Get a run in and learn Pittsburgh's history


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For­get that cushy seat atop a two-decker bus. Ac­tive types know one of the best ways to ex­plore a city is by foot, es­pe­cially for run­ners who are as in­ter­ested in lo­cal his­tory and ur­ban trivia as they are in a good work­out.

That’‍s the idea be­hind Pitts­burgh Run­ning Tours, which 29-year-old Trista Yerks started two years ago af­ter re­lo­cating here from the Min­ne­sota.

When a new job brought the run­ner to Pitts­burgh from Min­ne­ap­o­lis in 2012, she ex­pected to get to know the city‘‍s neigh­bor­hoods the same way a grow­ing num­ber are dis­cov­er­ing other U.S. cit­ies: on a guided group run. Even though a record 23,458 run­ners par­tic­i­pated in the 2014 Pitts­burgh half and full mar­a­thons, no such group run existed.

“So I de­cided to start one,” said Ms. Yerks, who works for a lo­cal foun­da­tion.

Her first tour, fol­low­ing a month of re­search, was on the North Shore, where she‘‍d been run­ning the Three Rivers Her­i­tage Trail. It proved so pop­u­lar, four more tours soon fol­lowed: Law­renceville, Oak­land, the South Side and the Strip Dis­trict. They’‍re held on Satur­day and Sun­day morn­ings year-round, rain or shine, and even in the snow.

Ms.Yerks might be a Run­ner of Steel, but no wor­ries if you‘‍re not in mar­a­thon shape: Runs are at a com­fort­able, con­ver­sa­tional pace (be­tween 10-11 minute miles). Also, you get plenty of breath­ers, with six or seven stops along the way for her to talk his­tory and point out of­fi­cial (and un­of­fi­cial) land­marks.

“It‘‍s def­i­nitely not a race set­ting,” she say of the 3- 3 1/​2-mile routes, which wind their way at a lop­ing pace along trails, ma­jor thor­ough­fares and side streets and — de­pend­ing on the lo­ca­tion — up and down stairs. ?

Within the first 15 min­utes of a tour in Oak­land, for in­stance, you‘‍ll learn how the Heinz Me­mo­rial Chapel came to be and why the Gothic-style Belle­field bell tower isn’‍t at­tached to a church. You‘‍ll also re­ceive a primer on the 15-foot sculp­ture and foun­tain de­pict­ing Pan be­ing ser­e­naded by a nymph at the en­trance to Schen­ley Park. And that its ar­chi­tect also de­signed the Lin­coln penny.

Her most pop­u­lar tour, Ms. Yerks said, is of the North Shore with its many bridges, sta­di­ums and fan­tas­tic views of the city sky­line. But the Strip also gets rave re­views, even if the $30 reg­is­tra­tion fee ($35 with a shirt) doesn’‍t in­clude a cap­puc­cino from La Prima.

She draws mostly a Pitts­burgh cli­en­tele through Ac­tive.com and so­cial me­dia, al­though out-of-town­ers and vis­i­tors from out­ly­ing coun­ties also oc­ca­sion­ally sign up.

While peo­ple are fa­mil­iar with the city‘‍s land­marks, she said, they very of­ten don’‍t know their back­story. “So they en­joy hear­ing about what‘‍s around them. ... It‘‍s a good way to get your run in and do some­thing tour­isty at the same time.”

Info: pitts­burgh­run­ning­tours.com or 412-256-8640.

Gretchen McKay: gmc­kay@post-ga­zette.com; 412-263-1419 or on Twit­ter @gt­mc­kay.


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