I love writing this post. It’s such a great opportunity for me to work through the course in my head. I’m getting so excited and this also gives me something to focus my energy on. The descriptions below takes into account the changes made to the course for 2015. I hope this post finds all you marathon runners feeling fantastic and ready to go on Sunday. Stay off your feet as much as possible tomorrow and drink plenty of water. See you at the start line, and best of luck to you!
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.
Mile 0-1 Liberty Avenue between 10th and Garrison (elevation gain 14 feet elevation loss -5 feet) Total net elevation gain +9 feet
Mile 1-2 Liberty Ave, 30th Street, Penn Ave (elevation gain 2 feet and elevation loss -7 feet) Total net elevation loss -5 feet
Details: The energy at the start line is fantastic in Pittsburgh. The wave start is helpful in keeping groups separated and the longer corrals this year should make it even better. However, 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. It adds distance to your run and uses way too much energy. Make sure to watch other runners here! People will not be paying attention to you and will jump in front of you. I’ve seen people get knocked over and some cases – it’s game over for them. There will be plenty of time to pick a spot when the first hill emerges in mile 2-3
Mile 2-3 Penn Avenue, 16th Street Bridge (elevation gain 34 feet and elevation loss 0 feet) Total net elevation gain +34 feet
Details: You will hit your first water stop here (mile 2) which is always CRAZY busy. At every water stop, It’s always best to go to the end of the water line and avoid the crowd at the front. Look for volunteers with only ½ a cup of water to avoid spilling it all over yourself. It’s going to be relatively warm Sunday so drink early, and often! When you get to the bridge, the turn gets tight and congested, watch your footing and other runners around you. Without cutting people off, try to take this turn as snuggly to the bridge as possible. This is good tangent management and will also keep your overall distance as close to 26.2 as possible. So, the best thing to do is plan ahead, start getting over ahead of time.
Mile 3-4 16th Street Bridge, Chestnut Street, Ohio Street, Cedar Avenue, Anderson (elevation gain 6 feet and elevation loss -46 feet) Total net elevation loss -40 feet
Mile 4-5 Anderson, Carson Bridge, Warhol Bridge, Sandusky, Robinson, Federal (elevation gain 40 feet and elevation loss -8 feet ) Total net elevation gain +32 feet
Mile 5-6 E/N/W Commons, Ridge Avenue, Ohio, Brighton, Lincoln (elevation gain 27 feet and elevation loss -9 feet ) Net elevation gain +18 feet
Details: Yes, within the first 6 miles of the race you will cross 3 bridges. The crowds are great here and this back and forth across the bridge is the first point where you can start hitting your race pace or close to. Around the Commons through miles 5 and 6 have a lot of turns. Again, watch your footing and other runners. Take the turns as snugly as possible, planning ahead and running in a direct point to point style. This is also typically the first “re-fueling” point for me (5 miles). I always try to time the finish of my GU with the water station so I can wash it down. Water station is at mile 6.1. Keep in mind there is a relay exchange at mile 5.5. They are well marked but there’s always a little of congestion through this area.
Mile 6-7 Lincoln, Galveston, Western Avenue, West End Bridge (elevation gain 14 feet and elevation loss -18 feet ) Total net elevation loss -4 feet
Mile 7-8 Steubenville St, Alexander Street, S. Main Street, W. Carson Street (elevation gain 4 feet and elevation loss -24 feet) Total net elevation loss -20 feet
Details: Mile 6 ends with a climb up the West End Bridge. This really isn’t bad at all and after you crest you begin your decent into the West End. Slower runners may get in your way heading up the bridge so try to pick your line and avoid weaving in and out of people again. Take it easy heading down this hill. Stay in control and get ready for a great crowd in this area! Right before you make the turn onto Carson Street, I believe there is a photographer – smile!
Mile 8-9 West Carson Street (elevation gain 18 feet and elevation loss -21 feet) Total net elevation loss -3 feet
Mile 9-10 East Carson Street (elevation gain 25 feet and elevation loss -24 feet) Total net elevation gain +1
Mile 10-11 East Carson Street, Birmingham Bridge (elevation gain 12 feet and elevation loss -9 feet) Total net elevation gain +3 feet
Mile 11-12 Birmingham Bridge, Forbes Avenue (elevation gain 89 feet and elevation loss -5 feet) Total net elevation gain +84 feet
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. The crowd thins dramatically after this point and it becomes much easier to navigate the rest of the course without congestion. Mile 11 brings with it the first major hill in the marathon as you make your ascent into Oakland. Get your bearings on the far side of the Birmingham Bridge and prepare to climb. The best advice I ever got is to take this hill slow and steady – don’t kill it. You may lose a few seconds off your average pace, but there is plenty of time to make it up. 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 10 is also my second refueling area.
Mile 12-13 Forbes Ave, Schenley Dr, Forbes Avenue (elevation gain 75 feet and elevation loss -6 feet) Total net elevation gain +69 feet
Mile 13-14 Forbes Ave, S. Craig St, Fifth Avenue (elevation gain 49 feet and elevation loss -19 feet ) Total net elevation gain +30 feet
Details: You’ll continue your climb through 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. For some reason, this climb is hard for me, but I know that on the other side, I will have some relief.
Mile 14-15 Fifth Avenue, S. Aiken Ave, Walnut St, S. Highland Ave (elevation gain 43 feet and elevation loss -39 feet) Total net elevation gain +4 feet
Details: There are some “hidden” climbs through this area in Shadyside, but they aren’t long. 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. A little over half way through – salt tablet.
Mile 15-16 S. Highland Avenue, Fifth Avenue, Penn Avenue (elevation gain 30 feet and elevation loss -1 foot) Total net elevation gain +29 feet
Mile 16-17 Penn Ave, Brushton Ave, Meade St, N. Braddock Ave (elevation gain 4 feet and elevation loss -61 feet) Total Net elevation loss -57 feet
Mile 17-18 N. Braddock Ave, Frankstown Ave (elevation gain 9 feet and elevation loss -39 feet) Total Net elevation loss -30 feet
Details: After you leave Shadyside, return to Fifth Ave and turn onto Penn, it gets pretty quiet through here. I happen to really like miles 16 – 17. They are a gentle down hill (barely perceivable) but enough to give you some momentum. However, 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 15 – more GU.
Mile 18-19 Frankstown Ave, E. Liberty Blvd (elevation gain 29 feet and elevation loss -36 feet) Total net elevation loss -7 feet
Mile 19-20 E. Liberty Ave, N. Highland Ave (elevation gain 85 feet and elevation loss -7 feet) Total net elevation gain +78 feet
Details: Everyone always focuses on the hill into Oakland and never talks about this. It’s not as long as the hill into Oakland, but it comes at a difficult time in the race. So, that makes this 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 run on guts and determination! You just need to make it through this mile one step at a time.
Mile 20-21 N. Highland Ave, Bryant St, N. Negley Ave (elevation gain 8 feet and elevation loss -48 feet) Total net elevation loss – 40 feet
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. Refuel at mile 20.
Mile 21-22 N. Negley Ave, Baum Blvd (elevation gain 27 feet and elevation loss -35 feet) Total net elevation -8 loss
Miles 22-23 Baum Blvd, Liberty Ave (elevation gain 23 feet and elevation loss -60 feet) Total net elevation loss -37 feet
Details: This part of the course can get boring BEFORE you hit Bloomfield. The climb into Bloomfield will also feel like a mountain. I concentrated on not letting my avg pace drop too low here. I just kept telling myself to hand on, because the downhill is coming. Set your sights on a spot on the hill, get there then pick another spot. Small segments at a time.
Mile 23-24 Liberty Avenue (elevation gain 0 feet and elevation loss -146 feet) Total net elevation loss -146 feet
Details: This is GO TIME! Get the legs moving and make up time lost from the climbs behind you. Take advantage of this downhill to pick up your cadence. There is absolutely no reason to hold back now.
Mile 24-25 Liberty Avenue (elevation gain 5 feet and elevation loss 0 feet) Total net elevation gain +5 feet
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 lose it here. I remember seeing runners on the ground left and right through this mile. Runners will be walking all around you. But this mile can make or break you if you’re going for a specific time goal. You have to remain mentally tough and dig deep for anything you have left. Trust your training, and remember pain is temporary.
Mile 25 – 26 Liberty Avenue, Smithfield Street (elevation gain 12 feet and elevation loss -3 feet) Total net elevation gain +9 feet
Mile 26 – 26.2 Smithfield St, Blvd of the Allies, Finish Near Wood St (elevation gain 0 feet and elevation loss -8 feet) Total net elevation loss -8 feet
Details: Hopefully you feel another surge of adrenaline here – the finish line is so close. The last .2 feels so damn long, but he crowds are loud and the thought of having the pain end is enough to get it done as fast as possible.