakers and start blaring Living on a Prayer on repeat.  Or, if you’re like some of us, you’ll just be yelling it.

Anytime is a good time for snacks on the marathon course, but this is an especially good time if you’re the type of person that brings snacks for the runners, now is the first time to bust them out.  Some great snacks that I love are Twizzlers, fun sized Snickers and orange slices.

Miles 14-19

If you’re into seeing the back half of a marathon, this is the place to do it.  I would recommend being on Forbes Avenue near the Cathedral of Learning at my Alma Matter — The University of Pittsburgh.  Another amazing spot to cheer is at the corner of Walnut and S. Aiken.  There’s an amazing vibe going into this iconic Shadyside street.  Plus, after your voice is hoarse and your hands are raw, you can get a great iced coffee and a snack at Coffee Tree Roasters.

If you are as snack driven as I am, and Shadyside isn’t your thing, head over to East Liberty, get yourself a burger and shake at Burgatory and then walk up to North Highland and East Liberty and start waving your hands, beating up your cowbell and showing off your signs.

Miles 20-25

If you’re anything like me, about this time during the marathon, it’s time for a good cry and a phone call to Mom.  If you’ve been cheering on the back half of this marathon — up on the course, as I like to think of it — the last place you’ll want to see your runner is before they head down hill to the finish.  On Liberty Avenue, near the Bloomfield Bridge, you can bust out your snacks again — people are really excited to see snacks this late in the race.

If you’ve been waiting downtown for the runners to start to come back in,  hopefully you’ve been having a sandwich at Pirmanti’s so you’re ready to cheer ’em in strong.  Right near Smithfield and Sixth is one of the best place to be screaming your face off.  Runners are right before mile 26.  A mile marker that have never ever looked so sweet.

Miles 26-26.2

There’s a grandstand when runners make the right turn heading to the finish line.  I would recommend skipping this part and heading right to the finish line post chute.  Make sure to set up a place to meet your runner before they start the race.   I would write it on the back of their bib.  Trust me, marathon brain is real.  Make sure to keep an eye out for them coming and head over to the medical tent at the finish line just in case.  Once you’ve reunited with your runner make sure they do a lot of sitting, stretching, crying, eating and taking lots of pictures.  Now is not the time to stop screaming either.  Keep cheering them to the hotel, the shower, and to dinner.  It’s totally necessary.

I’ll be cheering everywhere on marathon day.  Where will I see you?

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