Finally, the post you’ve been waiting for. At least some of you have been asking about it for a while now. The Pittsburgh Marathon course mile by mile with elevation information and details. During my taper, this is what I do; familiarize myself with the course so I know exactly what’s coming. I call it “getting to know the enemy”.
Through my memory of the course, and the added details that I missed from Coach K, I think this gives you a pretty good idea of what’s coming with tips for running a strategic race.
Elevation gains are marked in red and losses in green. I hope you find this useful on race day and it helps you earn your Runner of Steel title. Want an elevation adjusted Pace band? Please see the end of this post for details.
Mile 0-1 (elevation gain 14 feet elevation loss -5 feet) Total net elevation gain +9 feet
Liberty Avenue between 6th Street and 7th Street
Mile 1-2 (elevation gain 2 feet and elevation loss -7 feet) Total net elevation loss -5 feet
Follow Liberty Avenue to 29th Street, Left onto 29th Street, Left onto Penn Avenue
Details: The energy at the start line is fantastic in Pittsburgh. The wave start is helpful in keeping groups separated, but with this many runners the first couple of miles are considerably congested. Use this to your advantage by not sprinting off the start mat. I’ve made the mistake of weaving in and out of runners to reach a specified pace quickly, but advise against it. Watch other runners here! People will not be paying attention and will jump in front of you. There will be plenty of time to pick a spot when the first hill emerges in mile 2-3
Mile 2-3 (elevation gain 34 feet and elevation loss 0 feet) Total net elevation gain +34 feet
Follow Penn Avenue to 16th Street, Right onto 16th Street
Details: You will hit your first water stop here which is always CRAZY. Advice from Coach K is to immediately go to the end of the water line here and avoid the crowd. Looks for volunteers with only ½ a cup of water to void spilling it all over yourself. Drink early, and often! When you get to the bridge, the turn gets tight and congested, watch your footing and other runners around you.
Mile 3-4 (elevation gain 6 feet and elevation loss -46 feet) Total net elevation loss -40 feet
Cross 16th Street Bridge, Left onto East Ohio Street, Follow East Ohio to Cedar Avenue, Left onto Cedar Avenue, Right onto Stockton Avenue (North Canal), Left onto Anderson Street
Mile 4-5 (elevation gain 40 feet and elevation loss -8 feet ) Total net elevation gain +32 feet
Follow Anderson Street across the 9th Street Bridge, Right onto Ft. Duquesne Blvd, Right onto 7th Street Bridge, Follow the 7th Street Bridge onto Sandusky Street
Mile 5-6 (elevation gain 27 feet and elevation loss -9 feet ) Net elevation gain +18 feet
Follow Sandusky Street onto East Commons, Left onto North Commons, Left onto West Commons, Right onto Ridge Avenue, Proceed onto West Ohio Street, Proceed onto Western Avenue
Details: This back and forth across the bridge is the first point you can start hitting your race pace. Around the Commons through miles 5 and 6 have a lot of turns. Again, watch your footing and other runners. This is typically the first “re-fueling” point. Try to time your GU with a water station to wash it down.
Mile 6-7 (elevation gain 14 feet and elevation loss -18 feet ) Total net elevation loss -4 feet
Follow Western Avenue to West End Bridge, Proceed over West End Bridge, Turning slightly right onto East Steuben Street
Mile 7-8 (elevation gain 4 feet and elevation loss -24 feet) Total net elevation loss -20 feet
Proceed to Alexander Street, Left onto Alexander Street, Left onto South Main Street, Right onto West Carson Street
Details: Watch this downhill. Slower runners may get in your way and relay slackers start walking. Try not to weave in and out of people, adding steps and time to your race.
Mile 8-9 (elevation gain 18 feet and elevation loss -21 feet) Total net elevation loss -3 feet
Follow Carson Street
Mile 9-10 (elevation gain 25 feet and elevation loss -24 feet) Total net elevation gain +1
Continue to follow Carson Street past the Birmingham Bridge to South 24th Street
Mile 10-11 (elevation gain 12 feet and elevation loss -9 feet) Total net elevation gain +3 feet
Turn left onto south 24th Street, Left onto Sidney Street
Mile 11-12 (elevation gain 89 feet and elevation loss -5 feet) Total net elevation gain +84 feet
Left onto South 23rd Street, Right onto Carson Street, Right onto the Birmingham Bridge using east lanes
Details: The long stretch of Carson Street seems to go on forever. But there are lots of people cheering you on along the way as you head into the Southside. Towards the end of Carson street, you’ll wave goodbye to your half marathon friends as 13.1 runners bear left and 26.2 runners keep right. This is clearly marked so no need to worry about getting confused. Mile 11 brings with it the first major hill in the marathon as you make your descent into Oakland. Get your bearings on the far side of the Birmingham Bridge and prepare to climb. The relief at the top is visible in every runner. But don’t be fooled – the hard part and elevation gains aren’t over yet.
Mile 12-13 (elevation gain 75 feet and elevation loss -6 feet) Total net elevation gain +69 feet
Right onto Forbes Avenue
Mile 13-14 (elevation gain 49 feet and elevation loss -19 feet ) Total net elevation gain +30 feet
Left onto S. Craig Street Right onto Fifth Avenue
Details: You’ll continue your climb into Oakland (mile 12-13), home of the University of Pittsburgh and Carnegie Mellon campuses. Once you pass the Cathedral of Learning (you can’t miss it), they take your picture. Take this hill at a slower pace, just slow enough to not exhaust yourself but fast enough not to kill your time. There’s another climb up Fifth Avenue (mile 13-14) so shake your shoulders and arms out to prepare for the next couple miles.
Mile 14-15 (elevation gain 43 feet and elevation loss -39 feet) Total net elevation gain +4 feet
Left onto S. Aiken Avenue, Right onto Walnut Street, Right onto S. Highland Avenue, Left onto Fifth Avenue
Details: There are some “hidden” climbs through this area. If you took it easy going up Fifth Avenue, you should be fine through these rollers. If it’s a hot day, you will have some shade and relief through here.
Mile 15-16 (elevation gain 30 feet and elevation loss -1 foot) Total net elevation gain +29 feet
Right onto Penn Avenue – continue on Penn Avenue
Mile 16-17 (elevation gain 4 feet and elevation loss -61 feet) Total Net elevation loss -57 feet
Left onto North Braddock Avenue – follow North Braddock
Mile 17-18 (elevation gain 9 feet and elevation loss -39 feet) Total Net elevation loss -30 feet
Left onto Frankstown Avenue – follow Frankstown
Details: These are tough miles. Concentrate on the mile you’re in. People who haven’t run a smart race up to this point, or skimped on training, will start to unravel here. If you’ve run a smart race, this is where you can start making your move by increasing your pace slightly. If you do that, you’ll most likely start passing people who are struggling. At this point your only focus should be making it to mile 18
Mile 18-19 (elevation gain 29 feet and elevation loss -36 feet) Total net elevation loss -7 feet
Right onto East Liberty Boulevard
Mile 19-20 (elevation gain 85 feet and elevation loss -7 feet) Total net elevation gain +78 feet
Right onto North Highland Avenue
Details: Everyone always focuses on the hill into Oakland and never talk about this. This hill is a HUGE climb. Repeat your mantras, occupy your mind, talk to the person running next to. This is the LAST hard part, just focus on that, and will be run on guts and determination! You just need to make it through this mile one step at a time.
Mile 20-21 (elevation gain 8 feet and elevation loss -48 feet) Total net elevation loss – 40 feet
Left onto Bryant Street, Left onto North Negley Avenue
Details: I remember when I ran this marathon for the first time in 2011. A good friend told me that if I can make it to mile 20 feeling strong, you have the marathon in the bag. This is where you make your turn BACK to downtown. Try to push here and see how your body feels. Increase pace by 5-10 seconds and try to hold on.
Mile 21-22 (elevation gain 27 feet and elevation loss -35 feet) Total net elevation -8 loss
Right onto Baum Boulevard – follow Baum Boulevard
Miles 22-23 (elevation gain 23 feet and elevation loss -60 feet) Total net elevation loss -37 feet
Right onto Liberty Avenue
Details: This part of the course can get boring BEFORE you hit Bloomfield. The climb into Bloomfield will also feel like a mountain. Try to maintain pace and hang on because the downhill is coming.
Mile 23-24 (elevation gain 0 feet and elevation loss -146 feet) Total net elevation loss -146 feet
Follow Liberty Avenue
Details: Coach K says this is GO TIME! Get the legs moving and make up time lost from the climbs behind you. And he also wanted me to mention, they hand out beer at the brewery.
Mile 24-25 (elevation gain 5 feet and elevation loss 0 feet) Total net elevation gain +5 feet
Follow Liberty Avenue
Details: This is the part where you may feel like you’re in hell, literally. If it’s a hot day, it will feel hottest right here. It’s “no-man’s land” and runners, surprisingly, lose it here. I remember seeing runners on the ground left and right through this mile. But don’t let that scare you. Trust your training. Dig deep here, drink some water, and just get through to mile 25. This is make or break time.
Mile 25 – 26.2 (elevation gain 12 feet and elevation loss -11 feet) Total net elevation gain +1 foot
From Liberty Avenue, bear left onto Smithfield Street, Right onto Boulevard of the Allies, follow the Boulevard of the Allies to the finish line.
Finish line on the Boulevard of the Allies between Stanwix Street and Commonwealth
Details: you may feel another surge of adrenaline as you approach the finish. Embrace this, pull out and give everything you have left to finish strong.