Thank you Pittsburgh! You helped me do something I never imagined I could do – complete a half marathon. On May 2nd, dressed in running tights and a technical tee, I left my home at 6:30 am and headed to the Strip District, where the marathon was scheduled to begin. My husband dropped me off several blocks away as it was quicker for me to walk there than to drive.
Once there, I found the “Charity” tent where the non-profit that sponsored my run, AID Pittsburgh, offered me bagels and juice. After making my way through the long bathroom queues, I came to the start line – a colorful sea of people. I worked my way toward the back to join the slower runners and run/walkers. The excitement grew as the countdown began. What a tremendous amount of energy within a few city blocks!
I started out at a slow and steady jog amidst cameras and cheering crowds. I felt great. I knew I was doing something I had always wanted to do, but never thought I could. I had never run before. I was over 50 and certainly not an athlete. Perhaps I was nuts. Many runners zoomed past me, but I was not deterred. My goal was simply to finish.
It was an experience I will never forget. Along the streets, the bridges, and outside homes, Pittsburghers cheered me on. From loud applause to encouraging words, to bands playing music, girl scouts, cheerleaders, jugglers, and even a military regiment, everyone seemed to say, “Kamana, you can do it.” It seemed that when I began to get tired and was tempted to stop, someone would yell out – “you go girl.” It kept me going.
After the eight mile marker, my right knee started to bother me. It also began to rain. I switched to a brisk walk. I was joined by other walkers and we exchanged stories (and phone numbers). Some were experienced marathoners, some had never run before. Even though my shoes and socks were soaked and I could feel my toes squishing around with every step I took, I plodded on. I was not going to stop now. I continued walking at a brisk pace.
Less than a quarter mile from the finish line, I was forced to stop. The street had been cordoned off due to a “bomb scare.” I stood there in the rain as other runners and walkers came up behind me. As I stood there for almost 20 minutes in the pouring rain, my knees started to stiffen. Then we were finally redirected, asked to retrace our steps and take another route to the finish line. At that point, I followed the throngs behind me and limped to the finish line. But I made it – and I have a medal to prove it.
I could never have done it without all the Pittsburghers who volunteered their time to provide us with water, Gatorade, food, and even a massage at the end of the run. I couldn’t have done it without those who cheered and encouraged me from the tops of bridges, from their patios, and on the streets. Thank you, thank you, thank you Pittsburgh for an unforgettable experience.