Pittsburgh offers many running club options

| Friday, July 20, 2007

Runners often lament the state of the sport in Pittsburgh. Common complaints are there aren't as many serious runners as there used to be, that times at local competitions are getting slower and that the number of runners is dropping as the population ages. But Pittsburgh still has its fair share of running clubs, which range from the social People Who Run Downtown and Hash House Harriers to the more intense, training and race-based Pharaoh Hounds and Western Pennsylvania Track Club. Whether you've been running for years, are training for your first 5K or just like to walk and want some company, you can find something that suits your needs in the options below.

People Who Run Downtown It's running, it's dining, it's Downtown. Every Tuesday, no matter the weather, the People Who Run Downtown do exactly that, choosing a different dining establishment from which to begin and end their trek each week. The only cost is dinner and beverages afterward, and all levels of runners and walkers are welcome. Organizers distribute a map at each location, and while the standard is a 6-mile run, they also offer 2-mile and 4-mile loops. Locations aren't limited to just Downtown, either, with restaurants chosen on the South Side, near PNC Park and in the Strip. The group has been around since 1986 and meets around 5:30 p.m. For more information, including a schedule, visit www.pittsburghrunning.org .
Pittsburgh Pharaoh Hounds Since 1994, Pittsburgh Pharaoh Hounds has been the group for post-collegiate and other elite-level runners. Being a former collegiate runner isn't a requirement, but these competitive middle-distance and long-distance runners do train and run at a high level. The group has about 12-15 men and eight women who work out on a regular basis, including some triathletes looking to improve their times. The group trains every Tuesday night from approximately 6:30-7:30 p.m. at the Schenley Oval and again on Saturday mornings at 9:30 a.m. for a tempo run at the Schenley Oval. Annual dues are $25, but the group welcomes anyone who wants to check it out. For more information, www.pittsburghpharaohhounds.org .
Hash House Harriers If the Pharaoh Hounds is for serious runners, the Hash House Harriers is exactly the opposite. The group calls itself "the original drinking club with a running problem." In weekly hashes, runners (or hounds) set out on a 3-4 mile-long run, sometimes on puzzling trails laid by a different member (or hare) each week, with hills, obstacles and beer stops along the way. The hashes usually draw 30-40 people with 80 members total. Non-alcoholic beverages are available and all are welcome to join in the fun. Members pay $15 a year to cover the cost of mailings and are also required to host one hash per year. For more info, including a schedule, visit www.pgh-h3.com .
Hot Harry's Running Club "Hot" Harry Kirsch started running at age 56 at North Park. From that point, he would encourage anyone to start running with him. Harry is now in his mid-80s and spends more time walking and riding his Schwinn bicycle than running, but the club is still drawing runners to North Park every Saturday and Sunday morning. The group meets at the Lt. Stone Field parking lot. The main group leaves at 8 a.m. on Saturdays for a distance run between 7-20 miles. The usual crowd is about 50 runners on a nice day. Two hours before that, a smaller group leaves on a 10-20 mile run at a 8-9 minute pace. Sunday morning at 7 a.m. draws a small group for a 10-mile run at an 8-9 minute pace or faster.
Western Pennsylvania Track Club Perhaps the most comprehensive club in Pittsburgh, Western Pennsylvania Track Club has been in existence since 1969 and boasts 200 members, including track and field athletes, road runners, race walkers, marathoners and ultra-runners who range in age from teens to folks in their 80s. The club trains at both Carnegie Mellon and Norwin High School in North Huntingdon, and have placed teams in the Boston and New York marathons as well as the Great Race. Membership is $15 for an individual or $20 per family per year, and everyone is welcome to join. Go to www.westpenntrackclub.org for more details and membership information.
Tech alert Ever wonder how far you've run, or exactly what one mile, two miles or 10 miles equates to in your neighborhood or local running spot• One Web site, www.mapmyrun.com , makes it easy to figure out. Enter your zip code or starting location, and with the map you can zoom in and plot points for every turn you make. A mileage counter adds it all up for you, making it easy to plan your routes and/or figure out just how far you made it.

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