Fox Chapel area runners find Pittsburgh Marathon brings challenge, joy
Gibsonia runner Vern Keenan huddled on a wooden pallet near the finish line of the Dick's Sporting Goods Pittsburgh Marathon , wrapped in a silver Mylar blanket and munching a banana.
It was a moment to savor, said the runner who at 47 joined her teenage son this year for the race through city neighborhoods.
“He's way faster than me, so I told him to just go at about Mile 5,” she said, laughing. “He's probably been home and showered already.”
Keenan was one of about 40,000 runners to hit the streets for part or all of the 26.2-mile course through the North Shore, Highland Park and the South Side.
Aspinwall's Beth Rudolph celebrated her half-marathon run, but it was for reasons more than crossing the finish line.
Donning a short white veil, the bride-to-be was cheering her “final run as a Rudolph” before she walks down the aisle June 2.
Never aspiring to be a runner, Rudolph, 38, took up the sport after years of dancing and found it to provide a mental boost. She since has participated in nine Pittsburgh races, along with the Rachel Carson Trail Challenge — a grueling 35-mile endurance hike from Harrison Hills to North Park.
Rudolph said the Pittsburgh Marathon draws her back each year for the spectators, up to 300,000 of them, who cheer on the runners from every point along the course.
“You get to the North Shore and there's a group of kids that come out and yell,” she said. “The West End is another area where everyone seems to always come out. It just makes you feel nice, like you are a part of the city.”
Fox Chapel resident Julie Wolff Rost said the camaraderie is what keeps her in the game.
“I enjoy the training as much as I love the event,” said Rost, who completed her 18th marathon in an impressive list of cities that include New York, Chicago and Boston.
“When I first got into running, it was something for myself,” she said. “I could do it on my own schedule, and it cleared my head.”
Now, she finds joy in the friendships she's forged with a group of running buddies. A few time each week, they run 6 1⁄2 to 10 miles across the same streets that Rost drives for carpools.
“We meet at 6 a.m. at McCahill Field on Squaw Run Road,” Rost said. “We run and talk, run and talk.”
Having run marathons in major metropolitan cities, Rost believes that Pittsburgh is among the top tier at hosting the event.
“It's a fabulous course and a great tour of the city,” she said, recalling a favorite moment from 2009, the year the Pittsburgh Marathon came out of hiatus.
“It was my first one here and it was hard,” she said. “I was focusing on getting it done and just as I approached the Birmingham Bridge, there was a man all by himself standing with a sign that said, ‘Smile. You're going to finish a marathon today.'
“I thought to myself, ‘That's what Pittsburgh is about.' ”
Tawnya Panizzi is a staff writer for the Tribune-Review.