A runner’s guide to Pittsburgh


TPN file photo

Schenley Park’s trails are popular routes for runners.

By Brian Gentry, Senior Staff Writer

Pittsburgh may be the City of Bridges, but it should also be known as the City of Hills. The City boasts two of the top 10 steepest roads in the United States, and even the flatter areas have a significant amount of terrain.

But despite all of the hills the City is friendly to runners. With hundreds of acres of public parks and walkable neighborhoods, runners will delight in exploring all the City has to offer. This is especially true in Oakland, where the University of Pittsburgh is located. Schenley Park, a 456-acre park directly adjacent to Pitt’s campus, and neighborhoods like Squirrel Hill and Shadyside are only a quick jaunt away.

Here’s your runner’s guide for new Pitt students itching to get in a jog.

When you’re looking for a quick jog

For short runs close to campus, your best option is Schenley Park. The park, accessible via Schenley Drive from Posvar Hall, has many trails suitable for small loops, and on hot days, the shade provided by the trees is a welcome reprieve.

One set of trails that makes for an excellent lollipop loop is the duo of Panther Hollow Trails, termed the Lower and Upper Panther Hollow Trail. These two trails follow the Panther Hollow Run, a narrow creek, and connect to each other near the Bartlett Playground on the other side of Schenley Park.

To access this loop, just enter from the park’s Visitor Center and stay on the main path. This path — the Lower Panther Hollow Trail — will take you up a slow incline to a rocky bridge, after which you can go back down the Upper Panther Hollow Trail on the other side. At the end of the Upper Panther Hollow Trail, you can get back up onto the Boulevard of the Allies and connect back to the Visitor Center. Overall, the loop is 1.6 miles long. Adding the distance from Towers to the Visitor Center brings the total mileage up to 3.0 miles.

When you’re looking for a long-distance run

Farther-flung neighborhoods, such as Shadyside and Squirrel Hill, offer more opportunities for longer runs, closer to 5 miles.

One great 5.2-mile loop takes you all the way out to Shady Avenue in Shadyside. Start from Towers, head up to Benedum Hall and turn right onto O’Hara Street. Once you hit the Winchester Thurston schools, jog over one street to Ellsworth and follow that through Shadyside all the way to Shady Avenue. Turn right, head down Shady until you get to Walnut Street, take that to Aiken Avenue and loop back along the same route you headed out on. This route is a great option for a longer, slower run. Plus, if you need to make a Target run along the way, you can make a detour out to the East Liberty Target on Penn Avenue.

Frick Park, another major public green area within the boundaries of the city, is located past Squirrel Hill along Beechwood Boulevard. You can either take a 61A or 61B bus out to the entrance, or, if you’re particularly ambitious, you can run out there along Forbes Avenue until you get there. Once there, many trails are available to you, such as the Riverview Trail and the Clayton Loop.

When you’re looking for a track workout

The more competitive of us may be looking for a harder workout, one that builds muscle. Fortunately, Schenley Park also conveniently has a track at the Schenley Oval Sportsplex, which can be accessed by exiting the park at the halfway point on the Panther Hollow loop. You’ll end up at Panther Hollow Road, which you can cross to get to the Sportsplex, where you can start your workout.

While the most obvious feature to runners is the track located on the western side of the Sportsplex, the area also sports a 1-kilometer loop around the edge, as well as tennis courts and a large green space in the center. Regardless of what intensity workout you’re going for, odds are you can find a suitable loop at the Sportsplex to complete the workout.

When you’re looking for a hill workout

You knew it’d be coming. Your calves may complain, but hill repeats offer one of the most effective ways to get your heart rate up and build muscle. Plus, with so many hills available, you’ll never get tired of repetitive scenery.

The best hills for repeats are located right in Oakland, one of which is just past the UPMC Presbyterian hospital. You can run from the intersection of Fifth Avenue and Darragh Street straight up the hill, and either stop at Terrace Street — a 100-foot climb — or all the way at Trees Hall — a nearly 200-foot climb. Turn left at either stop and loop back down the hill, then repeat.

And if you can’t get enough of the hills, you can run up and down the Chevron Steps, which start outside the Chevron Science Center, the chemistry building, and end at Irvis Hall, one of the residence halls available to sophomores and juniors. Bring your chemistry notes too so you can get in some studying while your quads are burning.

Whether you’re a seasoned runner or just starting to get into shape, there’s plenty of options in the Oakland area to get a run in. When you arrive on campus in August, take a break from studying, go on a run and enjoy the sun — it won’t be there forever.