If you think running isn’t a spectator event, find a spot along the Dick’s Sporting Goods Pittsburgh Marathon route on Sunday and you may change your mind.
There’s the novelty of seeing major city roads that are typically jam-packed with cars (think Forbes Avenue through Oakland, East Carson Street through the South Side, Braddock Avenue through Point Breeze) without a vehicle in sight. In their place, thousands of runners stream by you at different paces, wearing different outfits, their faces showing varying degrees of joy or pain, depending at what mile you’re camped out.
Even if you don’t know a single person running, you’ll know that every single last one of them has worked hard the past few months getting ready for this day. Some are running for personal records while others are running for charities, perhaps inspired by the illness or struggles of family members or loved ones who are with them in spirit along the course. Some people passing by have probably overcome struggles and illness of their own, or perhaps they’ve spent the past few months or years saying goodbye to unhealthy choices and Sunday will be proof of how far they’ve come.
No matter what, there will be emotion and inspiration all along the course. There will be runners carrying American flags. There will even be runners who make you laugh and shake your head, like the trio of guys who ran in wedding dresses last year.
So where are the best spots to go?
Anywhere is great. We’d love nothing more than to have spectators lining all 26.2 miles of the course.
If you want to join in one of the official marathon parties, however, check out the different neighborhood festivals.
- The North Shore. East Ohio Street between Cedar Avenue and the Allegheny Commons is always filled with people. Stroll from historic Deutschtown through the Commons and on to PNC Park and Heinz Field. You can’t go wrong joining in the fun along the North Shore.
- The West End. Find a spot along West Main Street between Alexander and Sanctus and enjoy the unique city views and culture of this neighborhood.
- The South Side. It’s always a party on the South Side, and on race day it’s also one of the marathon’s biggest festivals! Here you can not only cheer on runners but also take advantage of some of the bars and restaurants that open early and enjoy a Sunday Funday!
- Oakland. Join the college kids in cheering and enjoy the beautiful scenery surrounding the Pitt and CMU campuses as the marathon reaches one of its most challenging stretches heading up Forbes Avenue.
- Shadyside. Do a little window shopping while you cheer on runners along Walnut Street, then stick around for an early lunch and make a day of it in Shadyside.
- Point Breeze. Admire the scenery of some of the city’s oldest and most beautiful historic homes if you watch the race at this Black, Gold and Loud neighborhood festival. The locals loves to have a good time, and you will, too!
- Homewood. It’s without fail one of the most vibrant neighborhoods runners will pass through and you’re bound to have a good time at this festival. Some of the city’s best barbecue places are here, so be warned that the mouthwatering smells are tough to resist!
- East Liberty. The corridor of Frankstown Avenue and East Liberty Boulevard will put you in the vicinity of some of the city’s hottest companies and tech start-ups, as well as a slew of slick new condos and local eateries and cafes.
- Highland Park. At the corner of North Highland Avenue and Bryant Street, runners are hitting the 20-mile mark so it’s about the time where a cheering section could come in awfully handy. Join the neighbors in letting them know there are only 6.2 miles to go!
- Friendship. It just sounds like a neighborhood where you should be cheering on your fellow Pittsburghers, doesn’t it? The parks, playgrounds and friendly neighbors make it a good choice for a more low-key celebration.
- Bloomfield. The crowds are always out in Bloomfield, where you’ll find no shortage of friends lining the streets, holding signs and letting the tunes ring out. Like some of the other neighborhoods, the bonus is you can stay for good eats and drinks.
- Uptown. Look for the party off of Fifth Avenue in one of Pittsburgh’s hidden gems and the home to Duquesne University. The blend of history and fun make this one of the city’s up-and-coming neighborhoods.
- Strip District. Who doesn’t love the Strip on the weekend? 20th Street from Penn to Liberty is where the official neighborhood party takes place, although you can’t go wrong cheering on runners from anywhere in the Strip.
- Downtown. Of course, if you really want to see the power and emotion of a marathon, wait at the finish line. You’ll see tears, you’ll see joy, you’ll see little kids running in the final few steps with mom or dad. It’s hard to watch runners cross a finish line and not appreciate and feed off the energy of their accomplishment. Heck, it might even motivate you to be the one crossing the finish line next year!
Of course, the marathon starts early. We know. In case you need a little pick-me-up to get you in the proper cheering frame of mind, here are the coffee shops that will be open either on or near the course:
- Beehive Coffee Shop - 1327 E. Carson St (South Side)
- Delanie's - 1737 E. Carson St. (South Side)
- The Porch - Schenley Plaza (Oakland)
- Tazza D'Oro - 1125 N Highland Ave, Pittsburgh, PA 15206 (Highland Park)
- Crazy Mocha - 5607 Baum Blvd, Pittsburgh, PA 15232 (Friendship)
- Allegheny Coffee and Tea Exchange - 2005 Penn Ave (Strip District)
- La Prima - 205 21st St (Strip District)
- Coffee Tree Roasters - (Shadyside & Bakery Square)
For more information on how to best watch the marathon, including bike maps and how to get around, visit here: