Latrobe area women running in 150-mile Cumberland-to-Pittsburgh relay race
Two Latrobe-area women intend to test their endurance, physical fitness and mental toughness in a 150-mile relay race along the Great Allegheny Passage that starts Friday in Cumberland, Md., continues throughout the night and does not end until runners reach Pittsburgh’s South Side on Saturday.
April LeViere, 42, of Latrobe and Tricia Gaia, 49, of Unity are joining about 325 runners from about 50 relay teams running in the second annual GAP Relay.
About half of the teams of four, six and eight runners will start in Cumberland at 11 a.m., with the other half leaving at noon. The 150-mile race is divided into 24 legs of varying distance, depending upon the locations of roads along the trail and trailheads, said Troy Schooley, chief executive of P3R, one of the organizing groups of the race.
Runners must push themselves through sleep deprivation as they move along a dark, wooded trail in isolated areas while wearing a head lamp for illumination. There are few spectators.
“I love the challenge of the elements, the darkness and also love the team aspect of the relay,” said LeViere, who ran 34 miles of the 150-mile trail last year as part of a four-member team. LeViere, who has run marathons and other relays, is captain of the six-member Mind the Gap team. She expects to run “only” about 20 miles this year.
A longtime athlete, LeViere said that “even though I’m an adult, I haven’t lost that competitor inside me.”
Gaia, who anticipates running between 18 and 20 miles as part of an eight-member team, said she will be prepared for her nightime leg of running six miles, because she ran a stretch from Ohiopyle to Dunbar at night last year.
“It was pouring rain and it was terrible,” Gaia said. After last year’s experience, team members said “we’d never do it again,” Gaia said.
But, Gaia, who usually runs 20 to 25 miles a week and has run in half-marathons, said six runners from last year’s team are back to take another crack at it.
“We wanted to do it better this year and enjoy the finish line,” said Gaia, who works as a chief financial officer for a Greensburg distribution company and has two sons.
Gaia said they do not want to duplicate last year’s experience, when they did not get enough sleep over the 24-hour period. This time, she said, her team rented a motel room in the Belle Vernon area, where they can shower and take a nap. They will have two vehicles that will shuttle the runners.
Still, try as they might to get rest, “you don’t really sleep,” said LeViere, a systems engineer for a Somerset company. The mother of two children ages 12 and 14 said, “I’m used to that.”
Part of her run last year included the Ohiopyle-to-Connellsville leg in complete darkness at 2 a.m., LeViere said.
“I was a little afraid at times. In all honesty I prayed in those moments as I was alone the entire leg of the race,” LeViere said.
Schooley said he noticed last year that runners were picking up their pace at night.
Runners this year are able to select sections of the race they want to run and will have access to water stations and first aid stations along the route. The goal is to have the teams finish on Pittsburgh’s South Side between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m., said Schooley, whose P3R organizes the annual Pittsburgh Marathon. A co-organizer, the Allegheny Trail Alliance, which is a coalition of trail groups along the GAP, will receive proceeds from the race, Schooley said.
The runners will receive a commemorative medal, a long-sleeve T-shirt featuring custom artwork and “swag bag.” They also will be able to enjoy food and beverages at an after-race party at the South Shore Riverfront Park.
“We want to make it fun for the runners throughout the duration of the race,” Schooley said, but “safety is the number one priority.”
Joe Napsha is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Joe at 724-836-5252, [email protected] or via Twitter .