Eventually, I found a spot and went inside the convention center to meet up with my running ohana! Some of these people I hadn't seen in over a YEAR so I pretty much sprinted up the steps to get to the second floor ballroom. This year, the expo was moved to a much bigger space and it was such an improvement. There was plenty of room to move around and plenty of vendors. Contrary to parking, getting around here was super easy.
|Love the official race merchandise area with the bridge!|
|Brandi, Chelsea, Coach Jeff, Lauren H., Me!|
After milling around the expo, picking up our race packets, visiting shirt exchange to swap out sizes (thank you, Pittsburgh Marathon!), and getting taped at the Dick's Sporting Goods booth, we went our separate ways for dinner. Since Nathan, Gloria, and I were staying at Steff's, we went back to her house and later met up with Chelsea and Mike for dinner out in the suburbs. I had french onion soup, a wrap, and a beer- it was delicious!
|Coach Jeff writing a good luck message for Chelsea's first marathon!|
|Loved all the race merchandise!|
|All the beers at Wexford Ale House. Yum.|
|The previous patrons had put googly eyes on the menu :-)|
We called it an early night because we were all running the 5k in the morning as part of the Steel Challenge. We also had Steff's tweet-up at 7:30 am. Luckily, Steff (and Joe, her wonderful husband) only live about 15 minutes from downtown so it wouldn't be TOO early of a start.
The next morning, Saturday, we were all up and out the door by 6:00 am to make sure we got downtown and parked before the streets closed. We stayed warm in the car until about 7:00 and then headed over to the tweet-up/meet-up. It was so fun to meet people that you only know from twitter! We all had a great time chatting and catching up. Our friend Natalie (that we'd met at WDW this year during Marathon Weekend) came out to cheer us on as she wasn't running the 5k.
|Look at all these cool people :-)|
Gloria and I had been chatting that morning about running this race together. Both of our plans were to take it easy because I was running the full the next day and she was running the half. She doesn't typically run walk but she decided that she'd stick with me and keep whatever pace I kept. We lined up near the back of the pack and just tried to soak it all in before the start.
The gun went off and a few minutes later, we crossed the timing mat to start the race. We quickly settled into a nice and easy pace. This course is really beautiful- you get to run in and around downtown and over a few bridges. There are some rolling hills but nothing too terrible. I really love this course. As Gloria and I were running, we kept passing and then getting passed by Chelsea and Lauren H.- both of whom were running the next day. Great minds think alike and keep the same pace :-)
|Only 2.1 to go!|
|Headed over the last bridge towards the finish.|
|Gloria getting lots of high fives and cheers!|
|Chelsea (white hat) and Lauren H. (awesome leggings) dominating the 5k.|
After what felt like a quick little run around the city, we were crossing the finish line! We got our medals, our post-race food (bananas, dole fruit squish 'ems, bagels), and then tried to find our friends. We ran into our friend Haley and grabbed the obligatory finisher picture. And then I just HAD to grab a quick picture with one of Pittsburgh's finest! I also called Matthew to check-in. Since he couldn't be in Pittsburgh for the races, he did his own 5k that morning- and rocked it!
|The sun, Haley, Gloria, and Me.|
|Huge shout out to law enforcement for keeping us safe!|
After we all finished, we headed back to the expo for round two of shopping and welcoming in other friends who had just gotten into town. Also, THERE WAS FRESH FRENCH TOAST! Seriously, whoever thought about bringing a hot plate to the expo and making french toast was a genius! Anyway, we wandered around a bit and then went to grab lunch at this very cute place, Hello Bistro. This restaurant was on the Kid's Marathon (one mile) course so we got to eat yummy food and watch hundreds of kids run by- a perfect afternoon!
|Best expo vendor ever.|
|Coach Jeff taking advantage of expo specials and signing up for more races.|
|Our crew of runners taking the escalator :-)|
That night, Steff and Joe hosted a TON of our running ohana and some of their families for an amazing dinner. We had pasta and mac and cheese and bread and meatballs and cakes and strawberries and whoopie pies and salad and a whole bunch of other goodness. More importantly, we got to spend time together- and we even facetimed with Matthew so he could be there too!
|Appropriate cake from Chelsea's parents.|
I can't put into words how much these people and their friendship means to me. I was a bundle of nerves Saturday night. I was worried about the race, worried about Matthew's Nana, and just anxious. Hanging with my ohana was the absolute best thing I could have done. And then we got a 16-person selfie and my whole world was complete.
As fun as it was to hang with everyone, we had to call another early night. After getting everything together for the next day's races and planning when and where we'd meet up, we said our goodnights and goodbyes. I was still super nervous and wasn't sure what was going to happen the next day- I just focused on getting some sleep and trying to meditate all the pre-race jitters away :-)
|So much love.|