Saturday, September 22, 2012

Pittsburgh Great Race - Race Preview

Pittsburgh Great Race - Race Preview

The last Sunday of September is a major day for Pittsburgh running.  This Sunday, September 30, 2012 is no different.  The Richard S. Caliguiri City of Pittsburgh Great Race (“Great Race”) will be celebrating its 35th anniversary, with both 5 and 10k runs. The Great Race is the largest 10k race in Pennsylvania and 12th largest in the nation according to city officials. actually lists the race in its top 10 of 10k races in the United States.

Initially established in 1977 as a 10k “fun run” by the late Mayor of the City of Pittsburgh, Richard S. Caliguiri, the Great Race has quickly evolved into a large race (there are 15,000 participants in year 2012) that accommodates both beginners and elite runners alike.  Some years later, the 5k race was added, so that additional runners could enjoy this great race. Both the 5 and 10k course have the same finish like, and the 5k course is the second half of the 10k course.  The races are very family friendly, and many families end up running the races together.

Lets take a look at both of the races.  The 10k race is fast but challenging race that encompasses several city neighborhoods and the many universities within the city. below is the 10k course map:

The 10k course starts right next to Frick Park.  Given this is a point-to-point run, buses from downtown Pittsburgh take runners to the start line.  Given the race is on a Sunday, there is ample parking in downtown Pittsburgh to accommodate all runners.  The lines normally form on Fourth Avenue or Stanwix Street and buses leave periodically as they are full.  Its best to get to the bus lines as early as possible...and I will explain in more detail shortly.

The bus takes you right outside of Frick Park.  In order to get to the actual start line, you must get off the bus and then walk up a single sidewalk,  Fencing for the race as well as a wooded area doesn’t allow for access to the start line any other way, and this causes a bottleneck to the start area.  This is residential area, some residents are out of their homes making sure that you stay off their property, so walk on the sidewalk so you are respectful of their property and don’t have to deal with a angry property owner.  Additionally, if you have to use a porta potty, best to get there early, as there are a limited number of porta potties, and the lines tend to be long.

If you are a seeded runner, you can enter the course without having to go through the bottleneck.  Seeded runners do have their own set of porta potties.

After the starting line ceremonies take place (speech by a distinguished guest or politician), including the playing of the national anthem, the race is ready to begin.

The race begins on a slight downhill grade but then proceeds to go uphill very quickly.  The elevation of the race in total is a net uphill run despite the appearance from the elevation chart below:


Mile 1 offers a short steep hill, but after that you can really let go and run fast.

The tricky part of the 10k race is mile 5, and this mile begins right after you exit Oakland and you begin to run on Boulevard of the Allies. Its a sneaky uphill mile that slows most runners down and will break your pace from the downhill miles previously run.  After the end of mile 5 you can run as fast as you can to the finish line.  The race ends in Point State Park and there is a post race celebration, with bananas, water, bagels, and other treats at the finish line.

Similarly, the 5k race follows the same path as indicated by the map below:

As indicated by the maps of the 5 and 10k, race start times are 8am and 9:30am respectively.  

In order to pick up your race bib and race shirt (this is included with your registration fee), you need to go to the race expo. For the past several years, the expo has been held in the South Side of Pittsburgh. The directions to the Great Race expo can be found on the website - here!

The expo does offer something for everyone, and there are a number of vendors and local running stores at the expo selling discounted merchandise.  Provided you have no registration issues to address, my advice would be to go the expo closer to the end on Saturday as some vendors even discount their merchandise deeper.  I have gotten some great bargains for fall and winter training at this expo.

Importantly, at the expo is where you can purchase bus transportation tickets to the start line as they are not part of your registration fee. So have a couple of dollars in your pocket when you go to the expo for your ticket to the start line.

Weather for the run - average temperatures this time of year in Pittsburgh in the morning can range from the 40’s or into the 70’s, so its best to check the weather to make sure you have an idea of what kind of gear you should be planning to run in for race day.

There is also a Junior Great race, for children from who are young and can run up to age 12. The events are listed here!

The Great Race is a well run event.  There are water stops every mile for the 5 and 10k runs, as well as mile split timers, and there is ample crowd support, especially when you approach the finish line at Point State Park. The best thing to do is to register early, because the race sold out this year in record time.  There are some bibs for sale on craigslist and there are opportunities to transfer bibs at the expo.

If you are registered, have a great run. If you aren't, put this on your race calendar for 2013 and plan to register as soon as registration opens. Now go out and have a Great Race!

(this is a shared article of - coming soon!)


  1. Great preview! I ran the 10K last year and you hit all the highlights!

  2. Thank you! Hope you enjoyed the run!