11 Pittsburgh bridge crossings in one 12-mile run

View from Mount Washington

My first ever Steel City Road Runners Saturday morning training run was a 12-mile run. My office mate John went with me.

The last time I ran as far as 12 miles was in February, so I expected to do OK. The important difference is that I have been increasing my weekly mileage. I had a monster training week last week, going up from 13 miles to 26 miles last week, the largest training volume I have had in a single week in years. I’ll confess that this has taken a toll on me.

As a result, I have backed off this week, such that including this 12-mile run (I will not run tomorrow), this week I will have 23 miles. In the long haul, overtraining is a huge waste of time and energy. Unfortunately, in my attempt to “catch up” some because of the marathon coming in less than two months, I did in fact overtrain to an extent; last week I ran five out of seven days in order to reach that mileage of 26. This week, I tried to up the mileage but felt tired and wisely decided to rest when I needed to, even though that meant this week I ran only three days! Obviously, in retrospect, it would have been wiser to run four days last week and four this week, with better overall training.

However, I did enjoy today’s training run. It involved the most bridge crossings I have ever done in my life in a single day (by foot or otherwise): eleven!!

Here is my report on the training run, including, of course, photos of bridge crossings.

Sign in

John and I signed in at 8 AM. It was going to be a beautiful, sunny day.

We received printed maps of the route. I did have my smartphone with me, wearing it in my SPIbelt, so I felt pretty safe about knowing where I am or where to go in case I got lost.

Steel City Road Runners sign in

There is indoor access to restrooms, water fountains, and warmth at these Steel City Road Runners training run meetings. Very nice for winter!

There were designated pacers. I was uncertain about which pace group I should join, if any at all. I felt that probably the 10-minute pace group might be on the slow side, but definitely I did not expect to keep up with the 9-minute pace group for a long run. But we decided to start off with the 9-minute pace group and see what happens.


I wore my Vibram FiveFingers Bikila LS shoes, which have been my main running shoes all winter (when there is no snow or water on the ground):

Franklin wearing Vibram FiveFingers Bikila LS

The route

Here is the route of the 12-mile training run:

Create Maps or search from 80 million at MapMyRun

The bridge crossings

The 9-minute pace group was clearly going too fast for me. I hung off the back hoping to simply keep them in sight as they kept getting more ahead of me. To my surprise, John went with the group, even though he has not run in months. I was not sure it was wise of him not to have done any running before this training run, and am worried about his going too fast all of a sudden.

nine-minute pace group

Rachel Carson Bridge, inbound over the Allegheny River

On Rachel Carson Bridge inbound

We can see downtown Pittsburgh:

On Rachel Carson Bridge, seeing downtown

7th Street Bridge, outbound

On 7th Street Bridge outbound

Roberto Clemente Bridge, inbound

Approaching Roberto Clemente Bridge inbound

Fort Duquesne Bridge, outbound

On Fort Duquesne Bridge outbound

West End Bridge, south over the Monongahela River

On West End Bridge south

First water stop and getting lost!

Our first water stop was after 4 miles:

First water stop

By the time I had reached this water stop, John and the rest of the 9-minute pace group were way ahead of me and barely visible. Unfortunately, after I drank some Gatorade, I noticed that I didn’t see them at all any more. So for almost the rest of the run, the following 8 miles, I was mostly alone! This was disconcerting because it meant that I’d have to try to follow the printed map and directions, and avoid getting lost. It would turn out that I would get lost a couple of times.

Fort Pitt Bridge, inbound

On Fort Pitt Bridge inbound

Smithfield Street Bridge, outbound

On Smithfield Street Bridge outbound

Check out this view of bridges along the Monongahela River:

Monongahela River

10th Street Bridge, inbound

Leaving the South Side:

On 10th Street Bridge inbound

Liberty Bridge, outbound

Not having anyone to follow, I got confused about how to get onto the Liberty Bridge, missing the steps, and had to do some backtracking to find the way to get on.

On Liberty Bridge outbound

To Mount Washington

This training run featured a big, long uphill to Mount Washington, with a water stop at the very top!

To Mount Washington

After being alone for quite some time, I did encounter John and other runners coming back down Mount Washington when I was still going up. They were going really fast downhill!

Uphill to Mount Washington

Second water stop

My phone started acting funny when I got to the water stop at the top of Mount Washington, so I did not bother to try take any more photos after that. I was bummed that I didn’t get a photo of the view of Pittsburgh from the top, but someone did and posted it on Facebook, so here it is:

View from Mount Washington

At this water stop, at mile 9, I felt hungry, and saw some GU gels, and took one and ate it before continuing my run. It was GU Roctane. I didn’t look at the ingredients till after I got home and did a Web search on it. That explained a lot.

While running down from Mount Washington, I felt a surge of energy and decided to run really, really fast, in hope of possibly catching sight of John at some point. In fact, I did not see any runner again for the next 3 miles until I reached the end.

Back across the Liberty Bridge, inbound

Then running through downtown.

16th Street Bridge outbound

I was kind of zoned out and missed the turn onto the bridge because I was just running fast, but luckily, I was off by just a block before I realized my mistake and backtracked.

The end

I got back to the start in a bit less than two hours, so given my rest stops and getting lost, I definitely averaged under 10-minute pace. But I was definitely not running anywhere near 9-minute pace. I’ll keep that in my mind for the next training run.

John had finished well before me, but he himself had gotten lost near the end also.

We snacked on provided orange slices and chips:

Steel City Road Runners snacks


Then I drove us back to our places. After both of us had showered and changed, we met up for lunch buffet at Coriander India Grill, a favorite place to eat after getting very hungry after a lot of exercise.

What next?

Next week will be an 18-mile training run. As I have mentioned, I do not intend to actually do such a long run, so I will think of a good way to run 16 miles instead: either I start walking earlier, or I walk near the end. And for sure, I will start with the 10-minute pace group rather than then 9-minute pace group. These training runs are not races. I don’t want to run too fast. In fact, I’m worried that I ran the last 3 miles today too fast, especially downhill from Mount Washington. My left knee is feeling a little funny. I hope it will recover after a day of rest.

I’ve started to figure out the gel thing. I used eat gels a decade ago, but stopped because I had no reason to, but on these long runs, they do help, and I have to start planning what to use for fuel in the Pittsburgh Marathon, which will officially supply GU gel and Gatorade. I did learn, after the fact, that GU Roctane contains an insane amount of caffeine, and that’s probably what got me all hopped up to run super fast, but to my detriment today. So I need to be careful if I use Roctane in the future.


I had a very instructive and tiring training run. I have a long way to go before being ready for the marathon in less than two months, but am happy to have finally joined a group training run.

I’m very grateful for the opportunity to train with the Steel City Road Runners. Sometimes, it is much easier to commit to getting up early and going for a long run when you know that you’ll have company, that there will be support (in the form of a planned route and aid stations). Even for an introvert like me who usually prefers to run alone, the unique pains of marathon training cause me to value camaraderie for some tough runs.

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