From 5Ks to marathons and everything in between, there are many avid runners across the Highmark Health enterprise — and many more among our customers — so in this series we’ll tap the running community to share tips, profile runners, tell stories about their running events and experiences, and more. Have an idea for a post? Let us know in the comments section!

Heather Eilert

Highmark employee Heather Eilert

Heather Eilert started running about a year and a half ago to lose weight.

A former high school cross-country runner, Bryce Walat started running again about two years ago via Highmark’s Running 101 program after receiving poor results on his employee health screening.

On November 9, these two Highmark employees will be among those toeing the start line at the EQT Pittsburgh 10 Miler.

The EQT Pittsburgh 10 Miler, hosted by Pittsburgh Three Rivers Marathon, Inc. (P3R), had its inaugural run in November 2013, and it was so popular it’s back for its second year.

The elite athlete field is being headlined this year by U.S. half-marathon record-holder Ryan Hall, making his debut at the 10-mile distance, and his wife, World Cross Country Championship team member Sara Hall. The Halls will join a field of 34 world-class runners, including 2016 U.S. Olympic hopeful Fernando Cabada, Leonard Korir of Kenya, and Nahom Mesfin of Ethiopia.

Ryan Hogan, who manages elite athlete coordination for P3R, is looking forward to the American field’s performance this year. “I’m excited to see what the Americans can do. I think they’re going to prove a lot of people wrong,” he says. Typically, America’s elite athletes do not fare as well in distance races compared to foreign athletes.

10-Miler Runners Can Discover Pittsburgh in a New Way

Runners can expect a few slight changes to this year’s course, compared to last year, as it will be rerouted through Pittsburgh’s West End neighborhood up to the Chateau Street and Beaver Street corridor, which was used in the first two years of the Pittsburgh Marathon, but is no longer part of that course.

The majority of the course for the 10 Miler has stayed the same as it was in 2013. It is essentially the course of the UPMC Health Plan Pittsburgh Half Marathon — only backwards, which provides a unique perspective of the city for those who are used to running that race.

“The 10 miler is one of my favorite distances,” says Patrice Matamoros, race director and CEO of P3R. “When I looked around the country and saw the other ten-mile races, I saw that this was a hole for us in Pittsburgh, and we could fill that hole by adding a 10-mile race. It’s the perfect distance, in my opinion. It’s less than a half marathon, so it’s not too long. I think it’s just the right distance.”

Having races like this available in Pittsburgh is important for Eilert, who had not been able to train to be ready for the 10 Miler last year. “One of the things that I really love about running is rediscovering the city,” she says. “To experience the city on foot — you, your thoughts, and maybe a little bit of music — is a different thing than sitting in traffic.

Bryce Walat

Highmark employee Bryce Walat

“That was something that I just did not expect to happen, and now my appreciation for the city has grown. I can’t express that to people who have not grown up here.” This year, Eilert has run her second half marathon already, so training for the EQT race has not been a problem.

The 10 miler will be the longest distance ever run for Walat, who has been progressing incrementally through race distances. “I ran a 10K last year, the 10 miler this year, and I will do a half marathon next year,” he says. He is hoping to complete the distance in less than two hours.

Race Day Advice from Highmark’s EQT 10-Miler Runners

When asked for their best race day advice, Eilert and Walat each had similar responses.

“Good sleep is absolutely a must,” says Eilert emphatically. The sentiment was echoed by Walat. Another key tip, according to Eilert, is to “Be forgiving. You’re going to have days where you have terrible runs and you think, ‘Why am I doing this to myself?’ but it gets better.”

I also asked Matamoros what set this event apart from others. “A lot of ten milers in the region are in the spring. Ours serves as a bookend to the marathon, but it also serves as a really great opportunity to come into Pittsburgh in the height of sports season, and to check out the fall colors,” she explains.

This event, as well as the other events hosted by P3R, support running programs for children, supply grants to the neighborhoods through which the course runs, and contribute to the American Development Program, which is an initiative to help increase exposure for emerging American elite athletes. Another focus is on sustainability and waste reduction. For their efforts in these areas, P3R was recently awarded Gold status by Zero Waste Pittsburgh.

At this year’s race, runners can expect a fast and relatively flat course, premium North Face gear and medals for all finishers, five different bands along the course, and an exciting elite athlete field. Online registration is now closed, but a limited number of race day registrations will be available.

For more information, visit