2012 Pittsburgh Marathon Recap – Runners of Steel Forged in a Crucible of Pavement

A throng of 25,000 runners filled the starting corrals between 5:30-7:00am on Sunday, May 6th.  It seemed like a long time ago I announced my intentions to run the 2012 Pittsburgh Marathon.  Race day was now here, and there I was – I had made it to the start.  Initial course conditions were “green” (good), but progressed to “red” (potentially dangerous) as the day wore on due to increasing temperatures.  Marathoners slowed down, abandoned PR (personal record) attempts, and even considered stopping.  But there was no quit in the 5,500+ finishers of the full, 12,000+ finishers of the half, and many, many successful marathon relay team members.  Each one of them would become a “runner of steel” – melded and forged in the crucible of Pittsburgh streets under a relentless sun.  Continue reading for a photo-essay of my personal 26.2 mile journey in 26 images.

Photo #1

6:20am, one hour before start, a moving Army induction ceremony at the starting line where two soldiers reinlisted and swore an oath of loyalty to our country.

Photo #2

Clock ticking down, Dick’s Sporting Goods Pittsburgh Marathon starting line, Downtown between 6th and 7th Street.

Photo #3

And they’re off! 7:20am wheelchair/handbike start for Dick’s Sporting Goods Pittsburgh Marathon.

Photo #4

The band Twisted Fate performed at Mile 1 in the Strip District – they motivated us at the beginning, and were still out there 5 hours later as we circled back between Miles 24-25.  A band with the stamina of Marathoners…

Photo #5

Thank you to all of the 3,500+ volunteers who came out to support the runners and walkers on the course.

Photo #6

First river crossing of the course, just past Mile 3, 16th Street Bridge a Historic Landmark connecting the Strip District to the North Side.

Photo #7

Mile 4 – Allegheny River crossing #2 via the Rachel Carson Bridge (9th Street Bridge) back Downtown.

Photo #8

Andy Warhol Bridge (7th Street) marked the third crossing of the Allegheny River, and back to the North Side.

Photo #9

Wound through the North Side neighborhood around Allegheny Commons Park.  Plum High School Cheerleaders (my high school alma mater!) were there to cheer us on.  Yahoo Plum!  Way to represent!

Photo #10

Passed my family, supporting me on Western Avenue (one block from Mother-in-law’s house) near Mile 6.

Photo #11

Second river (Ohio), fourth bridge (West End), near 7th mile.

Photo #12

View of Downtown Pittsburgh from the West End Bridge.  The bridge undulated up and down to the rhythm of foot falls.

Photo #13

Ten miles in, final portion on the South Side, down E. Carson St., about to split from the half marathoners.

Photo #14

The Birmingham Bridge (our 5th) over the Monongahela River (our 3rd).  Competitors needed to cross by 11:00am or be swept from the course.   After crossing, came the long hill climb into Oakland.  I had dreamt about this section of the course the night before the race, but the Ray Ryan Riverside Band helped ease my mind.

Photo #15

Made it to the top of the hill!  Down Forbes Avenue, straight through the heart of the University of Pittsburgh campus (my college alma mater!) – Pitt’s Cathedral of Learning loomed large in the distance.

Photo #15

Halfway!  Are the water stops now half empty or half full?

Photo #16

Great fan support throughout the race.  I loved these signs in front of Shadyside’s Walnut St. shops – why do all the cute ones run away?  Should I have stopped?  That would have meant I was not cute…  Oh the complexity… I pondered the conundrum for at least a mile.  Hey, it’s a long race.

Photo #17

My friend, Kim Barron, posted this on Facebook…

“fresh chocolate croissants made and consumed.  Heading down the street in a little while to cheer on Dave Parfitt as he runs in the Pittsburgh Marathon.”

I’m still waiting to see her pictures, and wondering where my chocolate croissant was… 14.5 miles, can’t a guy get a chocolate croissant?

Photo #18

Through Mile 15, past Mellon Park, onwards to East End and Point Breeze, while Written Between the Lines kept us entertained.  Nearly 70 different bands performed along the course.

Photo #19

Inspiration came in many places during the marathon including this mural painted on the side of a building in Homewood near Mile 18.

Photo #20

In East Liberty, chalk on the pavement read, “Greyhounds Love to Run.”  Today, the greyhounds looked like they loved to lie in the shade.  Can’t say I blamed them.

Photo #21

20 miles found us in the Victorian Highland Park neighborhood.  Temperatures were soaring, and marathoners sought out any shade they could find.  Blessed are the hose bearers…

Photo #22

The Brass Staff played between Miles 21-22, right before entering the Bloomfield neighborhood where I lived in college.  Couldn’t wait to see whether the record store I used to frequent was still there (it wasn’t).

Photo #23

I’ve followed these Pittsburgh Marathon footprints throughout the city dating back to the 1980’s (when they were painted in marathon blue).  It was a thrill to now follow them to the finish line.

Photo #24

Hmmmm, last two photos are pointed at the ground.  Telling?  Maybe.  Whoever placed this marker on the pavement at this stage of the race was a genius!

Photo #25

Finish line in sight, flanked by cheering crowds and grandstands.

Photo #26

Just past the finish line was this very welcome sight.  A simple sign that was enough to give goosebumps.

With my finisher’s medal proudly around my sun-burned neck, I headed back to my mother-in-law’s house to meet up with my family.  I can not thank them enough for all their support during the months of training.  This was the third full marathon I had completed, and each one carries a different significance.  Yet, the 2012 Pittsburgh Marathon was coming home, and once again becoming a runner.  After breaking my leg in February 2011, my only goals were to make it to the starting line, finish the race, and enjoy the experience along the way.  In addition, along the way, we raised over $1,100 for Give Kids The World Village, and helped children with life-threatening illnesses get a cost free vacation to Orlando, Florida.  For all those reasons, the Pittsburgh Marathon was a resounding success – mission accomplished!

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About Dave Parfitt

Married, father of two girls, and living in the heart of the Finger Lakes. I'm a runner with a PhD in neuroscience and a passion for travel.