A great day in Pittsburgh

Hitting the expo!

Hitting the expo!

Actually, make that a great weekend!

On Sunday, I walked my 14th half marathon, at the Dick’s Sporting Goods Pittsburgh Marathon and Half Marathon. It wasn’t my best finish ever but was far from my worst. I kept a steady pace throughout and finished in 3:05:04. That translates to miles done in the 14-minute range. I would have liked to have come in under 3 hours, but that would have been more likely had I trained a bit longer (and dropped the last few winter pounds first)!


Post-5K (her, not me!)

The weekend served as a race-buddy reunion with seven friends. Some of them have done this race before, and it made for a good centrally located event for us all.

It’s been a while since I’ve participated in such a large race — the entrant field topped 30,000. There are pros and cons to races no matter their size, but I’d recommend this event for sure. Here’s why:

  • Outstanding signage throughout the weekend — at the expo, throughout downtown Pittsburgh directing racers to their start corrals, along the course (the mile markers were impossible to miss!) and in the finish area, too.

    Up and over the Rachel Carson Bridge, approaching mile 4

    Up and over the Rachel Carson Bridge, approaching mile 4

  • A race program jam-packed with info and maps
  • A race app that helped dig up needed info in short order
  • Five bridges crossing all three of the city’s rivers
  • A weekend full of activities for anyone and everyone: a 5K (with a special extra medal if you did that race plus the half or full, as one of my friends did), a relay, a Kids Marathon (a little over 1 mile) that had a HUGE number of participants, the half and full, and even a pet walk
  • A really nice race shirt (in fact, it was the first time I wore the event shirt in a race)
  • Good spectator support and fun spectator signs (to be shared in a “part two” of this post)
  • A manageable time limit for walkers
  • An expo and start and finish lines centrally located to many hotels
  • An entrant field of 30,000+, which makes for constant company on the course as a walker. In smaller races, walkers tend to be a bit lonely as the rest of the pack pulls away. In this race, I never felt like a straggler and kept pace with several run-walkers along the way.

    The start line is up ahead ... somewhere!

    The start line is up ahead … somewhere!

All in all, I don’t have any complaints about the event and would recommend it. (Well … I have one complaint, but it’s not the race organizers’ fault. My FitBit seems to be poorly calibrated and said I only did 10.24 miles for the day. What?! Add up 13.1, plus the to-the-start walk and from-the-finish walk, and my total should have been closer to 15. Cheated by technology!)

Happy walking!

A joyful feeling

Today I couldn’t wait to get to the fitness class I teach, because one of my class members did her first 5K yesterday, as a walker.

D. attended my walking class over the summer. As I watched her form and speed improve, I posed a question to her: “Have you ever thought about doing some type of race as a walker?”

In a word? No.

But she was intrigued by the idea, and we chatted about it over the weeks that followed. I told her that I thought her speed was well within the parameters of walking a 5K, and that I was confident that she could do it.

As she turned the idea around in her mind, she asked me about the race process, both how to prepare and what to expect. Finally, she decided: Yes, this was a goal she’d like to aim for. Once she made the decision, her enthusiasm grew.

So I sent her a list with links to several local 5Ks. From there she chose one in a neighboring town, scheduled for yesterday. I thought about surprising her at the finish area, but she’d very politely turned down my offer to join her for the race if she wanted me to — I got the sense that she wanted to do this all on her own.

And I’m so proud to say that she did well, with a steady pace and a good finish time. It was written all over her face when she came into class tonight — she was beaming! — and I couldn’t wait to ask her about the experience. She thanked me for all the encouragement, but the truth is, I’m inspired by her experience. I think seeing first-timers complete a race is a bit of a high for me, too!

At the risk of embarrassing her (and saying as much), I shared her accomplishment with the rest of the class. They were quick to offer congratulations and ask her all about it.

And from what I can tell, I think a racer has been born: She definitely wants to do it again. She joked that the 3.1 miles seemed long enough, so the thought of 13.1 (a half marathon) seems crazy. I countered that 8Ks and 10-milers make great next goals, once she has another 5K or three under her belt.

One of the greatest feelings in all my life was when I completed my first race. The joy and pride have not diminished in nine years. And that’s part of why I’m so thrilled every time I see someone else experience that feeling — the feeling of setting a fitness goal, working toward it for weeks or months or longer, putting your training to use when push comes to shove, and achieving it. Knowing that it’s something you did solely on your own (with cheerleading support from family and friends, of course), through the efforts of your own body/heart/lungs/muscles … it’s a tremendous feeling.

So … congratulations to D., who can count me as cheerleader #1.

One million bucks

That’s about how much was raised by participants in the Alliance for Lupus Research‘s 5K walk for lupus in New York City on Saturday.

I participated in the walk and I’m proud to say that friends and coworkers of mine donated $503 (yep, $503, not $500) toward the cause on my behalf, which I augmented with a donation of my own. One hundred percent of donations will be used toward research efforts. (And it’s not too late to donate, even though the walk has occurred: Click here.)

30-year friends, walking for a cause

30-year friends, ready to walk for a cause

As I wrote a couple of weeks ago, I signed up to participate in this event to support one of my oldest friends, who has been battling lupus for 13 years. I’ve seen the ups and downs she has experienced with this tough illness — which include severe joint pain, extreme fatigue and other symptoms that have an awful impact on quality of life — and was pleased to join her in this event.

It seems counterintuitive, but exercise is vital for helping people with chronic conditions (in most cases) have better health and mobility. People suffering from joint pain, for instance, might feel that to go out for a walk would make the pain worse. But the opposite is generally true. (Refer to my recent post, “Walking and arthritis,” for more info.)

The event day was sunny and beautiful, and the 5K crowd, in the thousands, was varied. Many people had formed teams, and team captains spoke before the walk’s start about how they were there to support loved ones who are fighting lupus or even have lupus themselves. The walk’s course started at the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum on NYC’s west side, went south to the Chelsea Piers complex, and back.

It was so inspiring to be a part of this cause, to help contribute toward research efforts and, most of all, to support my dear friend. I’m already thinking ahead to next year and how many people we can get to join us on event day! A two-person team is just a start.

Walking for a cause

I’ve mentioned before that I’ve done full marathons (four) and half marathons (12) as a walker. I’ve never done a 5K — until now.

A very worthy reason presented itself and that’s what prompted my registration. One of my oldest and dearest friends is battling lupus, for which there currently is no cure. I am joining her in a 5K walk with the Alliance for Lupus Research, from which 100 percent of the proceeds will go toward research into a cure for this debilitating illness. The event is Oct. 18, just two weeks away.

I want to see my dear friend (and others with this diagnosis) feel less pain and less restriction on her quality of life; I want her to regain her good health. Lupus is an autoimmune disease that causes inflammation of and damage to the joints and other parts of the body, including organs. Learn more here.

Won’t you consider a donation, even a small one? It’s tax deductible and you’ll be helping fund research into a cure. You can find my fundraising page here.

Thank you so much!