Grace Rosello | staff writer
Crossing over the Smithfield Street Bridge before sunrise on Nov. 2, the Equitable Resources, Inc (EQT) 10 miler meant joining a multitude of runners decked out in race gear all heading to the starting line. On both sides of the bridge, silhouetted black against the gold and blue sky, runners warmed up, dispelling their nervousness.
Jokes between friends peppered the atmosphere as the multitude made its way to the Gateway Clipper parking lot.
“My family says that if we don’t cross the finish by 9:30, they’re leaving,” one runner told his partner.
“I can probably manage three miles. Then the rest from there will be death,” another runner decided.
Against Highmark Stadium, runners of all ages and wearing all kinds of EQT, higher education and running club hoodies stretched. Race pacers sponsored by Panera Bread wore green neon and bounced their signs on the concrete, declaring 8:00, 8:30, 9:00, and so on up to 12:00. Pop music played as everyone checked their gear and bid farewell to well-wishers who had come to see them start.
An announcer informed everyone through a megaphone when to line up.
“There are nearly five thousand runners here today,” he said.
The race began soon after the national anthem was sung. Each mile had a Pittsburgh theme.
The course began with a “City of Bridges” mile, uphill toward the West End Bridge.
The “Mr. Rogers” mile, mile three, featured a billboard that played a recording of “It’s a Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood” on loop. On the “Pickle” mile, mile four, runners were offered cut dill pickles and pickle juice.
“I don’t know if I can handle it,” a runner said to her friend. “I thought the salt might be good, but I really don’t know.”
Mile five was the “Cookie Table” mile. A grinning woman wearing glasses donned a wedding dress and held a cookie tray on her fingertips, passing out the cookies at the halfway point of the race along with other volunteers.
The “Pittsburghese Mile,” mile six, began with a trek to the Strip District. Cars heading in the opposite direction beeped encouragingly as the runners trundled toward Pittsburgh Dad on the 16th Street Bridge.
“This is really a Pittsburgh race,” local celebrity Pittsburgh Dad said into a megaphone as a man ran past and thumped him on the back. “I wonder how many former Steelers are running today!”
Yellow words outlined in black written in puffy comic book style declared “N’at!” “Jumbo!” “Slippy!”
The course continued miles seven and eight through the Strip District on Penn Avenue until 31st Street. At 31st Street, the course looped, spitting runners out on Liberty Avenue.
On mile eight, the “Pierogi Mile”, runners were offered steaming hot potato and cheese dumplings by volunteers. The Pirate Pierogies were also in attendance, waving and offering high-fives. Purple Pierogi joined in for approximately one minute with the race.
At the end of the race, two contestants crossed the finish line arm in arm.
Wigle Whiskey in the Strip District offered an after party for anyone over 21. With a race bib, a runner was offered a Turner’s Iced Tea, a traditional Pittsburgh drink, spiked with bourbon.
Given that Penn and Liberty Avenues were shut down in the area of the Strip District, free shuttle buses were available to runners seeking to celebrate at the various establishments in the Strip. Tents advertised various apparel and running equipment at the finish line.
The overall first finisher of the race was Martin Hehir, with a time of 48:04. Two seconds behind him was Biya Simbassa. The first women’s finisher and eighteenth finisher overall was Bethany Sachtleben, whose time was 54:41.