Martini Fridays: Hills + the ‘Mill

da Burgh + her bridges.
da Burgh + her bridges.

Adrienne is off and running: week 1 of the Train Like a Mother Half-Marathon: Finish It Plan done as she trains for her first half-marathon. If you have no idea what I'm typing about, check out her introduction here

I’ve moved around a lot. I was born in Wilmington, DE—yes, my Dad did work for DuPont, which seems to be that city’s main employer—then lived in Atlanta. I started kindergarten in Chicago. By first grade, we’d moved to Pittsburgh, where my Dad went to work with a guy he’d grown up with.

In da ‘Burgh, I lived in at least six different houses in a couple of different neighborhoods. After I graduated from high school, both of my parents left: one for Ohio, one for Florida. I bounced up near Erie for college, then down to Austin, Texas, and Knoxville, Tennessee, before putting down real roots in Oneonta.

What I'm saying is I’ve gotten around.

Despite all of the moving, Pittsburgh is the city I claim as my hometown, even though I wasn’t born there. It’s the city whose skyline is as familiar to me as my kids’ faces: always changing but also always the same.

Besides, a chunk of my college friends and father’s family live there, which means I can always find a place to stay when I head there.

When I toyed with running a half-marathon, Pittsburgh was the first really catch my fancy. These are neighborhoods I know and running through them will give me a new way to see them. Plus, there’s something about the notion of being cheered in Pittsburghese.

Pittsburgh is a city of bridges and hills. Big, fat, steep hills that you can’t get away from. I’m not too worried about them, because my current town’s name translates to “City of the Hills.” Seriously. Our annual Pit Run, a 10K is kind of a big deal; we’ve been known to have a Kenyan runner or two show up. The website boasts about its mile-long climb that ascends 350 feet. It’s not Mt Everest, I know, but it’s not a stroll through a very flat park either.

I took some pictures on my Week 1, Day 1 run. It’s my standard 3-ish mile route and follows some of the Pit Run route. For the record, this isn’t when my town looks its best. Mid-winter is hard on us all.


The first mile is more or less at this grade: like I said, not Everest, but not easy.

from top of campus


And we’ll go up some more before this, which is a half-mile of blessed down. It levels out right around the 2-mile mark.


In the summer, there is always a knot of older Italian guys in front of this building shooting the breeze and drinking coffee. I love to listen to them as I go past. It’s too cold for them now, though.


This is the sidewalk in front of my house, which you can’t see because I didn’t get the angle quite right. It’s just on the other side of the white one. I’m still not 100 percent clear on what a “stride” is so I just ran as fast as I could from corner to corner.


Barney, one of our cats, watched all four strides from the safety of our front porch. I let him in after I was done. I’m sure he wrote a little kitty blog post of his own about the nutty human who kept running back and forth for no discernible reason. She wasn’t even chasing a laser pointer.

The rest of the week went well, with one exception: the long run. I kept my eye on the weather all week. When I went to bed on Friday, Saturday, long run day, looked like it would be clear and cold. Cold I can handle.

I made plans to go to the high school track. I love doing long runs on the track because I don’t have to think about traffic and can really let my mind wander.

When I woke up on Saturday morning, the weather folk told me I’d have four inches of snow by 2 p.m. I shook my fist at the sky. Even with YakTrax, footing would be dicey. I’d hate to be sidelined by a snow-related injury.

No problem, I thought, I’ll go to the indoor track on campus. Then discovered that there was a basketball game, which would render the track a no-go.

So I did what I did not want to do (and what I spent more than a few minutes grousing to my husband about), which was slog through 6 miles on a gym treadmill. The hour-and-some felt like a week—or three—no matter how much I played with the incline and pace. While I am grateful to have the good old YMCA as an option, more than 40 minutes on the ‘mill makes me want to chew my arms off.

Anyone have any suggestions for taking the edge off of the treadmill tedium?

23 responses to “Martini Fridays: Hills + the ‘Mill

  1. I am also a PA girl! I save all my magazine to read on the treadmill. Plus I recently have been listening to my AMR podcasts!!!

  2. I live in Pittsburgh and am also using the “finish it” plan to train for the PGH half. With the weather, I’m spending a lot of running time on the treadmills at the gym. Thankfully, the treadmills at my gym have individual TV screens . . . lots of Law and Order and terrible Bravo shows I’m shamed to admit I watched!

  3. I have done two races (one full & one half) in PA, hubby is from Pittsburgh so I am doing the half as well!
    ^ Lori, LOVE Pop Culture Happy Hour!

    I absolutely go with a series on an iPad if you can, my new favorite is Orphan Black on BBC America.

  4. I hate the treadmill so no tips for you there but I understand your draw to the ‘burgh! I went to Pitt for college and would move back there in a heart beat, despite the weather. The hills there are no joke so good luck with your training, they can be credited with keeping the freshman 15 off during school.

  5. I am from Erie and currently live about an hour south!
    The best way for me to get through the “mill” is to play with speed and hills. And for some reason if I can make it to 4 miles, the rest go by quickly. I have only done 7-8 miles on the mill.
    Good luck in your training:)

  6. If you have an iPad, watch videos while on the treadmill, through Netflix, Hulu or streaming from a tv network website. I’m 4/5ths through Breaking Bad and it keeps me excited about the treadmill

  7. Since the beginning of the year I think I have ran a total of twice outside (this winter sucks!). Therefore, all of my other runs are on the treadmill. I generally don’t mind it (my max so far is 13 miles). My strategy during the week is either music or podcasts (a favorite is Pop Culture Happy Hour). On long run day it’s usually Netflix on the ipad.

  8. So glad you are coming back to da’ burgh for the half. I was born, raised and still live here. I actually work downtown and you can see my building in your pic (not one of the tall ones though). I am doing the marathon relay with 4 guys (1 cousin, 2 uncles and my dad). I have leg 1 (5.5 miles)and am super excited. Right now I am doing the C25K program on my treadmill. There is just to much ice and snow on the ground right now. I am following up the C25K with the B210k program that should have me nice and ready for my 5.5 miles. Looking forward to it!!

  9. On the treadmill, to keep myself from (a) dying of boredom and/or (b) plotting the death of people near me (seriously, people! There are like 10 open treadmills – why do you have to take the one right next to me???), I either watch TV shows on Netflix (currently working through Supernatural – I’m in season 3 right now) or I play Zombies, Run! through the app. It is fun, cheap entertainment, and it occupies my mind.

  10. I’ve been a nurse eight years and never watched “Gray’s Anatomy” until the last couple weeks. We’re having record cold in Tennessee this winter, and I’m not properly outfitted for running in single degree temps. I’ve been hitting the dreaded treadmill to get my training runs in (marathon finish it plan), and Gray’s Anatomy keeps me sane while I knock out miles in my husband’s office. I even ran an extra mike last night because I wanted to finish watching an episode! So my suggestion is this: if you have an iPad or tablet of some kind, take it with you and watch some guilty pleasure show. Take advantage of not having little people clam morning for your attention and just watch some TV.

  11. Snow is most definitely missing in those pictures as I just went to Pittsburgh for a Pens game in early January. We can send some white stuff over from Cleveland. I’m looking forward to some TM run suggestions too, although I do find that with the iFit and Google Maps on my new TM, it does help pass the time a bit better. I am dreading the decision to possibly run 16 on the TM tomorrow due to our weather here. I’m hoping the sun stays out and we can run outside. By the way, my company has an office that I frequently visit in Warrendale, and my run from that office is one of the hilliest that I ever get to do. Love it for that!

  12. I ran the Burgh half last year (my first) (and so far, only) and it was great! Pittsburgh natives are truly everywhere – nice place to grow up but no one wants to live there forever! 😉 ‘N ‘At.

    I have been watching stuff on my Kindle lately while using the ‘mill. I started out using Netflix on my iPhone and my husband took pity on me and bought us Kindle Fires for Christmas in 2012 – I love that man! I’ve been watching Hot in Cleveland lately and I wouldn’t recommend it. It’s TOO funny! I can’t count the number of times I’ve almost fallen off from laughing so hard! Of course, I’m not exactly the most coordinated runner in the first place…

    Good luck with training! I used the same plan and finished in 2:15.

  13. I remain amazed at how many people are from Pittsburgh or connected to it in some way. It’s a great, under-rated city.

    Thanks for all of the ‘mill advice. I do listen to podcasts. My favorites are Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me, The Bugle, 99 Percent Invisible, and the Alton Browncast. And, of course, the AMR podcast. Which ones am I missing?

  14. I’ve been doing the treadmill a lot this month with the sub-zero temps and dark mornings. I push a button every minute. Either change the incline or the speed, but that keeps it interesting. I also listen to podcasts instead of music.

    I also wanted to comment that I’m also from pittsburgh! I grew up there and my interest was piqued when you said you went to college “near Erie” so I looked at your blog – I’m also a fellow Allegheny College Alum!! I graduated in 2005 with a BS in biology, then went on to graduate school in Michigan which is where I really started running in the nice, flat midwest! I ran a little in college in Meadville but it was too hilly so we mostly stuck to the indoor track, treadmill and occasional outings to Woodcock Dam where there was a flat 1 mile trail.

    i’ve thought about running a race in Pittsburgh but the hills have always deterred me. I might do it next year though, as I moved to hilly North Carolina and I’m starting to get used to it!

    1. You know that ‘ghent grads secretly run the world, yes? Or, at least, the more interesting parts of it… 😉

      I graduated in 1993 with a Theater degree. Even back then, Woodcock Dam was the place to go when you needed a break. The husband and I hit reunions every couple of years. You?

  15. I feel connected in some bizarre way. I completed week one of the Own It Plan for half. I’m from Pgh. love the marathon, the people, the course. This year I’m making my way to the Flying Pig Marathon in Cincy for a change (my son lives there) where I’m registered to do the half. Yesterday was miserable outside and yes, on the treadmill, listened to AMR podcast with my towel over the display. Wishing you the best of luck.

  16. I use the treadmill as a time to push myself. Every minute I change the speed so I constantly count down and often I’m increasing my speed in ways I don’t on the road as a result. I also try to watch a TV that had closed caption on (easier at the gym than home since netflix doesn’t do CC) whil e listening to metal music at the same time. A a bit ADD, but being able to constantly change my focus helps a lot. I’ve done my 11 milers on the dread mill no problems this way.

  17. Thanks for the little Pittsburgh tour. Seeing Point State Park brought a tear to my eye – I went to art school in Pittsburgh and walked the 6th street bridge many, many, many times! Anyway, the icy dirt roads around here have been un-runable so the TM it is. Advice? Cover up the dash so you can’t see the numbers and listen/watch something to keep your mind busy. It’s not ideal, but you’ll feel better for doing it. Good luck!

  18. I’m running the marathon in Pittsburgh! This will be my 3rd time running the full and I’ve also run the half. It’s an amazing race! I’m excited for you! Living near Pittsburgh, I deal with a lot of crappy weather which results in a lot of treadmill running. I listen to AMR and other podcasts. Also cover up the time, etc with a towel and don’t let yourself look at it until the end of the podcast.

  19. I’ve run the half at Pittsburgh. I ran the full first. LOL! Then, the following year, ran the half. The half is much better. And, truthfully, not that bad hill-wise. Running – it looked like at least one photo was near the SUNY-Oneonta campus – the hills in Oneonta will more than prepare you.

    I avoid the treadmill like the plague so no tips for you. I’ve been known to combine runs to avoid weather and a treadmill. The only time I was ever on one was for a gait analysis last January.

  20. Nice PGH photos! I lived in WVa for several years & went up to Pitt often.

    I’m a treadmill lover, do almost all my runs on it (25.2 mi is most so far). Since mine is at home I have more options but over the years have used music, the entire Sat am NPR lineup live, TV -you can almost always find an ep of Angel or Charmed on TBS early 😉 (did weekday morning news/political shows till they made me too crazy) I’ve run to movies about running (DVD) & I know there are those who do whole series on DVD or streaming like Top Chef or mystery shows, travel shows. Since you’re at a gym with probably your only option being iPod or similar I’d suggest music (some use audiobooks) or my favorite for a while now: podcasts! I like those related to running, endurance sports, triathlon. I think Dimity & others use podcast versions of NPR shows & there are many “Internet radio” shows you can download too.

    You too can love the treadmill!

  21. BAH!!!! I actually laughed out loud at the ‘chew my arms off’ bit. I’m the exact same way, and sadly have no helpful advice. I’ve tried EVERYTHING!! Best of luck training–a half is my favorite distance!

  22. When I’m on the treadmill I binge watch things on HBO Go or netflix. Right now it’s The Sopranos. Each episode is an hour so for me that’s about 5 1/2 miles. My kindle is my best winter friend.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.


*Exclusions Apply

Want some mother runner insipiration with special content and deals? 

You will receive an email within the next 24 hours with your discount code!