Two strangers found strength in each other about halfway through Sunday’s Pittsburgh Marathon when they realized they would be the last to finish.
Coming in at 7 hours, 22 minutes and 56 seconds, Jessica Robertson of Braddock and Laura Mazur of Ohio, who grew up in the Alle-Kiski Valley and graduated from Kiski Area High School, proudly crossed the finish line hand-in-hand to receive their medals and see their families.
It was Robertson’s first full marathon. It was Mazur’s 12th.
“The running community is a fantastic place to meet people, regardless of your pace,” Mazur said on Facebook. “There will always be someone there for you.”
The pair was followed by the sweep bus for the last half of the marathon, but they didn’t let it shake them. The women’s story has gone viral since Sunday, popping up all over social media. One post was shared nearly 3,000 times and got 12,000 reactions on Facebook.
“We just kept talking to each other, and every so often the sweep bus driver would honk his horn,” Robertson said. “Honestly, we didn’t know we would be a story. It was just a goal of mine to survive.”
Both women complimented the marathon staff, cheer groups and friendly residents who continued to support them when many people had gone home. The marathon staff kept open all of the water stations and mile markers as well as the finish line for the pair.
“Honestly, it’s funny because there’s a lot of it I feel like I don’t remember,” Robertson said. “The stuff I remember is the goodness of people.”
Roberston said a woman along the course ran out of her house with pickle juice for the runners. The woman said they needed something salty.
Betsy Magovern, a coach with the Steel City Road Runners Club, was part of a group that cheered them on at mile 25 and said seeing them bond together was inspiring.
“Their spirits were incredible,” she said.
Mazur posted about the race on her Facebook page where she said what makes races great are not just the medals and the course, but the people.
“Sometimes you just find people you click like Legos with,” Mazur said of Robertson. “And it’s even better when they sing the Lego song with you.”
The women agreed they would be friends for life after their experience at the marathon.
“I couldn’t pick somebody better to go through this journey with,” Roberston said.