Ed. note -- bumped to front page
I've run the Pittsburgh Half-Marathon several times and other than suffering through a monsoon and bomb scare in 2010, I've enjoyed it every time. This year, not having much training time leading up to the race, I opted for participating in the relay. I had done one marathon relay before (the Flying Pig) and in spite of being dumb enough to take the hilliest portion, enjoyed the experience. This weekend was very similar experience.
Once again, I took the hilliest portion. My leg, the third (enter your "the third leg is the hardest" joke here), included a severe climb from the city's south side into the Oakland district. It was 6.4 miles and the temperatures were in the low 70's by the time I got going. That being said, it was a blast and I felt nearly as much satisfaction as when I run a half-marathon. Here's why...
- The team: There is something very, very motivating about knowing that 4 other people are counting on you to do your best. And when you are married to the person waiting for you at the end of your leg... you kinda want to avoid pissing that person off by being late. Or maybe you don't. To each his/her own.
- The spectator aspect: If you are running in a half or a full, you usually don't get to see the elite runners fly by at a 5 min/mile pace. A benefit to standing at a relay station several miles down the course is you get to see these amazing runners in action. The down side of this is... you get to see these amazing runners in action -- then you think about how they just blew by you at a pace that would be your dead sprint. But, you can shake that off. You usually have LOTS of time before your teammate gets to you.
- Practicing speed work: By running the near equivalent of a 10K or less, you get to test your lungs out and see how well you can handle various conditions at an accelerated page.
- Monday morning: You don't feel like death with a hangover.
- Seeing parts of the full course you may have never seen: I'm more of a half-marathoner, than a full marathoner, so I'd actually not run much of the section I ended up running. It gave me a real appreciation for the full marathoners that tackle those hills and somehow still finish the race.
- You still get a medal: In the Pittsburgh race, they give the finisher's medal to the runners waiting at the relay station, then you simply hand that medal off to your teammate who is finishing. That way, if you don't want to fight the crowd at the finish line festivities, you don't have to (unless you run the final leg).
While as long as I can find adequate training time, I'll probably revert back to running a May half-marathon, the relay is a very good second choice. Additionally, if you haven't run in any of the Pittsburgh Marathon events, you are missing out. It really is worth the trip.