The Great Race here in Pittsburgh is one of the country’s largest races where the 10K is the main event. Held in the last weekend of September, this is one of my favorite race weekends because it’s usually the first race after the heat of summer has broken.
This year was my second time running the 10K (my first was in 2019; the year before that, I ran the 5K).
The 45th annual Great Race is a well-oiled machine. They’ve been doing this for a while, after all. My husband and I parked downtown near the finish line and took the 10K shuttle to the start line. The shuttles (temporarily repurposed city buses) are on a continous loop. When one fills up, it drives off and is replaced by the next. We basically walked right from our car onto the shuttle and before we knew it, we were standing in Frick Park at the 10K starting line.
There was rain in the forecast for most of the morning, so plenty of races were wearing ponchos and plastic bags. I’d opted for my rain jacket, and I was happy to have it when the rain began coming down about half an hour before the start of the race. We sheltered under a tree during the opening programming and stayed relatively dry.
As the announcer mentioned several times, there were over 7,000 of us there to run the 10K, which is a bit mind boggling to think about. It didn’t feel like that many people, and I won’t say I don’t think some of those 7,000 registered racers opted to DNS (did not start) due to the forecast.
Me? I love running in the rain so long as the temperatures aren’t super cold. 61 and rainy isn’t half bad in my opinon, so as we lined up near the 11:30min/mile pacer, I felt ready to go.
The starting horn sound for this race is always a bit of a false start, at least when you’re back with the “slow” pace groups like I am. There’s a long period of slow shuffling towards the starting line before the crowds thin out enough for running to commence.
This race course starts at Frick Park and runs through the city all the way to Point State Park. Those words might not mean anything to you if you’ve never been to the city, but it’s a fun route through several of the neighborhoods I know best: Squirrel Hill, Oakland, and the downtown area.
The main road that’s closed down to serve as part of the course is my daily commute these days, which made it a bit funny as I noted that even at my slow running pace I got through it quicker than I do during the workweek thanks to the heavy traffic.
The course is well-marked and there was actually a decent crowd cheering for the racers this year in spite of the rain. I honestly couldn’t tell you what the crowds were like in 2019, as I was really busy being in my head for that entire race. But this year, I appreciated the cheers from strangers.
About halfway through the race, you run through the 5K starting line from earlier in the day. That’s also the point where there’s one more small hill before you get to run downhill the rest of the way. This year, I spent most of that downhill run feeling overwhelmed by the realization that, in two weeks’ time, I’d be running double the distance I covered at the Great Race.
The finishing line at Point State Park is always well-lined with cheering spectators by the time I reach it (many of them are racers with faster paces than mine), and it’s a pretty exciting finish. I grabbed my medal and a banana, and then we were off to brunch. ￼
If this was a brunch recap, well, that’d be an adventure in and of itself. Overall, this year’s Great Race was indeed pretty great, in spite of the wet weather that joined us for the first leg of the race. The water stations were plentiful and so were the volunteers. I even got to say hello to the Track & Field team from the college where I work (not that any of them recognized me in my sweaty, 10K attire).
There’s a reason I enjoy running this race. It’s always well-planned and the course is pretty flat / downhill aside from a few small uphill bits. I love novelty in a course as much as the next gal, but there’s something to be said for the familiar, too. In fact, there is a group of “Perfect Great Racers” who’ve run the race every year since it began 45 years ago! I don’t know that I’ll ever run any race 45 times, but I think that speaks to the fact that this is a pretty fun 10K to run.
We’re at t-minus 11 days to my half marathon, and I’m glad I got to use this 10K as my long run to remind myself why I love the racing atmosphere. Next time I’m at the starting line, it’ll be in my beloved hometown.