Runners come to town for Pittsburgh’s Great Race

Zach Petroff | Opinions Editor | Nathan Funk, alongside his wife and newborn daughter, after completing the 10K event in Pittsburgh’s Great Race on Sunday. His goal was to finish in under an hour, and he finished in 55 minutes.

Zach Petroff | Opinions Editor

Sept. 29, 2022

It has become a familiar sight to see random streets in Downtown Pittsburgh closed off. This time, however, city streets became a running course for over 7,000 runners.

The sound of sneakers hitting the wet payment was prevalent on Sunday, as runners participated in the 45th-annual Richard S. Caliguiri City of Pittsburgh Great Race presented by Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield, as well as the 27th-annual Dollar Bank Junior Great Race.

“It turned out great, considering the weather and things like that,” said director of special events Brian Katze. “We really had a strong turnout.”

Runners came to Pittsburgh from 35 states and six countries to participate in the USA Track & Field (USATF) certified 5K and 10K courses. Despite the early-morning rain, runners were not deterred from participating in one of Pittsburgh’s historic fall traditions.

The event started as a “community fun-run’’ in 1977, with Caliguiri, a former Pittsburgh mayor. The 45-year-old event has expanded from a 10K race to include a 5K run/walk, a running clinic, the Junior Great race and the Great Race expo. The race went virtual in 2020 due to Covid-19.

“We did return [in person] in 2021. We made some adjustments to how we normally operate after having to go virtual in 2020. We kept some of those adjustments here in ‘22 and we continue to mold the race, as every event is coming out of the pandemic, and continue to grow,” Katze said.

The 5K race started in Oakland, while the 10K race started in Frick Park. The races ended at Point State Park. Runners in both races ran a predominantly downhill course that took them past Pittsburgh’s three-largest universities: Carnegie Mellon University, the University of Pittsburgh and Duquesne University.

In the men’s division, Nick Wolk from Pittsburgh earned a first-place finish in the 10K race with a 29:58 time. Clay Burnett headlined the 5K race with a time of 15:11.

On the women’s side, Jennifer Bigham paced the group of 10K runners with a time of 34:37. Jordan Hasay finished first in the 5K race with a time of 16:56.

Every runner received a commemorative long-sleeve shirt for registering, as well as a medal for finishing. However, the motivations for running on Sunday spanned further than accolades.

Some ran to honor families and legacies.

Siblings Jane Hamlin and John Cucarese have been participating in the 10K race since the early 1990s.

“Our father used to run this race with us every year, he passed away a couple of years ago,” Cooper said.

Hamlin and Cooper wore matching shirts to commemorate their father’s service to the United States. He died in January.

Others ran to celebrate a milestone.

Connor Pardoe celebrated his 25th birthday by running his first 10K, alongside friends Hannah Brubaker, William Dunn and Taylor Randolph.

“We’re definitely going to do it again next year,” Brubaker said. “This was the perfect length at 6.2 [miles]. The downhills were nice, and the rain came and left at the perfect moment.”

In order to keep each other motivated and keep the mood of the race light, the group of four all wore white shirts with “little white lies” that sarcastically included phrases like “I am enjoying this,” and “I’m a runner. I’m a track-star.”

For others, they wanted to simply prove to themselves that they could run the race.

When Nathan Funk’s daughter was born, he decided he needed to get back into shape, and the best way to do that was to get ready for the 10K event.

“I ran three times a week, increasing the mileage by half a mile every week,” Funk said. “I want to set a goal for myself and show that I could follow through with it. I wanted to make it in under an hour, and I finished in 55 minutes.”

Funk’s family, including his new-born daughter, waited at the finishing line with a colorful sign that read “Way to go Daddy! You did it.”