2017 Pittsburgh Half Marathon

by: Kelly Leighton
May 10, 2017


That’s what I felt as I lined up with thousands of others on Sunday for Pittsburgh Marathon Weekend. I wasn’t nervous, I wasn’t stressed. I was excited.

No, I hadn’t jumped into another marathon. After two rough marathons in a row, I knew I needed a break from the 26.2-mile distance. But my friend Jeff talked me into running the half a week prior and even found me a cheap bib (to legally transfer).

I am someone who often asks, “Why?” instead of, “Why not?” Why would I drive to Pittsburgh to run a half marathon three weeks after a disastrous and draining performance at Boston? Why shouldn’t I just stay home and go run easy with my friends for free?

But something kept nagging at me. WHY NOT? Why not go to Pittsburgh, see my two best friends and run 13.1 miles for fun through Pittsburgh with 100+ other runners from Harrisburg? When I presented the idea to my husband last week, he told me it seemed like I needed to get the “bad taste” of Boston out of my mouth, and sure, let’s go.

So, that’s how I found myself approaching the starting line of the Pittsburgh Half Marathon Sunday. I truly went into this race to enjoy it. When asked, I said I had hoped to be under 1:40. But I was also OK if I wasn’t. It’s just running.

The race was delayed nearly 20 minutes, and I was so grateful when the gun finally went off. For the first 3 miles, my legs felt stiff and heavy, and I regretted the whole thing. But after that, the crowds thinned and I found my groove. I can’t explain it, but I just felt so happy. The miles were flying by, and I focused on pushing through the hills and cruising the downhills. My mind never went dark, I never thought about walking or quitting. I just was so happy to be running.

The temperature was rising as we passed by the mile markers, and I regretted wearing long-sleeves pretty early on. (The “real feel” was 31 at the start.) But, I “only” had a half marathon to run, and I reminded myself I was only a few miles from the finish, and everyone was dealing with headwinds and sun. But I’ve never been so happy to go left with the half marathoners when the full marathoners went right.

The eleventh mile featured a pretty long, gradual climb. I put my head down and clocked my slowest mile, but I was OK with that, I felt strong, calm and in control. And then, as we hit the last mile, we were rewarded with a half-mile downhill, and I ran my fastest mile as I approached the finish line.

I crossed in 1:37:35, seven seconds behind my PR, and tied for my second-fastest half. I was honestly in shock. I haven’t had a good race since the Troegs 5K in October, and I was starting to wonder why I was even signing up for races.

It’s amazing what you can do when you take the pressure off of yourself and have decent weather. I was truly just happy to be in Pittsburgh with my friends and for the opportunity to run 13.1 miles through a beautiful city.

Categories: Running

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