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UPMC Health Plan Half Marathon: 13 miles of tips

Are you geared up and ready to run The UPMC Health Plan Pittsburgh Half Marathon? I am so excited to take a running tour of the City of Pittsburgh. The Pittsburgh Marathon and Half Marathon course will take you on a scenic tour through 13 remarkable and captivating neighborhoods, including the West End, North Side, Oakland, Shadyside, Bloomfield, the Strip District, and more before finishing in the heart of downtown Pittsburgh.

The route is packed with more than 100,000 spectators, neighborhood festivals, bands, cheer squads, and you — runners of steel. In 2015 alone there were over 100 charities supported, 4,000 volunteers, 60 bands, and 36,970 finishers. With so much action and excitement to look forward to, you will surely enjoy the experience.

Some of the biggest questions I get leading up to a big race are about nutrition, pacing, and motivation. I decided to put all of these tips into an easy mile-by-mile guide, so you can forget the complicated stuff and focus on having an amazing race-day experience!

Pre-Race: Don’t forget your morning snack or breakfast and to warm up. The race begins at 7 a.m., so arrive with plenty of time to stay hydrated and get ready to run!

Mile 1: Tame your inner lion and avoid going out too fast at the start. Stick to your race pace plan and know that there are literally thousands of runners starting within minutes of each other so it’s okay to hold back a little.

Mile 2: Take in the sights of the Strip District and ease into your pace as the crowd starts to separate.

Mile 3: Pay attention to your hydration. Fluid stations are set up every few miles, so make sure you grab some sports drink or water! Next one is just before Mile 4.

Mile 4: Look up and smile, because you are running over two bridges packed full of cheering spectators! Also if you are running the marathon relay, this is Exchange Zone 1.

Mile 5: Repeat your race mantra to ease into your trip around the North Side. Mine is, “It’s a good day for a great run.” Pick one that moves you and embrace it.

Mile 6: Fuel. By now you should have been drinking plenty of fluids, and for most runners, about one hour into your race you should consume fuel. Don’t try anything new, though. Also, look out over the West End Bridge for the most beautiful view of the city.

Mile 7: You’re headed into the West End. There is a mid-sized hill around Mile 7 with a huge cheer squad to help you climb it. Power through and enjoy the downhill.

Mile 8: Get ready to grab a drink at the water station and enjoy a slight downhill as you head into Station Square. You will be greeted by streets lined with spectators ready to cheer you on.

Mile 9: Mile 9 runs through Station Square and has a lot going on. There is an aid station, so if you missed the one at Mile 8 and need Vaseline, Band-Aids, or treatment for blisters make sure to stop and visit the medics. This part of the course tends to have enthusiastic spectators and some pretty funny motivational signs, so look up and be ready for a chuckle as you pass the Smithfield Bridge. Finally relay Exchange Zone 2 is right past Mile 9, so if you are in a relay get, ready to pass off!

Mile 10: Mile 10 is all about the fun and energy of the South Side. On the South Side, runners will cover a 2-mile stretch along Carson Street, where residents will pour in from the surrounding neighborhoods and where businesses will set up little cheering sections. It goes fast though, so enjoy it.

Mile 11: This mile is the split between the marathon and the half marathon, so stay to the left while marathoners go to the right. Also, look out over the Birmingham Bridge and take in the sight of the city that’s ahead and the finish line that awaits you in the distance.

Mile 12: This mile can be challenging, because there is a climb as you head up the Boulevard of the Allies, but it will pay off as you crest the hill and then get to run downhill toward the finish line.

Mile 13: As you arrive at the finish line, enjoy the crowds lining the city streets and cheering for you! CELEBRATE! Savor every second of working toward the finish line and your accomplishment.