A First-Timer's Guide to One GREAT Weekend


For any runner on the last weekend in September, there is no better place to be than Pittsburgh – for the 46th running of the community footrace established by former Mayor Richard S. Caligiuiri. With nearly a half million participants since its founding in 1977, the Great Race has become part of the social and cultural fabric of the city. With typically the best seasonal weather for running, the fast, point-to-point 10k and 5k courses through the heart of the city showcase Pittsburgh in its fall glory. If this is your first time participating in Great Race weekend, here are some tips to ensure one GREAT experience that will leaving you wanting to do the Great Race year every year.

The Junior Great Race

Saturday is the Dollar Bank Junior Great Race - with events for even the youngest Great racers.  There is a 1-mile family fun run, a tot trot, and a diaper dash. Click here to register or here to volunteer. If you do not have a junior Great Racer, and you cannot volunteer, come to the Point anyway and cheer on our Junior Great Racers!

Picking up your Packet

Packet pickup is at Point State Park on Friday, September 22, from 11:00 AM - 7:00 PM and Saturday, September 23 - from 11:00 AM - 5:00 PM.

Parking and Getting to the Races Start lines

This is a point-to-point race. That means that the start line and the finish line are not at the same place! In fact, the 10k start line is 6.2 miles from where you will finish the race, and the 5k start lines is, naturally, 3.1 miles from where you will finish. Therefore, your race day logistics require some planning.


I highly recommend parking downtown in any garage. From downtown, at Gateway Plaza at the intersection of Penn Avenue and Stanwix St, you can board a free shuttle bus to get you to the start lines. The buses to the 5k start begin at 6:00 AM. Starting at 7:45 AM, there will be also be buses going to the 10k start. Be sure to get on the correct bus for the race that you have registered!


As an alternative, you could park near either of the start lines (the 10k start line is in Frick Park and the 5k start line is in Oakland). If you choose this option, the race offers shuttles from the finish back to the start lines until 12:30 PM.


If you are registered for the One GREAT Challenge, you will board the 5k bus, race and finish the 5k, then get right on the bus again to the 10k start to race the 10k!


Insider tip: it can be very cool in the morning in late September in Pittsburgh. That makes perfect racing weather, but it can be chilly standing around waiting for a shuttle or for the races to start. I suggest bringing a sweatshirt that you do not mind losing – race officials will collect all the clothing left at the start line and donate it! Some runners also bring garbage bags to wear for warmth.


The Start Line experience

I recommend getting to the start line early and soaking in the festivities. Over the years, many Pittsburgh mayors have come to the start line to wish the runners well. Typically, there is a tribute to the “perfect” Great Racers – my heroes. These 21 runners exemplify running longevity by having completed every Great Race since the first time in 1977. You will want to be there for the moving playing of the national anthem and the pre-race pump-up music. It is a Great Race tradition to play the song “Shout!” as the race starts.

Along the Courses and at the Finish

First, enjoy the crowds. Pittsburghers love an event – especially a sporting event, and they will come out and cheer as if you were Franco Harris running for a touchdown against the Raiders in 1973! Every year I have run the 10k, during the first mile there is a gentleman playing the “charge” melody on his trumpet, over and over again. I do not know who the man is, but if he is reading this: thank you! 


Look for the magnificent parks (Frick Park, Schenley Park and Point State Park) and the great Pittsburgh universities along the course including Pitt, Carnegie Mellon, and Duquesne. Look for the fantastic Pittsburgh churches such as St. Paul’s Cathedral and Heinz Chapel in Oakland.


Due to the relatively fast courses and the favorable September weather, many runners will achieve personal best times. The 5k course starts half way through the 10k course, and both courses have an overall downhill grade. The one significant hill on both courses is by the Duquesne campus, but the Duquesne band is usually there to provide motivation and inspiration. After you climb that hill, it is largely downhill until the glorious finish at Point State Park.  


At the finish, get your medal and relish in your accomplishment, and soak in all the Pittsburgh love. It is a joy and a privilege to race in Pittsburgh anytime, but especially during One GREAT Weekend. Of course, no Pittsburgh race is complete without enjoying a finish line Eat-n-Park Smiley Cookie. Enjoy – you have earned it!


The Great Race weekend has thrilled runners for 45 years! I am so glad that we all get to be part of the 46th year, and I am excited to see you all at the start, along the course, and at the finish. I am sure you will have the same feeling I have had after every Great Race I have run: “I cannot wait to do this again next year!”

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