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Pittsburgh Marathon notebook: Training group could help give running edge

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Face of the race

Alan Harper

Age: 26

Residence: Brighton Heights

Running: Marathon

Why he's running: Harper already had planned to run before the events of April 15 in Boston. Now he is ordering wristbands for himself and his friends that he will wear in addition to the bands being offered by race organizers. “The message on the wristbands I plan to have made was originally directed toward the marathon itself, ‘Remember Boston 117' for the 117th running of the Boston Marathon and ‘We run together' on the back,” he said. “After the second wave of events transpired in Boston, I decided to change the message on the front to ‘Boston Strong.' ”

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Thursday, April 25, 2013, 11:32 p.m.

If running a half marathon or marathon seems too daunting, joining a club or training group could be the answer.

Local specialty running shops including Fleet Feet in Bethel Park and Elite Runners & Walkers in Robinson and Monroeville offer training groups that provide certified coaches, pace groups, group runs and training plans.

“These are certified coaches from USA Track & Field,” Elite Runners & Walkers owner Kevin Smith said. “They've made mistakes and will help you avoid making your own. They understand easy days and hard days and making sure you peak at the right point. You don't want to find out on race day that you left your race on a long training run day.”

Elite Runners & Walkers' fall marathon and half marathon training groups (Rock ‘n Roll Pittsburgh Half Marathon, Columbus Marathon) begin May 11, and their fall 5K and 10K training group (Great Race) begins July 6. Visit their website at for pricing and more information.

Bob Shooer, owner of Fleet Feet, said perhaps the greatest benefit of a training group is the camaraderie.

It helps, he said, to be around people who are experiencing the same things during training and know exactly what it feels like to have a good day or a bad day. It also helps to run portions of the Pittsburgh Marathon course during training runs.

“People will run the course in different segments so participants get familiar with the elevation changes and the neighborhoods they'll be running on race day,” Shooer said. “That's a huge benefit. And we map everything out and even have water stops so you don't have to think, you just have to run.”

Fleet Feet's fall training groups begin May 12, and additional programs will follow. Visit for details.

Tip of the week

People have been talking about carb loading before race day for years, but Leslie Bonci, director of sports nutrition at UPMC, said waiting to carb up the night before the race is too late.

“Ideally, you have been including some carbohydrates as part of every meal: rice, cereal, bread, pasta, fruits, vegetables. You should fill one-third of the plate with grains and one-third with fruits/veggies, giving you a plate with two-thirds carbs per meal,” Bonci said. “I recommend the idea of adding a little more carb-containing foods to each meal in the three days before your event.

“That could be a 12 cup additional cereal at breakfast, another piece of fruit at lunch, and an additional 12 cup (not a trough) of pasta or rice at dinner. This way you supersaturate your muscle and liver glycogen (carbohydrate stores) so you don't fatigue as quickly when you are on the course. The goal is to optimize carbohydrates, not ‘load' so to speak. Too much doesn't help you to run well, sleep well or feel well.”

Did you know?

If you're running the 5K on May 4, Bonci said there's no need to have a plate of pasta the night before.

“Just eat as you have during training,” she said. “You won't be out there for that long, and eating too much the night before may disrupt your sleep and slow you down.”

Karen Price is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach her at or via Twitter @KarenPrice_Trib.

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