Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Pittsburgh Half Marathon: Offering Thanks

I was already wide awake when my alarm went off at 5:30 on Sunday morning, shattering the stillness of dawn. I had been lying in bed for half an hour, staring at the ceiling. My stomach was alive with butterflies as I thought about the hours ahead.

There was another morning just like this one, exactly a year before. I laid in the same bed, staring at the same ceiling. My stomach was alive with butterflies, but also with a thin layer of fear. Fear of the unknown I think. Fear of what was to come. Fear that all my training, all my preparation, wasn't enough.

This year, there was no fear. Anxiety, yes. But not fear. I could do this. I had done it before.

It was time to run.

I got up, put on the clothes that I laid out the night before, and headed out. It was barely 6am when I got downtown to the starting line, but there were already tons of runners walking around, stretching out, and crowding into the starting corrals. The race announcer was already on the loudspeaker, and the streets were alive with pre-race energy.

When the gun went off, a huge cheer rose up from the crowd. 

And away we went.

The race went great. Better than last year. Seven minutes better, actually. I felt strong, confident, and happy. There is so much to recap from the race weekend, and the race itself. There is so much I want to write down for you, and most especially, for me. Because this past weekend is one I want to remember clearly. One I want to be able to look back on and point to and say "I did that." So I have been struggling since I landed in Pittsburgh on Friday morning with how, exactly, to write it to make sure that I can.

And somewhere around mile 10 of the race it came to me. Running is often a solitary sport. But when I run a race I realize that I could never do what I did without the support of family and strangers alike. So I decided to recap my race weekend with a series of thank yous, if you'll indulge me.


To the Pittsburgh Airport, for this sign in the main terminal. 

To the City of Pittsburgh, my favorite place in the world, for being so incredibly beautiful, and for absolutely perfect race weekend weather.

To GNC, the sponsors of the marathon expo, for giving us a huge poster to sign that will hang in the GNC store in downtown Boston, and for making #RunForBoston bracelets with all proceeds going to The One Fund. Every single person I saw at the race, myself included, was wearing one, and we thought about Boston as we ran our miles. Pittsburgh Proud, Boston Strong.

To Sister K, who drove in from Cleveland by herself with both of her kids to hang out with me for race weekend.

To Nora Roberts, for her new book Whiskey Beach. I spent all day Saturday reading that gorgeous romance instead of being nervous.

To my mom, for getting up before the sun on Sunday morning to drive me downtown, even though there were buses leaving from down the street to shuttle people to the starting line.

To my dad - a former marathoner himself - for reminding me to never skip a water stop, and for navigating traffic and closed roads to pick me up at the finish line.

To the three women standing next to me in my starting corral. I don't know your names, but your conversation about your personal trainers definitely made the time before the starting gun go by a whole lot faster.

To the woman in the white hat standing up on the fence who, because of her vantage point, offered to take pictures of the crowd for everyone around her holding a smart phone, which was absolutely everyone around her.

To the race announcer, who managed to quiet 30,000 people for a moment of silence for Boston. 

To the band playing the Rocky theme just beyond the starting line. Everybody needed that.

To the spectators all along the first mile. It was 7am and pretty cold, but they were awake cheering like it was the middle of the afternoon.

To the fireman I saw at mile 6 running the race in full gear. You are my hero.

To the extremely pregnant woman I saw at mile 7 holding a sign that said "Run Faster Honey, My Water Just Broke." I needed that laugh.

To this guy:

To whoever came up with the idea to hang "Runner of Steel" signs on every bridge in the race. Running the bridges is really, really hard, and the signs gave a much needed boost.

To the family I don't know who cheered my name from the exact spot where my race started to fall apart last year, immediately erasing the bad memories and replacing them with good ones.

To the family just after mile 10 handing out chocolate chip granola bars to all the runners. A snack never, ever tasted so good.

To the slightly drunk spectators on the South Side all along mile 11. Your pre-10am drinking made for a fun mile for all of us.

To the woman running next to me as we started the final mile who said to herself, "I'm tired and I'm hurting, but I've got this." You reminded me that I did too.

To whoever decided to turn up the microphone at the finish line to full blast. I could hear the finish half a mile before I saw it.

To the spectators lining the final quarter mile of the race. Your cheers carried me over the finish line.

To the volunteer who gave me my medal at the finish line. I can't remember if I thanked you in person.

To this sign, because I did:

To my niece, who forced me to keep my legs moving after the race by chasing her around the park. Can't say no to that face.

To all my incredible friends - both in person and in this vast virtual world. You kept me going through long months of training and through 13.1 miles. I couldn't have done it without you.

I'm grateful.


  1. Incredible! What an accomplishment! Thank yourself too :)

  2. that last comment was your cousin M!

    1. cousin M! Missed you on Saturday when I was hanging out with Cousins L and J!

  3. yay!!! you did it!! and you loved it!! the best!! so much to be thankful for!!! go you!!!!

  4. What a fantastic post! You captured such a wonderful day. I loved your concept of being thankful for all these things. You definitely got me excited to do some races this summer :)

    And now I'm off to buy that Nora Roberts book!

  5. Excellent!!! This made me want to do a race right now. Glad you felt the love. Those signs were amazing. Bravo for a great race and post.

  6. Awewww! My eyes tested up towards the end. Awesome job but I knew you would do it up right. I'm so happy you had a great weekend at "home".

  7. This may be the best approach to a race recap that I've ever read. Loved it! Congrats on your race. And I might make you my new best friend because of this line: "To the City of Pittsburgh, my favorite place in the world, for being so incredibly beautiful"

  8. Yayyyyyy! Congratulations, Sam! I am so happy for and proud of you. I loved reading this and am feeling recharged and inspired to believe in myself in 11 days, just as you believed in yourself last weekend.

  9. WoooHooo! Good for you. I had no doubt that you were going to just rock this half marathon. But your post gave me chills. I love the way that you noticed and all of these people along the way. Amazing. It really shows how we are all so connected to each other and that we always have an opportunity to positively impact someone's life even if it seems rather inconsequential. Yay You!

  10. What a beautiful offering! Ditto to everything Christine said above. I also have chills thinking about all the people whose lives you touched and who touched yours during this amazing event - your spirit and goodness is indestructible and shines through in this post. Bless you for showing us how gratitude is done. Congratulations!

  11. Congratulations on a terrific accomplishment! Way to go, Sam! (And PS...Cleveland - yay - I'm from Cleveland!)