Why and how I am going to run the 2013 Pittsburgh Marathon

I surprised myself by deciding suddenly to run the Pittsburgh Marathon this year, 2013. This was not part of the plan when I was thinking about my running plans for 2013 a month ago!

This will be my second Pittsburgh Marathon, because the last time I ran it was in 2003, and that was my first marathon ever. It was quite an ordeal to finish, because of a lot of rookie mistakes, but I made it.

Here I am in 2003 near the finish line (photo courtesy of my sister Linda):

Franklin near finish line in 2003

And here I am wearing my medal for finishing in 2003:

Franklin inside with medal

So: why am I running the Pittsburgh Marathon again, now, ten years later? What do I hope to accomplish? And how?


Do it better

In 2003, I ran my first marathon for a variety of reasons, and trained in certain ways, had certain expectations. I will write in depth later about that first marathon, because one reason I am running the Pittsburgh Marathon again now is to do everything better this time, with the benefit of experience and new self-knowledge.

I want to:

In sharp contrast to my first marathon, I do not plan to race this marathon as fast as I can. That blew up on me, and I do not have the time or desire to maximize my marathon performance at this point in my life. I do want to run strong, but not maximally. So I am not almost certainly not going to run faster than I did ten years ago; I am specifically expecting to run slower but to have a better overall experience.

This will not be the second time I run a marathon distance; I have done that two or three times on my own while training for the Rachel Carson Trail Challenge and have also run just over a marathon distance in the annual Sammy’s Birthday Run (a 6-hour ultra event) in 2006 and 2008. But those I did pretty slowly just for training and fun, in well over four hours. In the 2013 Pittsburgh Marathon, I’d like to finish close to the completely arbitrary magic number of 4:00:00. This is very low priority compared to the other goals, but it’s useful to have a little bit of ambition.


Besides what I know now that I didn’t, there are also things that I didn’t know then and still don’t know now, but have hypotheses about. So the experience will be an opportunity to test my hypotheses. In particular, the kind of exercise and diet I follow now different in various ways from ten years ago. I do a lot more core and strength training and less endurance training. So my main goal, in fact, is to run this marathon with relatively low mileage. Instead of spending huge amounts of time and energy banging out the miles in training, I want to try ways of getting in really high-quality training that will enable me to handle the marathon distance better and gut it out through strength.


My first Pittsburgh Marathon experience had me running all alone. I did have support as far as my sister coming to town and my friend Nathaniel watching me and cheering me on at certain points along the course, but out there, I was alone.

This time, I decided not to do the marathon unless I had at least a friend or two joining me. I got my office mate John to sign up (he also did the marathon over a decade ago). Chris is signed up for it, although he actually has yet to run his first marathon, which will be coming up in March. There are a bunch of others I also know who will be running. I guess when time comes, we’ll figure out how our likely paces might coincide (or not).

It will be on my birthday

What can I say: it will be my very first race of any distance run on my birthday. I thought it would be amusing and cool to celebrate my birthday by running the Pittsburgh Marathon.


As staff at CMU, I (and my office mate John) get a special discount for the Pittsburgh Marathon. This explains why I registered today, right before the deadline!

In addition to the reduced registration fee, part of the deal is “Special access to private finish line tent with gourmet food, private massages, and more!” as well as 6 months free membership to the Steel City Road Runners. Not bad.

(Update of 2013-03-16)

I should note that the Steel City Road Runners was formed in 2011. John and I had in fact attended its “kick-off party” on Tuesday, September 13, 2011 where we did a free training run, but we ended up not joining the club or participating further, since we were not planning to do the Pittsburgh Marathon in 2012.


There isn’t actually much time before the marathon (three months), so I have to be smart about training and try to avoid setbacks. Some things I need to do:

Removing chess

I’ve already decided on one major activity I am going to cut out: after I finish the current Tuesday night chess tournament, the Pittsburgh Chess Club Championship, I will take a break and not play in any more Tuesday night chess tournaments until possibly the fall (in summer I’d rather be playing outside in the sun rather than hunched over a chess board indoors!).

Time and energy are limited. We can’t do everything all the time. In fact, as things are, I have not even been able to play in the monthly Pittsburgh Chess League team matches since November: in December I was occupied with music rehearsal, and just now in January I was coming off a hard week during which I was sick and overbooked. I do hope to make it to the February team match.

I’m doing well in the Pittsburgh Chess Club Championship so far, with a perfect score in my first three rounds, so I hope I’ll be able to say goodbye while winning it after another three rounds!


Almost certainly I will wear my worn-out and holey pair of Vibram FiveFingers KSO Trek shoes. The reason is that I have never been blistered wearing these shoes, no matter the distance. The leather is really comfortable for me. And I will wear the worn-out pair rather than a newer pair because on the roads, I don’t want the deeply lugged outsoles.

The other alternative I thought about was wearing huaraches such as my Xero Shoes that I wore in the Great Race 10K. I will do some experiments in the spring running much longer distances than 10K in huaraches, but I am currently very skeptical about running an entire marathon in them.


I’m excited to be back for marathon running. I hope to have a stimulating adventure in the next three months as I train for and participate in the 2013 Pittsburgh Marathon!

(Update of 2013-02-24)

A progress report describes setbacks to overcome.

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