Fact: I am a true "sucker" for race challenges and bling. Sometimes a little extra bling and completing a challenge are some of the most satisfying moments.
If you have ran the DICK'S Sporting Goods Pittsburgh Marathon race weekend in the past few years, you might know about the Steel Challenge. If not, a few years ago, a new challenge was added to the weekend by putting runners up to the test of completing the UPMC Health Plan/UPMC Sports Medicine Pittsburgh 5K on Saturday in conjunction with one of the Sunday distances (DICK'S Sporting Goods Pittsburgh Marathon, the UPMC Health Plan Pittsburgh Half Marathon or the FedEx Ground Pittsburgh Marathon Relay). Upon crossing the finish line on Sunday, May 7, 2017, Steel Challenge finishers will receive a bonus medal to celebrate their accomplishment. That's right! 2 Days. 2 Races. 3 Medals!
Yes, it is a challenge, that is why it is the called the Steel Challenge! Trust me though, with proper training, planning, and running, you will be surprised as to what you are capable of! As a finisher of two Steel Challenges (and numerous other multi-race challenge events), I wanted to share a few of my top tips for training and completing the 2017 Steel Challenge.
1. Come Up With A Strategy
Before you go too far into your Steel Challenge training plan, you will want to think of what your plan is for the weekend. Do you plan to race or attempt to PR the 5K? Maybe you want to use the 5K as a shakeout run (a VERY popular strategy) and get ready to CRUSH Sunday's race. Whatever your choice is, go into your training wit that game plan in mind.
I know that when you are training for a half marathon or full marathon, the thought of a 5K starts to make you feel like "it is JUST a 5K." Just like your long runs for your half marathon or marathon, you need to train your body for a 5K the day before. It can be something as an easy 2 miles the day before your long run, but you need to get those extra miles on your legs.
3. Practice Post-Run Refueling
I admit it, sometimes I feel like I run to eat. After a run, I will sometimes treat myself to a little "splurge" for breakfast. While you are training, you will need to also practice what your race weekend tactics might be in terms of refueling from your 5K while gearing up for Sunday's race. While you might be tempted to load up after the 5K, you will have to remember that the food/drink that you are putting in your body is going to be your fuel for Sunday.
4. Rest Those Legs
After finishing Saturday's 5K, remember that your legs need to be ready for Sunday! No, I am not saying to sit around doing nothing, but you need to take care of those legs that have to carry you through the marathon, half marathon, or relay in a few hours. Take some time to foam roll, stretch, epsom salt bath, or whatever it is that works for you. Those coming from out of town such as my self might want to spend the day on your feet touring Pittsburgh. That is ok for a bit to let those legs stay loose, but don't over do it. Tomorrow is a big day!
Taking on the Steel Challenge, is definitely possible and manageable if you go into it with a plan and trained. Each runner's goals, training, and bodies are different, but just by going into with a plan can make crossing those finish lines a reality!
If you haven't signed up for Pittsburgh Marathon weekend, what are you waiting for!?!? It is going to be an awesome time and I would love for you to come run with me on May 7th! Bonus: Once you register for the marathon or half marathon, you will receive a discount code in your registration email for $10 off of the 5K!
Need an extra bit of motivation? Check out the 2017 Steel Challenge bling!