My Epic FIRST Race Recap!


That pretty much sums up my trip home to Pittsburgh to run in my very first race, the Dick’s Sporting Goods Pittsburgh Marathon’s 5K. But since one-word posts don’t really make for interesting reading, I’ll elaborate. Oh, and I will totally blog about my trip home, as it was the most fabulous summer{ish} vacation ever, but this post is solely race-related! This is long, so I’ll warn you. Feel free to take a break mid-reading…just don’t forget to come back!

Last Friday, the 4th, I drove myself to the David L. Lawrence Convention Center in downtown Pittsburgh to attend the race expo and pick up my packet. This isn’t overly exciting to you, but I’m hella proud of myself!

I’ll explain. I am forever getting lost in downtown Pittsburgh. It’s been this way my whole life. Now, I’ll mention that grew up in the suburbs, about 28 miles from the city. I’ve ventured into downtown a zillion times, so one would think I should know how to do it without getting panic-stricken about getting lost. One would think. To make it worse, I obviously had the NC license plate on my car which makes me look even more confused–and Pittsburgh drivers aren’t too forgiving. “This Jagoff can’t drive in dahntahn!” I could mentally hear the drivers screaming behind me…

But I’m hella proud because for some reason, I was maneuvering around that town like I owned it. Or at least like a competent taxi driver. I found a parking garage, parked, walked, found the convention center–all with ease as if I knew what I was doing! I felt like standing in the middle of Penn Avenue, a la Mary Tyler Moore, tossing my hat in the air, and sing-shouting, “I’m gonna make it afterallllllllll!”

I arrived a little after 11am and the expo was already in full swing with so much energy–vendors, volunteers, Pittsburghers just checking out the festivities and of course race participants!Β  My first stop was to pick up my race packet and swag bag.

Once I saw the number of 1341, I knew it was a good sign!! Growing up, my house number was 134, and a favorite number for my parents to play in the Pennsylvania Lottery. In fact, that same day, I had a little cash in my wallet that Daddy had given me from one of his recent wins by playing that very number. Yes, good number indeed!!!

I loved my race shirt. I didn’t know {newbie mistake} that race shirts weren’t unisex. I ordered a medium thinking it was a regular, general medium, but golly, it’s snug!

I also loved the swag inside of my bag:

The only thing I did not like about the swag was the bag. It’s underneath all my swag. See it? It just says UPMC Health Plan. Nothing fun. Nothing cute. No logo. Yup, it’ll end up at the thrift store. Bummer. Yes, I know technically the 5K was sponsored by UPMC Health, but I still wanted a cute bag doggone it! I wanted the bag that all of the half and full participants were getting:

Look how fabulous it is! I won’t lie, as I walked around seeing so many people with those bags, it was such a division of classes and as excited as I was when I first got into the expo, the excitement started to die down a bit. –The cool people getting the attractive bag who were running the elite Dick’s races and then the other people carrying the blah bag who were running the little 5K not good enough to get a fun bag.– Yes, I made this all up in my mind. But seriously people, that was atmosphere and it wasn’t cool.

As I just wrote about days before the race in my post, It’s Not JUST a 5K, my race was JUST as important as the half and full marathons. It couldn’t have only felt that way to me. There had to be hundreds of first timers there–so excited to run their first race. They should be recognized, too.Β  But why wasn’t it treated as such at the expo? Why didn’t the expo vendors, organizers, Dick’s or somebody act like it?

I even went up to some pretty blonde lady that seemed to be in charge of something. I asked, “Do you have any 5K merch? It’s my first race and I’d like to commemorate it with 5K t-shirt or sticker or hat…something.” She said, “No {and gave me a sad puppy dog look}, we just have merchandise for the half and full participants. I guess you’ll have to run the half next year!”

Umm, yes, Race Organizer Barbie. I guess I will. My gosh she was peppy. I kept searching and found some race shirts that didn’t mention 13.1 or 26.2, but I wasn’t in the mood for buying from her at that point.

I kept walking around and then managed to get my groove back. I was just plain old happy to be there. And even though I wasn’t racing one of the big races, my little 5K was still important to me! So I put my smile back on and be-bopped around the tables.

I stumbled upon a great vendor table from by Doug Vogel. I couldn’t believe my eyes–he had 5K/3.1 oval car stickers and magnets!!! I was soooooo happy as there were none to be found anywhere else. I couldn’t wait to bust out my wallet and buy one. I thanked him for having these, mentioning again, how 5Ks were important, too. Then just because, he gave me a Runner Girl sticker for free! Score!!! Support this man!


That same night I came back into downtown, this time with my older sister in tow. For some AMAZING reason, she decided to book us a room at the Renaissance Pittsburgh Hotel!! Holy swanky, Batman. She wanted to see her baby sister run her first race and not have to drive into the city in the morning. Who was I to stop her? πŸ™‚

The lobby was sooo pretty. I wish I had gotten a better picture. And the view from our room was fabulous!! There was a Pittsburgh Pirates game going on that night and we could see PNC Park right from the room!

Mind you, I took the pic from inside the room, so the darn window is in my way. But it was still gorgeous nonetheless! After we got set up in the room, we went to Six Penn Kitchen for a swanky dinner. It was just okay. To me, it seemed like one of those restaurants where you’re paying for the ambience and not so much the tasty food.

Wow, somebody was carbo-loading for no good reason! I just wanted an excuse to gobble down the side of bread and those pretzel bites. The wings needed to be hotter temperature-wise, but the presentation was nice.

I woke up the next morning and was practically skipping about. Race day!!!

I wore black and yellow of course–Pittsburgh colors–and my Pittsburgh Sweaty Band. Sissy and I headed over the couple of blocks to the the race start area on Stanwix Street around 7am. There were already a lot of people there!

After a last bathroom pitstop in McDonald’s, I left my sister and headed over to the back of the line. Well, what I thought was the back of the line. I guess I ended up somewhere in the middle. Everyone was standing with their friends, families, or talking to strangers. I just stood there solemnly taking it all in. Trying not to cry. The tears welled up, of course. I just could not believe that I was standing in a line about to go racing the streets of Pittsburgh at 8 o’clock in the morning with hundreds of people. That made me think of 8 things.

1. I used to hate running.
2. I pretty much swore I’d never run in a race.
3. I was in a walking boot this time last year.
4. I am not an outdoor runner; it makes my treadmill sad.
5. I prefer to run alone. It’s my me time.
6. I don’t like running in the morning.
7. I have a fear of bridges. {How I ever went anywhere growing up surrounded by 3 rivers, I don’t know.}
8. How did I get here? What am I doing? Can I get out of this somehow? I don’t think I can do this.

Judging by that last one there, obviously Ms. Self-Doubt decided to make an appearance at the race to see me off. Joy.

After the National Anthem, and after I cussed out her out, justlikethat, it was time to GO!!!

I set my Polar FT7 as I crossed the line and there I went. One foot after the other. I was racing! I didn’t look down at it until after the first mile and was horrified at my time! I wasn’t trying to run fast necessarily; just make sure I came in at under 45 minutes. But after checking my time, and at that rate, I was going to miss that goal! We hit mile two and suddenly I felt some mojo. Otis, by Kanye and Jay-Z piped into my iPod and I felt like running like the wind! And dancing. But that would have to come later. I shall now deem this my new running song because I think it really helped me!!

I wasn’t even afraid of the bridges! A lot of people had to slow down or walk over them because of the slight incline–but not me. I just kept on going and strengthening those thighs and glutes. I never walked at any point during the race {that was another goal} but I did slow down for a second or two to take this picture mid-race. I was thinking of the blog!

The main thing I did keep worrying about was turning my ankle. So many divots in the road and loose pebbles! I don’t have to think about that on my trusty treadmill! And also, I decided racing is a lot like playing Frogger. Again, since I insist prefer to run alone, there isn’t anyone in my way. This may have helped my speed though because I just kept trying to get away from people, haha. And beat little 8 year olds that thought they were hot stuff. I wasn’t having it!

Just when I was like, “Okay, I think I’m a wee bit tired of running now and I may actually have to walk,” I saw the finish line. Although, I thought it was a fake finish line to let us know that we were close to the real finish line. Heck, I didn’t know; I’ve never raced before. They don’t do that? Haa. When I realized it was the REAL finish and could hear the announcer say, “If your goal is to run a sub 35 race, you better get dahn here now,” my adrenaline kicked in again!

I looked up at the clock and saw it read 35:xx!! I was amazed! I thought I’d finish at 45-something! I looked online to find my actual time.

I know so little about racing that I had to look up the difference between clock time and chip time. Haha, again, newbie! But since the chip time is the actual time I crossed both lines, I’m going with that. That means I ended up with a 33:59 for my first race! Woo-hoo!! My other stats were 639th place out of 1692, and 362nd woman out of 1116 women. I’ll take it!

I’m a Runner of Steel now!

The pic on the left is right after the race {holding my special race edition of a Terrible Towel!} and the one on the right is after I spruced up a bit, proudly donning my medal!

It was a fabulous, fabulous, FABULOUS event that I will remember and cherish for the rest of my life! This proves to me that I CAN do what I put my mind to!!! And as I told the blonde chick at the expo, I will definitely be signing up for their half marathon next year. From what I can tell on their website, the date is May 5, 2013. I’ll be ready!

In the meantime, I have already signed up for aΒ  half marathon as of this morning!!!! The Rock ‘n’ Roll Pittsburgh Half Marathon!!! It is scheduled for August 4, 2013, so it should end up being my second one of the year!

So that’s it! I swear I just spent three hours compiling this post. But it was so worth experiencing ALL of this to even have a story to tell. πŸ™‚

Do you remember your first race? What and where was it? Ever run in this race or the Rock ‘n’ Roll series?

Comments 42

  • Racing is addictive! πŸ˜€ Glad you had a positive experience and here’s to many more successful races πŸ™‚

  • YOU’RE AWESOME!! Great job! I love how your sister did that for you. So sweet! My first 5k was last year. 5k’s are a big deal and deserve credit. I can’t wait to follow your 1/2 marathon training! I know you’re going to do great. You look amazing in your pictures too. I’m so inspired!

    • Thanks, Kendall!! And I’m inspired by you!!!! Look at you rocking your business, On An Inhale!!! So proud of you–best entrepreneur ever!!!

  • Congrats again, times a thousand. You rocked it! A 5k is a wonderful accomplishment – I’m sure one day we’ll look back and see it as a baby race, but for right now, as we’re doing the best we can…they’re massive! Be really proud, Cherie πŸ™‚

    On a less important note, did you redesign your blog? Love the new layout!

    • Thanks again, Faith!! Yes, one day, but now, I’m still pumped and thinking it was was the most amazing thing ever, lol!

      Hmmm, I switched the format/background a little while ago. Just wanted to make it brighter and more clear/sharp. Thank you!!!

  • OMG yay!!! I’m so happy it went so well for you!! CONGRATS!!! You did so awesome!!! What’s next?? πŸ™‚

    • Thanks, Kara!! A half mary is next and already booked for 8/2013!!! I’m sure I’ll do one before that though!!

  • Congratulations, Cherie, on every step of the way!! Way to push through!

  • Hi Cherie, coming to you from the Pittsburgh Marathon site. I do remember my first race. It was the Great Race in Pittsburgh, 10k, in 2009. I had only been running a few months then took off most of the summer (hate the heat!) and was barely back up to running 6 miles by race day. My supportive (not) mom even said I better switch down to the 5k. But I made it and with a decent time. In fact I’ve run it twice more at nearly the same time, which is why I’m doing the 5k this year….if I’m not improving at the 10k, it’s time for a change.

    Sorry you were feeling left out at the Expo. I can guarantee that RUNNERS are not like that. They are so encouraging to other runners of any skill level. Can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen someone sacrifice their time to help out a stranger. You will see a lot of that when you do your halfs. I didn’t get a shirt at the Expo either. The only two I liked are the two you pictured. They didn’t come in a ladies version and I wanted fitted. But we both got the shirts that really mattered. The ones we EARNED.

    I have indeed run a Rock N Roll race, the Las Vegas marathon in December 2011. I was very unhappy with the way it was handled….check it out at if you want more info. Be informed, but don’t let that one mishandled race scare you. I know a lot of people who have done RNR races and had a blast. Pittsburgh will probably be fine as it won’t be huge like Las Vegas. But August? It’s going to be HOT. I’m not doing it because of that and because I swore RNR wasn’t getting another penny from me. There is some charity fundraising but they are a for-profit company. But I will be out there supporting the runners in some capacity.

    • Hi and thanks for stopping by and thank you so much for your comments!!

      Oh yeah, it’s going to be crazy hot! I’m just hoping that with the weird weather that happens in Pgh sometimes, it won’t be hot that day? LOL, I can dream… I’m awful, awful, awful doing anything fitness related in the heat. Except for hot yoga. That I rock. But I’ve started trying to train outside more, in the heat {and it’s hot here in NC} to try to get my body ready the best I can. I’m also hoping the organization of it is awesome like I’ve read in the reviews for some of the other cities.

  • Aww, your first race sounds like it was amazing! I’m so proud of you, sis!!! πŸ™‚

  • So happy for you Cherie!! 33 minutes for your first 5K…and post-injury! That’s phenomenal…imagine what you’ll be able to do next May?! I’m nervous for my first half in July…yikes.

    While marathon running is in its own realm…5K’s are very important races for a reason: they’re typically the first races people compete in. They’re filled with runners trying their hand at racing for the first time, and you’re right…there should be more going on for them. However, I think the reason they didn’t have much for this particular race is because it’s associated with a marathon. If it were its own event, then it probably would. There’s a women’s 5K here in Roanoke that hands out medals and all. It’s own big thing. πŸ™‚

    So proud of you, girl, for stepping up to the plate & cussin’ out the self-doubt, and so happy you’ve got a new love!

    • Thanks, Melissa!! You are going to ROCK in July!!! I can’t wait to hear how it goes!! And see pictures!!! πŸ˜€

  • What a great race recap – I love it! Your enthusiasm and energy just shines from this post, I am so glad you had such a great experience (except for the crappy bag and I agree with you that you should have gotten the same bag as everyone else!) Did you see that brett roethlisberger guy when you were in your hotel, or out and about? I think I told you that when I went to Pittsburgh for the Winter Classic last year he walked through the restaurant I was eating in. I had no idea who he was!

    • Thanks, Linda! My peppiness is shining through, lol!!! Aghhh, sadly, no Mr. Roethlisberger sightings. Maybe next time!! πŸ˜‰

  • CHERIE!!!! I have been eagerly waiting on this post, so it didnt appear as lengthy as you may have thought.
    CONGRATS again on your first 5K. This event was so great for you from so many vantage points – the hotel, the view of PNC park, the great energy during the race, being way under your anticipated time, and the ECSTACY after going through the finish line.
    I remember mentioning you may do a 1/2 and am glad to know you signed up for TWO in the near future.
    Not to make this long but I remember my first race which was a 5K, was so nervous that I banged my head on a pipe, didnt know how to put on the d-tag and was overdressed for a mid-July race!!! Talk about nervousness and anxieties.
    Anyway, congrats again and thanks for the recap – always great reading your blogs!

    • Thank you!! Oh, gosh, this banging your head thing sounds familiar. If it’s not you I heard it from, could someone else have done it, too?? Oh I hope not, but it does make for an interesting first time!!!!

  • It’s ashame that they didn’t give out the same race bag… I saw my friend’s bag from the half marathon and loveddddddddd it! I have two bags from the past two years and they don’t have the cute zipper on the front and were thinner kinda like yours. Loved your recap and I was kinda sad I wasn’t there this year! Maybe next year if I can’t get into the DC Nike Half!

    • Thanks, Holly! Yessss-the zipper! I know! It’s the little details that made me want it so, and the zipper was it!

  • I am so happy for you!!! Go girl!

  • Congrats girl!!!! I remember my first 5k- it was the Gasparilla 5k here in Tampa. Keep making those memories!! πŸ™‚

  • yeah for your first 5K!!!! way to go girl! my first was the midsummer night’s run in lexington KY.

  • Congrats on your first race! I loved this recap. I love running, but not racing. I always wonder why on earth I signed up for the race LOL

    • Thanks, Heather!! I had that same thought while I was running, lol.
      I still think I’m mainly in the pro-running camp and not so much the pro-racing. But since they seem to keep me working toward goals, I guess I’ll keep doing them! Still not racing though… πŸ˜‰

  • awesome job!!! You did so well, especially with your bridge fear and your first 5K! That is a supremely great time πŸ™‚ Woohoo!

    • Thank you, thank you!! Yes, I conquered all kinds of fears and loved every second of it! πŸ˜€

  • Congrats on your 5K. Thanks for the recap. Next year, you can do the half and score a great bag πŸ˜‰ Think of it as motivation.

    • Thanks, Jen!! I’m VERY motivated by that bag, doggone it! Haha, I’ve already started training! πŸ˜€

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  • I LOVED reading this post. My fav by far. I usually hate long posts but I couldn’t put my iPad down. I was smiling and tearing up as if I was watching a movie. I’m so proud of you. You are truly awesome and inspiring. You say all the things newbies think but can’t bring themselves to say or think. I will run my first race on the 27 of this month and I will join the list of newbies like your self who have learned that to get anywhere you have to put one shoe or shoe boot in front of the other. I’m so thrilled for you. Your time was amazing!

    • Thank you, Myrtle. THIS may just be one of the sweetest comments I have ever received!!!! If there was a way to “like” or “favorite” it, I would! It means THE WORLD to me to inspire other people. Yes–one foot in front of the other–I kept repeating that to myself yesterday on my run. I wanted to do 6 miles, and around 4.5 I was like, “Ohhh, I don’t know about this! I’m kinda tired…” I just kept saying “One foot in front of the other, Cherie,” and made it through! I’m excited for your race and hope you love it to pieces!!! Bring tissues!! πŸ˜‰

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