Soon after moving to Pittsburgh, I asked around for favorite running routes to help get myself acclimated with my surroundings. I kept hearing about North Park and its infamous 5 mile loop and how all Pittsburgh Marathoners would do a majority of their long runs at this park.
This past weekend, I woke up late and missed my opportunity to run with Raela which was likely for the best. I headed out to North Park to run 2 laps around the lake for a 10 mile training run. No pausing to say hi/bye to my friend, just 10 miles of me and the pavement…something I honestly haven’t done much of this training cycle but knowing I’m running the half solo, I wanted to get a solid long run in by myself and make sure I could keep a steady pace.
IF YOU GO….
North Park is ~25 minutes outside of Pittsburgh. I would offer tips on how to get there but Google has told me different ways to go each time. If you’re going during rush hour, give yourself ~35 minutes since there’s no highway route.
There is parking throughout the loop so you can start wherever is most convenient for you. I parked at JC Stone Field since this was at an ‘end’ of the oval and I planned my run so that I ended with a downhill cruise where I could see my car (I hate not knowing how much further is left).
The running/biking path follows the lake through the park. It’s very well marked and obvious where to go to continue on the path. The loop is shaped like an oval and surprisingly, it felt like time passed quickly.
The weather was beautiful for March so there were lots of people out – runners, bikers, roller-bladers, strollers and dogs all out enjoying the same path as me. In the park, people were fishing, kayaking, picnicing and more. As a solo female runner, it was comforting to have so many people out and about – should anything happen, someone would be around to offer a bandaid. (I’ve heard weekends are usually busy-ish in the winter time, too.)
There are bathrooms at several points along the route and all looked to be open (not sure if this is a seasonal thing; I know the bathrooms at the the North Park Boathouse are open in the winter). Be sure to bring your own water, though; all of the water fountains I passed were taped up and not in service. I had stashed my water bottle and a coconut water in my car and made a pit stop at mile 5 before taking off for loop 2.
Lastly, there are a number of races at North Park throughout the year. If you’re a little bit shy about showing up and not knowing exactly how to get around the park (it’s big!), registering for a race would be a great way to get acclimated.
Compared to the 2.5 mile loop I’d spent many, many, many mornings running in Denver (HOLLA Heidi, Paula, Christine and others), I really enjoyed this 5-mile loop distance. I can’t say I’d be excited to run more than 2 laps (and especially not 6, like Chelsea) but 10 miles around the park felt like a good distance.
Side note: there is also an off-leash dog park, zip-line course, hockey + ice skating, horse trails, a swimming pool, restaurant/cafe and much more to do at North Park. So if running isn’t your thing, you can likely still find something fun to do at the park.