PGH Marathon Training Update | Pushing The Limits

PGH Marathon Training Update | Pushing The Limits

I typically don’t write stand-alone training updates, but now that I am encountering distances that are new, I have a lot to say.

This past Saturday, I set out for 14 miles. This has been my longest run to date. I’ve run half marathons since 2015, so I forgot the flutters that pop up and the nerves that creep in when running a new distance. I wasn’t sure what to expect: How will my body handle running further than 13.1 miles? What if these gels aren’t going to stay down on a run that long? What if the sole of my shoe comes off randomly (half-kidding)?

The run went off ok, but not without bumps in the road, of course.

I went out to DICK’S Saturday morning to get some gear. I knew I needed a handheld water bottle along with my typical GU Labs energy gels. I’m a salted watermelon gal through-and-through. Of course, they did not have salted watermelon. So, I was bound to these sweet, sugary flavors that I wasn’t too excited about: chocolate mint, salted caramel, and toasted marshmallow. When I got home, I realized the toasted marshmallow was slightly opened…so that one was a bust. I knew I wouldn’t need three (especially because I buy the gels that contain 100mg of caffeine), but I wanted to be safe. Already, I was feeling off my game a bit: My tried-and-true flavor of gels was a no-go; one of the gels I bought was opened already…

…OH, and about that handheld bottle? Over $30. For a freakin’ water bottle. It’s 22oz, and I debated for a while between that one or the 12oz one. I blew through a 12oz handheld in a half-marathon and during summer training runs of 10 miles, so I opted for the 22oz. Let me tell you – wearing a 22oz handheld filled to about 20oz is an arm workout. I didn’t care for it at first, but I think I’ll appreciate it during the marathon and when I run during the summer months.

I chose to put lemon-lime NUUN Hydration in my bottle instead of just water. I absolutely LOVE NUUN and it worked out great. The taste is low-key and doesn’t taste too sugary, and I felt like it kept me going more than just water.

Now, back to those gels – ugh. The salted caramel was fine, but the chocolate mint is a no-go. It tasted WAY too chocolatey. And while it didn’t upset my stomach, I got heartburn after I ate it – but that may have been because I was the moron who ate tomato soup before running (you’d think, by now, I’d know now to eat something acidic before a long run…). Most importantly, I was able to take the fluids and nutrition without nausea or without any bathroom breaks – so all-in-all, I consider it a win!

I couldn’t find my trusty Spydergrip (another thing that had me off my game a bit), so I slapped on my Amphipod running belt. I’ve never been a fan of the belts because they feel clunky and ride up, but I have to say – the strap on the Amphipod is thick and the fabric is a bit rough, so it stays where you put it. I didn’t have any issues with the belt riding up or down once I got it in the right spot.

And, we’re off! I set out on a 14 mile run without mapping it out or having much of an idea of where I was headed. I know the distances of my typical routes, so I loosely planned – but I do want to map a route the next time.

MILES 1-3: Up Market St. like usual. I love running up Market St. in the spring because it’s full of small business owners who are getting ready for the warmer months. They’re washing windows, dusting off and polishing outdoor furniture, and they’re in a great mood thanks to the nice weather. It’s inspiring to me to see people working hard.

This portion of the route was fine minus one minor thing: It was, apparently, national car wash day. When the weather breaks, everyone in Youngstown and Boardman is at the car wash. It was interesting to weave in-and-out of cars that were backed up on to the street.


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MILES 4-6: Once I reached the intersection of Market St. and 224, I got onto Glenwood Ave. I like Glenwood because there’s well-kept sidewalks and it’s totally flat. I stayed on this road until I reached the cemetery that cuts back over to Market St. (Glenwood and Market run parallel), and I thought the cemetery looked like a great place to get a little elevation change and run back over to Market.

False. I forgot that people apparently think they can let their large dogs roam free in cemeteries. Please, people – for the love of God…PUT THE DAMN DOGS ON A LEASH! I’m running through there, so if I have to jump in a garbage can or randomly climb a tree to avoid your supposedly-friendly pit bull, fine. But keep in mind that this is a place people come to make piece with grief. They don’t want to worry about your dog and its idiot of an owner :-).

Not sure if you can tell, but I was stopped dead in my tracks because a dog began running toward me. Its owner was able to call it back, but it was barreling forward in my direction. PS: I had all intentions of jumping into a garbage can. End of PS.

MILES 7-12: Once I got out of the cemetery and back onto Market, I ran to Newport which has direct access to the hike bike trail in beautiful Mill Creek Metro Park. I wanted to end my run in the park because it’s simply gorgeous, so I chose it for the last half of my miles. There were tons of people walking dogs and a lot of geese and ducks on the semi-thawed lakes. I ran from Newport Lake all the way to Lanterman’s Mill, and the sound and site of the waterfalls helped me continue pushing myself forward.

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Lanterman’s Mill

MILES 13-14: The paint sets in. As I ran back onto the hike bike trail, my right leg cramped EVERYWHERE: quad, hamstring, IT band – my entire leg was shot and I don’t know why. I hydrated properly and took the nutrition, so…not sure what was happening there.

I stopped to stretch and it felt better, so kept going…

…and made it almost .2 miles before I had to stretch more. It got worse. I kept stretching, and I could only make it a tenth of a mile before I had to stop again. I was close to home, so I thought about stopping at 13 for the day.

But I told myself that I came too far just to stop at 13. Regardless of it I had to walk the entire last mile, I was making it to 14 miles. Once I got into that mindset, I was able to keep going: Run a bit. Stretch. Walk a bit. Stretch a little more. Run a little more. Walk a little more. And when my watch notified me I made it to 14 miles, I was proud. My longest run yet.

I just kept asking myself “What will you do during the marathon if this happens?” and the answer was “keep going.” So, I kept going. Side note: If you think you’re seriously injured, you should stop. Period. I can typically tell if that’s the case, and it wasn’t – so I kept going.

I have a feeling next weekend may go better. I have 15 miles on the schedule. If I can make it 14 this week, I can make it 15 next week.

I guess I forgot what it was like to be in this unknown territory. Half marathons became a very comfortable distance to me. For the most part, I know what to expect when I run a half marathon. But this? Fourteen miles and over? I have no idea what my body will do. What I do know is that so far, we’ve made it. In that case…#onward.


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Note: This post contains affiliate links. This means that if you purchase an item linked in this post, I may receive a commission. I’m also an official blogger for the 2019 Pittsburgh Marathon. While I do not receive any monetary compensation, I do receive free perks for my efforts. You can read more about influencer and affiliate marketing on the FTC website.

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