PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — Well, this is an adventure. At the start of the GAP Relay, GAP standing for the Great Allegheny Passage, it’s a 184 miles to Washington D.C. and 150 miles to Pittsburgh.
Each team has eight members, taking turns running all the way to Pittsburgh. There are 24 legs along the 150 mile route, and each member runs three of them.
KDKA’s Andy Sheehan is runner No. 4, taking the hand-off from teammate Suzanne Sandusky in Frostburg, Maryland.
“Way to go!”
And he’s off, mixed with excitement and apprehension about what lies ahead.
Sheehan heads up the mountains, crosses the Maryland-Pennsylvania border and crests the Eastern Continental Divide. It’s a lovely stretch, and so far so good, coasting into the next exchange zone.
It’s a continuous trek, and when they’re not running, the athletes are in the van with Chip Burke at the helm. He’s picking up one teammate and dropping off another.
Runners like Wayne Jacobs get ready for running in the dark.
“I have a headlamp, I have a tail-lamp, I have a flashlight, and hopefully the eyes don’t blur up, that’s the key,” Jacobs says.
Runners disappear into the night as Sheehan waits his own turn at midnight.
“So, now we’re in Ohiopyle, at the start of my second leg, and I’ll be running though the darkness. Pretty scary,” he says.
It’s six more miles through the woods, with just a head lamp to lead the way. It’s a little eerie, but surprisingly peaceful with no one else around. At the end of it, he tries to get an hour or two nap, but wakes up to a stiff neck and sore legs. A cold rain falling. It’s 5 a.m., and time to run the daunting final leg.
Somehow he gets through it, reaching the warm firehall in the town of Boston. The rest of the teammates forge on to the South Side to compete the 150 miles in just about 24 hours time.
It’s a day they might not want to relive anytime soon, but certainly won’t forget.