“At first an ordeal and then an accomplishment, the daily run becomes a staple, like bread, or wine, a fine marriage, or air. It is also a free pass to friendship.”
~ Benjamin Cheever, Strides

Monday, May 16, 2011

Operation Sara - Pittsburgh Surprise

Finally I can post about the fun planning for this without giving away secrets!

So, my friend and pace coach Sara spent the winter season training for her first full marathon (while helping us train for a half marathon).  She was so inspiring! Then she made signs and and stickers to cheer us on for our half marathon.  At some point during the season several of us starting talking about how cool it would be to surprise her in Pittsburgh and cheer her on during her race.

A few weeks ago, we got the news that Sara's beautiful mother Darlene had passed away after completing her own training run.  Our hearts broke for Sara and her family.  Darlene's Angels was formed and we ran Cap City in honor of Darlene.

The week before Cap City, our "surprise Sara" idea morphed.  We decided she would not run Pittsburgh alone.  Duane, our other pace coach had a registration for the Pittsburgh marathon, but because of injury could not run the whole thing.  Our favorite Moose came up with an idea....what if we "passed his racing bib" and paced Sara for the race?  And like all great plans, we took it and ran with it...literally.

Last Tuesday, a group of us met at my house for a sign making party to make signs to cheer on Sara and finalized the "relay" plans.
Too funny for the pregnant woman to be holding the sign about going all the way

The poster making gang
We had a blast with pizza, twizzlers, peanut butter cups, kit kats, sharpies and an impromptu trip to Fleet Feet to buy things and drop off brownies.

Then we posed with our medals from Cap City because Sarah needed some post-race pictures of everyone.
After the party, we finalized the plans for the drive to Pittsburgh.  Due to illness, Jennifer and Judi had to be left behind to cheer from Columbus.  I swear we could hear them cheering anyway!  The rest of the crew left my house at 2am on Sunday morning to start the drive.  (minus Sarah, who was going to meet us from DC if she could).  We were a bit loopy during that wee hours drive!

We arrived in Pittsburgh a little after 5:30am and got situated before heading off to watch the start and dispatch to our various relay spots....and wouldn't you know it - out of 30,000 people or so....we ran into Sara!!!  We pretended we were just there to cheer.
The start line and such was so confusing...we worried about finding the shuttles and our relay spots...and still hadn't found breakfast...so we dashed off in the rain to find the first relay spot for Deb, and the shuttles for the rest of us.

LeDawn and I rode with Amy out to the next relay exchange...dropped her off, ate some breakfast/drank some coffee....watched the Kenyans run by at the 10 mile mark after only an hour and then back to the shuttles to get LeDawn in place.  Two shuttles later, and LeDawn and I were waiting at the 15 mile mark for the fourth leg of the unofficial relay.

In the meantime....Duane ran the first 4.8 miles with Sara.  Deb took over for the next 4.8 miles completely surprising Sara.  Amy had the next leg - the one with the dreaded Mt. Washington (but - hey, she volunteered for the hilly part - crazy, I'm telling you.  LOL).

Then, LeDawn's turn came.  She was so ready to join them that she went to the bottom of the next hill to wait and I took pictures as they approached.
Then, Amy and I walked to the next exchange spot....I'd under-estimated the distance a bit.  Oops.   Anywhoodle - we met Deb there, raided the nearby drug store for some much needed sports drinks and waited for LeDawn and Sara.

From there - all of us joined Sara until the pregnant woman (yes, that would be me) had to slow down a bit.  Amy and Deb stayed with Sara until the bib was exchanged when Sara's sister Mollie met them for the last of the race.

We all rushed to the finish line so that we could meet Sara's dad, husband and Duane and cheer her the last 0.2 miles.

The final result???  A successful surprise and a new marathoner joined the ranks.  Our good friend Sara finished a very tough marathon and joined the 0.17% of Americans that have run a marathon this year.  Absolutely AMAZING!

After the celebratory photos and the joy of seeing Sara get her medal....the Operation Sara Pittsburgh Crew climbed back into my car for the drive back.  We stopped for lunch and spent the rest of the drive planning our next races and roadtrips.

I never cease to be amazed by the amazing people I met this running season at MIT.  To all my Lucky13 teammates - I am so thankful to have met such amazing and entertaining people!  LOVE Y'ALL!


  1. Nice Mandy - I found your blog-! I had so much fun hanging out with you-thanks for making things run so smoothly...

  2. I AM SO MAD I MISSED THIS! You guys did a great job and it looks like you had lots of fun! We should get together more often because it was so much fun and I need to steal more from your bookshelf.

  3. Good grief! I had NO IDEA you were "that" pregnant. Are you sure you're not due in a couple of weeks?

  4. LOL. Um. Kelly. Are you saying that I look fat? Hahaha. My doctor says my weight gain and uterus size is exactly on track. :~P

  5. I'm glad that people appreciated my 0.17% marathon sign.

    congrat on your running accomplishments. Keep running!


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