Top 5 Places Along the Pittsburgh Marathon Course

There are some really awesome spots along the Pittsburgh Marathon Course. As someone who has ran the majority of the course (Half Marathon in 2013, legs 4 and 5 of the Relay in 2014), I have picked out my top 5 places along the course. Will you be running any part of the Pittsburgh Marathon Course in May? Look for these!

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A few years ago, it would have been a true April Fool’s Joke if I wrote about running a mile, let alone a Half Marathon. Over 110 pounds ago, I set my heart and my head to a goal – to run a Half Marathon. Thing is, I never spoke it until a ‘lil over a year ago when I trained for my first half, the Pittsburgh Half Marathon.

Becky at her First Half Marathon – 2013

Now, there are still times that I don’t think I am really a runner, but I am. My feet move me, my lungs sure feel it, and I have at least five medals to prove it. When I was matched up with Jennifer, I got really excited to be able to share part of my story on her blog. I tossed around a few ideas and decided with a ‘lil of a month to go until the Pittsburgh Marathon, my “Top 5 Places Along the Pittsburgh Marathon Course” would be a fun fit for today. Although I am not doing the Half this year, I’m running two legs of the Marathon Relay and am excited to see my favorite places soon.

Top 5 Places Along the Pittsburgh Marathon Course

5. The starting line. Emotions soar as you inch your way (literally) to the starting line. It’s incredible to be part of such a large group of people — all ages, sizes, races, genders — with one common goal. Music is blasting, people cheering, and cameras snapping. I definitely ran the fastest quarter mile of my life (to that point) as we ran past through the starting line and I waved HEY to my husband.

4. The North Shore. Be ready to smell some amazing bacon wafting through the air from Bistro to Go. Run past PNC Park and the Children’s Museum. The harmonica guy. So much cool Pittsburgh “stuff” to run past. It’s truly part of “running home” (this year’s Marathon Theme).

3. The Birmingham Bridge. This, to me, is the make or break of the race. I made that bridge my “you know what” because I realized that “OMG, bridges are really big hills”. You get to see the city. Half Marathoners will be bracing themselves to go up the hill to Duquesne and saying farewell to the relayers and marathoners. It was definitely a defining moment in my running life.

2. The miles to the finish line. Okay, I haven’t done this yet, but I did some of them during the 10-Miler in November. Fast miles happen here. Crowds in Bloomfield and Lawrenceville are VERY supportive (so I witnessed on the news). The finish line is OH.SO.CLOSE. This is going to be my most exciting part of my experience this year.

1. Anywhere your friends or family are along the course. Greg and I strategically placed where I’d need him to be and scheduled out T-schedules and walk times for him to get to me. At least twice, he got to high five me. When I did the 10-miler, he even pushed the double stroller and had my ‘lil cheerleaders there for me. It really means a lot to have your biggest fans along the course. Don’t have fans? Don’t worry. EVERYONE is there to cheer for you on race day.

Are you going to be part of the Marathon Weekend this year? If so, look  for me. I’ll be panting, running between 10-12 minute miles, and taking on the hill to Oakland, through my beloved Shadyside (thank you, Chatham College), and down the hill into the finish line. Look for me, or follow @mrsgregwillis for race day updates.


This post originally appeared on The Firecracker Blog as part of a Pittsburgh Blogger’s April Fool’s Day Event in 2014. The following bloggers participated: 

A Librarian’s Lists and Letters

Sean’s Ramblings

Small Town Dad

Sole for the Soul


The Firecracker Blog

The Pittsburgh Mommy Blog

The Steel Trap

West of Mars

Ya Jagoff

Yinz R Readin


Yum Yum PGH

Half Marathon Emotional Dump

This post is pure emotion…a dump of my thoughts post Half Marathon. What a day!

Kids, I hope you can look back on a day and can say it was the best day of your life, even if that day changes throughout the years. Maybe right now the best day of your life was the day you were able to try real ice cream (Arianna) or the day you were able to wear Thomas unders 24/7 (Evan). But for me, that day would be yesterday, May 5, 2013.

It sounds cruel, as a mother and a wife, a college and grad-school graduate to say that a random Sunday in May could surpass your births, our wedding day, the days I graduated, or even the days I got my first job…or started at my current company (which, by the way, I totally forgot my 4 year anniversary was last week, I was so wrapped up in this day). I know it sounds awful, but I hope one day you will understand.

One day, you’ll look at what your Mama did and know that this day was a big one for her. Your Mama carried a lot of weight, both physical and emotional over the past 6 years. I went through some things I never want you to go through, and I needed to find a way to deal with that and move on. I found my healing in running, and set a goal to run a Half Marathon.

Saturday I was a complete mess, laughing, crying, snapping, doing everything wrong, doing everything right. My emotions were crazy, I was scared. My goal was just around the corner.

Greg and I went downtown on Saturday and he ran the 5k with my friend Steffani. They did awesome, it was her first 5k and I was so proud to watch it.

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Then we went to the Expo and met a pacer who gave me a temporary tattoo to wear and a goal of 3 hours. (When I left my office on Friday, the goal was 3:30 and not to get swept.) I was pumped, I could do this. We went to lunch. We shopped for too long. I was exhausted and a wreck. Sleep came way too easily, albeit after eating my first entire Subway footlong in 2 years (shame? none.).

Sunday morning, the big day arrived. You were not with me, I decided it best in case something crazy happened. Instead, you watched the TV from Grammie and Pappy’s for me. (Arianna, you claim you saw me, but no one can confirm as you were alone at the time.) We headed downtown, my arms and legs branded in motivations.

#BostonStrong *USA* today I run for…Wendy, Tracy, Aaron, Genre, & Dad. #CancerSucks

I was ready, but I didn’t know it. Greg held me for what seemed like forever after we exited the T in a mass of participants. I didn’t know if I’d see him again (my emotions went that crazy) and I wanted to enjoy every last second. He took a picture of me, we stretched my hamstrings, we hugged goodbye and he wished me luck. I was thrown into a sea of E-Corral pacers.

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The National Anthem played. I bawled. I saw a voicemail from Myrtle Beach friends–I got to listen quickly before the start, it was ‘lil runners wishing me good luck. I cried, I laughed.

My friends were with me throughout the race, although I ran it (physically) alone:
-Greg and I saw a shooting star above the city just before the race–a sign that for me has always been Wendy letting me know she’s still here, looking out for me.
-They played Renegade just before my start.
-They played Don’t Stop Believin’ as I crossed the starting line.
-A blogger friend was live blogging from the crowd–I saw her, but didn’t realize it until the race was over.
-A pair of runners dressed as Mario and Luigi and had the theme song playing from a phone
-Evan and Arianna–a harmonica player was playing “You Are My (Sunshine) Mommy”

Here’s my mile by mile reactions:

Mile 1:
-Really fast, for me, but felt good. Around 12 minutes.
-Why are people already lined up for the bathroom? I swear to my self I will not stop.

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Mile 2:
-Wow, here already? Another fast one, 2 miles down in just over 24 minutes.
-Didn’t grab a water, hope the next one is before mile 6. Gatorade cups are slippery!

Mile 3:
-The clock is broken. My time is going to be incredible if I keep this up. One bridge down.

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Mile 4:
-Where the hell is the clock?
-Where the hell is Greg? I’ve crossed two bridges, he better be on the third one.
-Mile 4 is a freaking long mile to get to. (I never saw the mile 4 marker.)
-So glad I saw Greg on the bridge. He looked so cute sitting up there, cheering for me.

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Mile 5:
-Oh, already at Mile 5? Where was mile 4???
-Greg and Steffani got to run down that hill yesterday, lucky ducks.

Mile 6:
-Almost halfway. I’ve got this in the bag. If I keep this pace up…wait…I’ll be under three hours. There’s no way. No way.

Mile 7:
-Will I ever get to Mile 7? West End bridge and the hill after were tough, but tougher is ahead. Keep your head up, keep swimming.
-West End neighbors are awesome!

Mile 8:
-Wait. Where was mile 7 (again, never saw it).
-Gulp the water, oh!

Mile 9:
-Furiously looking for Greg. He finds me, I realize even at fluid stations I didn’t walk, just ran through to get my water. I yell, NO WALKING I AM A BEAST! He jumps to the side of the course to reach out to me, I never have felt more love.

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Mile 10:
-GU is an amazing invention, can I have more???
-I have never full out run this far.
-How the HELL do I get on that hill with those runners [to my left on the hill district]

Mile 11:
-Time to say goodbye to the marathoners and make the Birmingham Bridge mine. I got this.

Mile 12:
-That hill is a mother, forget the bridge.
-If I pass out on this hill, no one will be able to get me…oh crap. Keep going, don’t walk.

Mile 13:
-They said it was all downhill from 12. What is that hump before the finish line?
-Finish line in sight. Find husband, make sure he’s watching.
-Cry. Cry. Cry. This is so awesome.

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Finish Line:
-3:13. I did it in just over 3 hours. OMG. Wait. That’s the gun time. I started 20:50 after that. OMG. I did it in under 3 hours. I can’t do math right now.
-My knees won’t stop moving. Ouch.
-I need a picture. I need a heat wrap. I need the glory.
-I need water, lots of water. No medic needed, I am walking!!!

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Post Finish Line:
-Find Greg or bathroom? Bathroom wins. Greg finds me first. He had to hold me so I wouldn’t fall over.
-How the hell can I pee if I can’t bend my knees anymore?
-OMG. There’s a medal around my neck. I finished. No cart sweep. Cry, cry, cry.
-My phone is dead. I can’t share this with anyone but Greg, but that’s okay right now.
-I need to stretch. Don’t let anyone step on my head.
-Results tent. “Did you have a goal for under 3? Cause, uh, you killed that.” 2:52:55? ARE YOU SURE THAT’s ME??? “Yes, that’s you!” OMG.

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Sunday was an amazing day for me. It marked leaving things on the pavement, fighting off fears, meeting goals, remembering what got me to here and where I can go now. It was an amazing experience, and I am so proud to say I did it. I am a fighter, and I won’t give up.

5/5/13, the best day of my life (so far).

(More photos on Flickr)

Three Days

One of these days, I will be back and regularly sharing stories with you. For now, I am in final countdown mode. In three days, the goal I have been training for will be met. I will have completed the Pittsburgh Half Marathon.

I will be celebrating Genre, thanking my supporters for helping me raise money for Kids With Cancer.

I will know my kids are cheering for me from a safe distance with my parents, understanding that Boston changed our plans but didn’t take our spirit.

I will probably not know what to do with myself, because my training will be complete and my life will be “mine” again.

But…I will not forget a moment from today that proves I have changed.

Me: I will be back soon, it is only three miles. That’s not far!

Greg: Cool, we will be here.

Me: Wow. Only three miles! A few years ago, that would have been, “it is okay to go off this exit, the Ponderosa is only three miles off it”.

Change is good.

Hopefully you will cheer me on. Whether from afar or along the Half Marathon course. You have all been great so far. And for that…I thank you.

Willis Family at the Park

Run For a Reason: I’m IN for the Half (And Need YOU!)

Okay, you guys. I am seriously shaking.

Today, I decided to bite the bullet and register to “Run for a Reason” for the Pittsburgh Marathon’s Half Marathon. My mind and body fought, but after attending an event where the Race Director (Patrice Matamoros) spoke about why people do the marathon, I couldn’t just sit there and say “I wish I had done that, I had it in me.”

I lost 88 pounds. I lost my best friend to cancer. I ran 2 5ks. I did Mud on the Mountain. I birthed two babies. I was a single mom. I moved every 3-4 years as a kid. I moved to South Carolina on a whim and prayer. I moved home on another whim and prayer. I have no freaking excuse to not be able to do this. I can take this half and kick it.

Right? But here’s the thing. I really, really need your help. If I don’t raise the $350 for Genre’s Kids with Cancer Fund, I am going to have to foot the entire $350 registration fee myself. Those are crazy scary odds. Scarier than me worrying about finishing the half.

But what is even scarier is being a kid and having Cancer. Genre’s Kids With Cancer fund seemed like the most logical charity to run for. Genre fought and won against cancer, and now this young man (12 years old, he was 8 when diagnosed in 2009!) is doing more for others. Helping get sick kids toys and games to pass their time at Children’s Hospital (where Wendy was treated) and keep their mind off the c-word. Helping parents with the financial burden of traveling for treatments. Helping everyone to spiritually deal with the impact of cancer. It’s just such good stuff, that I can’t NOT do this for him, for the sick kids, for Wendy.

Source: Genre’s Site

If every person who read my “ONEDerland” post gave just $3, I’d have this thing beyond in the bag.

If every Twitter follower gave $0.50, I’d be above and beyond my goal.

If every Facebook friend gave $1, I’d be there.

For some reason, I think my network, my CROWD, could put this in the bag for me this week. Right?

We together would raise a ton of money for kids with cancer. But I know my friends, family, and network. You guys have pushed me. You’ve held me when I’ve fallen. And you can help me raise this $350 in no time. No pressure, but I need half of it by the end of this month!

So, how are you going to help me? Who is in to be the first to give to my goal? And even more importantly, who is in on Cinco de Mayo to join one of the neighborhood festivals and stand along the race path and cheer me on?

I’ve got this, right?

Help me to help the kids (and to cross that finish line). Visit my CrowdRise page and donate here: If you’d prefer, Email Me to donate privately or via cash/check.

Have a few extra moments? Check out Genre addressing the crowd at the Marathon Press Conference. Trust me, it’s worth your time.