The Curious Lives of Pittsburgers

The June 2006 list of new words added to the Oxford English Dictionary officially includes the term (drum roll, please…) “Pittsburgher.” You know what? It’s about time. Pittsburghers love their city, and they share a unique identity with it. I’m amazed that this has been overlooked for so long by the Oxford folks, who are clearly a bunch of stuffy, mustached Englishmen sitting around in rich, leather drawing room chairs, puffing on pipes filled with Prince Albert, and debating whether such terms should make the cut. OK, I can’t actually validate any of that.

I recently visited Pittsburgh to run the IKEA half-marathon and catch up with some friends. During the race, I had a brief conversation with another runner that made me laugh and reflect upon the unity that comes from being a sizable city with a familiar, small-town mentality.

Somewhere near the fourth mile, I noticed that the young woman running beside me was wearing the same racing shoes that I was. I race in yellow/black/white Brooks T-Racers, which are lightweight racing flats with good medial support for pronators like me. Seeing someone in the same shoes was not really a surprise; the T-Racer is a popular flat and not a few have been sold. However, there was also an element of déjà vu in this case. Almost exactly two years ago, while running a half-marathon in Erie, PA, the very same thing happened: somewhere near the fourth mile I noticed that the woman running next to me was wearing the same shoes. On that occasion, I remarked “nice shoes,” and struck up a conversation with her. The two of us ultimately paced one another to personal best times.

This time around, I was once again aiming for a new personal best time, so I remarked to the girl next to me, “nice shoes,” hoping that good luck would strike twice. She glanced at my feet and replied with a perceptible grin, “You can’t go wrong…” and then she paused to take a breath. Mentally, I finished the thought for her: “You can’t go wrong with the Brooks T-Racer!” But I was wrong. She caught me completely off-guard when she continued a moment later, “with the Black and Gold!”

Touché, Pittsburgher.