An unexpected afternoon tour: 9 miles of running, 1 Cathedral of Learning stair climb, 2 chess tournaments

I had an amusing, completely impromptu Saturday afternoon tour in which I ran nine miles (including a couple of miles with a friend I’ve never actually seen running before or run with before), did one repetition of the Cathedral of Learning stair climb, and visited two different chess tournaments in Pittsburgh.

As of Friday evening, I had only planned to go for a run on Saturday. Here’s how I ended up on my unexpected tour instead.

Cathedral of Learning

I did not run in the morning

Earlier in the week, since I had just signed up for the 2013 Pittsburgh Marathon, I had considered to the early Saturday morning training run of the Steel City Road Runners, but by yesterday, had felt that I didn’t want to get up early on Saturday, and also it was going to be very cold, possible as low as 10 degrees F, and I felt more comfortable running near 20 degrees F as well as close to home so that I could bail out during my own long run and get back home and warm if needed.

I have not run more than 5 miles continuously in a while. I anticipated running at least 7 miles out in the cold, depending on how I felt. I was certain that I would not run as long as 12 miles.

By afternoon, it was over 20 degrees F, so I felt fairly comfortable going out for an extended run.

Chess tournament 1: a delayed Pittsburgh Chess Club Championship round 3 game

OK, so I was exaggerating: I did not visit two complete chess tournaments on my tour. I did visit the final unplayed game of round 3 in the current Pittsburgh Chess Club Championship that is played Tuesday nights. The game was between Kurt Wallnau and Peter Jansen, and had been postponed because Kurt couldn’t make it on Tuesday. This game was important because likely the winner would be my opponent for round 4 on Tuesday, because of my current perfect score of three wins in the first three rounds so far.

It turned out that shortly before I was about to go for a run in the afternoon, I got word from Kurt that he was about to play his rescheduled game with Peter at the Pittsburgh Chess Club. So I thought I would run there from home (just a bit over a mile away) to stop by and take a look before continuing on with my run.

Wallnau-Jansen from round 3

When I arrived, the game had barely begun, so I just immediately went back out to continue running.

Chess tournament 2: 2013 PA State Game/75 Championship

Originally I had planned to maybe run in Homewood Cemetery for a bit, but I suddenly changed my mind after running for a while and decided to check out the tournament in progress at the William Pitt Union, the 2013 PA State Game/75 Championship. So I ran into Oakland.

But as I approached, staring me in the face was the Cathedral of Learning.

Cathedral of Learning

Cathedral of Learning stair climb

Suddenly I decided that I would do something I had never done before, which was to do the Cathedral of Learning stair climb right after having run a couple of miles. An interesting circuit!

So I did one repetition of the 36 floors. I experimented with just continuing to run up the stairs, but quickly found that this was completely unsustainable.

As another experiment, I did not just sit down and rest after finishing the stair climb. I stayed on my feet and immediately got on the elevator back down and out.

I went across the street to the chess tournament in progress. The games in the round were mostly done, so there wasn’t that much to see:

2013 PA State Game/75 Championship

Run with Jason

Then I ran back to the Pittsburgh Chess Club in Squirrel Hill to see what was going on there. Kurt and Peter had reached a very strange and unclear position.

I was planning to go back out to run some more before coming back to the club again when I spotted Jason, a chess club regular whom I have known since winter 2005 when he was one of the first people I met, in addition to Jeff, during my first visits to the Pittsburgh Chess Club. (He also happens to have started playing in chess tournaments again for the first time in several years!)

I joked to him, “How come you weren’t out running with me?” and he said that actually, he was about to go out running again, having run “a couple of hours” in Frick Park in the morning.

I’m still amazed that Jason so quickly became an ultrarunner. A couple of years ago we’d gone on some hikes together, and he said he was not a runner. After I hiked the Rachel Carson Trail Challenge three years in a row, he got excited about signing up for the first time. Abby and I volunteered at an aid station for the 2008 Rachel Carson Trail Challenge, and greeted Jason as he came through our aid station. Little did I know that he would continue doing not only the Rachel Carson Trail Challenge again and again, but other endurance hikes as well. Eventually, he decided to start running, and he never looked back, and became a full-blown ultrarunner.

So Jason went out for a run on the roads in Schenley Park for a couple of miles. It was out first ever run together, actually, and the first time I had ever seen him running. (We haven’t hiked together in years.)

We came back to the chess club, and I saw that the Wallnau-Jansen game was still in a very strange, complex state, and I decided it was time to go home for the day.

Back home

On my way back home, I started feeling really cold and hungry and tired and sore (despite having eaten a banana and some nuts an hour earlier that I had brought with me). The temperature was still around 25F, not terribly cold, but clearly I had taxed my body with my adventures. My toes were blistering and cramping up because of my footwear (I still have to really solve the problem of what shoes to wear for winter running).

I was grateful to get home, eat and stretch, shower, and warm back up.

I did some calculations and I ran a total of about 9 miles.


Sometimes it’s fun to just go and have unplanned adventures.

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