find your place in a race

You can’t go far on any day, even cold or rainy ones, without seeing someone gliding through strides across town. Mt. Lebanon is a great, safe place to get fit, admire beautiful houses and vibrant business districts and shake off the stress of the day.

We are part of a bigger local running community. Runner’s World magazine ranked Pittsburgh No. 17 out of 50 running cities in the U.S., citing our delicious food, trail system, run-friendly climate (even if it is often gray out, at least it’s not 91 degrees and 110 percent humidity every day), and a large supply of family-friendly races for even the most casual runners.

The number of races is growing every year. Putting a race date on the calendar can give you something to work toward, whether that goal is achieving a fast time, having fun or scoring swag like a flashy medal or a cool shirt. Anticipation of a good race can peel you out of bed on a cold morning and motivate you to stay in shape. Many races raise money for worthwhile charities. Plus, a good run nullifies that extra peanut butter cup you sneaked.

But mostly, completing a race is about finishing what you start. There’s something existentially concrete about crossing the finish line and hearing cowbells in the distance. In one Pittsburgh race, finishers even get a high five from Mario Lemieux.

We put together a list of some Pittsburgh races we think you shouldn’t miss. We’d love to hear your favorites.

Pre-race jitters. /Photo: Sam Oshlag

Martha’s Run [APRIL 8] You know we had to list this one first. Through the streets of Mt. Lebanon, it’s a fundraiser for The Martha Fund, which focuses on building playgrounds in honor of Martha Dixon, a former resident and FBI agent killed in the line of duty. The marquee event is a 10K (6.2M) that’s not for the weak of knees. The course starts at Mt. Lebanon Park and runs a few blocks on Cedar, but quickly turns up Cochran Road past the high school. That’s just the first mile. After that, the course rolls a little more gently through the Beverly Heights neighborhood, before ending up back at Mt. Lebanon Park. For those not up to that challenge, the 21-year-old event also includes a 2-mile run, a 1-mile run/walk and a kids’ race. It’s too late to train for the 10K, but if you’re already race-ready, walk-up registration is available for all events. Crowd support is fantastic in nice weather. If you’re not running, the participants would love to hear you cheer them on. Just don’t yell “You’re almost there.” Because they’re really not.

Pittsburgh Marathon weekend [May 5-7] The jewel in P3R’s crown and Pittsburgh’s biggest run event with 40,000 participants, the marathon is actually a group of races including a 5K (3.1M), Kids Marathon (1M), and three races on Sunday: the marathon itself (26.2M) the half marathon (13.1M) and the marathon relay (up to five people take pieces of the 26.2 course). Other weekend festivities feature a pet walk and a toddler trot. This wide variety lets runners of many ages and abilities participate. Runners get free race entry if they agree to raise money for one of the associated charities.

The weekend kicks off Friday with an expo at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center, where you must go to pick up your race bib (the paper number that gets pinned to your shirt) as well as a backpack filled with your official race shirt and critical tchotchkes like anti-chafe sticks, sunscreen and lip balm. Runners can purchase last minute race items and have moving body parts taped with kinesio tape to keep them going on race day. Even if you’re not running, admission is free and it’s a fun place to go to get fitness tips and do some shopping.

Marathon Sunday has the city’s best crowd support with thousands of people lining the sidewalks plus hundreds of volunteers. You can opt to have your name printed on your bib, and if you do, you will often hear people from the sidelines cheering you on by name. Funny signs alone will keep you going when your energy is flagging. (“Run like Ryan Gosling is waiting for you at the finish line with a puppy.” “No Time for [picture of Christopher] Walken.”)

On this run you will see everything, including tutu-wearing divas, superhero—and villain—costumes, real running greyhounds and soldiers sprinting by in full military regalia. You’ll fly through many fun Pittsburgh neighborhoods. Don’t miss waving to the mimosa party on the North Side. You’ll have several opportunities to grab a beer on the run through Bloomfield. The course is lined with live bands, plenty of water stations, Gatorade and Gu energy gels and the finish line is a mini-town populated by bagels, chips, bananas, run blankets to keep you warm, and your hard-earned medal. Most importantly, medical personnel are everywhere and an app for your smartphone keeps you updated on course conditions in the days and hours leading up to the race.

Gatorade/Steelers 5K Race, Fitness Walk and Kids’ Kickoff Run benefits the Art Rooney Scholarship Fund. [labor day weekend] Flat course is on the North Shore and ends in Heinz Field. Limited swag includes a cotton T-shirt but Steelers players mingle at the start line.

Photo: Bill Paterson, Mario Lemieux Foundation

Pittsburgh Penguins 6.6K Run and Family Walk (4.1M). [OCT.] Benefits the Mario Lemieux Foundation and the Pittsburgh Penguins Foundation. Hilly course in Uptown ends near the PPG Paints Arena with a swanky medal and high five from Mario himself. Also includes 3.3K family walk.

A Run Through the Woods 5K: [June 3] A signature fundraiser for the Hoover school PTA, this challenging race is fun. Follow A Run Through the Woods on FB for signup information.

The Richard S. Caligiuri City of Pittsburgh Great Race [Sept. 24], presented by Citiparks, is one of the most popular shorter races in this part of the country with more than 16,000 participants in the 10K and 5K, it also includes a Junior Great Race Sunday, September 17.

This run is a point-to-point race, meaning it doesn’t finish anywhere near the start—so you’ll need to catch a free bus if you don’t have a ride. It’s one of the prettiest ways to see the city. The mostly-downhill 10K starts in Frick Park and treks through Squirrel Hill, Oakland (where the 5K starts) and Downtown before finishing in Point State Park. A finish line festival awaits with plenty of fruit, water and Smiley Cookies. This race sells out so register early.

The Pittsburgh Pirates Home Run 5K/10K. [APRIL 22] Benefits Pirates charities, and each entry comes with a voucher for a Pirates game ticket. Flat course is on the North Shore and Downtown and ends inside PNC Park. 

The EQT 10-Miler [Sunday in NOV.] A mostly flat course beginning at Station Square. It winds through the West End, the North Side and Strip District and finishes at EQT Plaza on Liberty Avenue. A two-person relay option is available. This race has good crowd support if it’s warm/dry, and the last few races have featured the best swag bags in town, with a technical fabric pullover, backpack and gloves. This year’s participants got a bag of dog food from one of the sponsors. (Nope. That wasn’t granola).

The GNC Live Well Liberty Mile—[July 28] Truly just one mile long, several divisions are available depending on ability but all heats finish in time to watch the pros compete.




Susan G. Komen Pittsburgh Race for the Cure [MAY 14] Raise money at Schenley Park during the run-up to the run and celebrate survivors at this emotional 5K dedicated to defeating breast cancer.

Montour Trail Races [SEPT.] Including a 5K and Half Marathon as well as several easy, fun, family friendly 10Ks and 5Ks throughout the year:

Brentwood Firecracker 5K [JULY 4] A patriotic tradition

FlyBy 5K Run the taxiways of Pittsburgh International Airport. Follow P3Revents on Facebook.

YMCA Turkey Trot [NOV. 23] 5M and 5K distances (or choose both for the Double Gobble):

Boston Trail Half-Marathon and 5K Run/Walk [APR. 22] Located at the Boston Trailhead of the Youghiogheny River Trail, part of the beautiful Great Allegheny Passage

Photography: Sam Oshlag, EQT, P3R Races, Pittsburgh Pirates, Pittsburgh Steelers