Categorized | Marathons, Primary, Running Races

Pittsburgh Marathon – Race Review

Posted on 08 April 2010

This race has gone through many up’s and down’s over the years.   It has a long history (Olympic Women’s Marathon Trials in the past) but with the loss of sponsors and financial difficulties the race was suspended for a few years.   2009 saw the marathon come back to Pittsburgh with 12,000 runners (sold out) and was a very sucessful event.   This year the race increased the number of total runners (marathon and half marathon) to 16,000 and is sold out again.   I have included my perspectives of the Pittsburgh Marathon.

Date:  May 2, 2010 -Pittsburgh, PA, www.pittsburghmarathon.com

Race start time 7:30 AM, the weather can be very unpredictable.   It can be hot/humid to cold/rain.   I remember one year running the race and we had brief snow showers, so expect anything and be prepared.

The race is under new race management (starting in 2009) and some of the organizer’s have participated in endurance sports.

Entry Fee: $75 – $90 (entry deadline dates determine pricing, refer to website). 

Race Expo – Normal booths and vendors at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center (downtown Pittsburgh).  Nothing extraordinary but is continuting to grow.

Budget Items for a summary of costs (for out of town athlete)

Race Fee   $75.00, 2 nights Hotel (approx. total  including tax) $400,  total meal cost per person (2 dinners, 2 breakfasts, 2 lunches (estimated reasonable priced restaurants and there are many in Pittsburgh) $150 + Taxi’s from/to airport $40 (rental car is an option as well) + Flight cost or gas cost if driving.   

What do you get for the $75.00 entry fee - Nike gender-specific long sleeved technical shirt (the 2009 shirt was not the best – the screen print sticks to your skin when sweating – hopefully improved for 2010), Nike socks, Finisher medal and certificate, $10 Dick’s Sporting Goods Gift card (this was nice because it was not just a local sporting store that you need to use the coupon as Dick’s is a national company – nice benefit), Personalized running big for the first 5,000 entrants, entry for prized drawings, banana’s/bagels at finish line with Gatorade/water, Text messaging for friends/family, gear check.

Is there anything that makes the race memorable – Pretty standard marathon, but it does have a few sections with great crowds (some area’s however very few spectators).  Lot’s of bands through many of ethnic neighborhoods.  Running across the bridges does provide some nice views of the city.

Pre-race dinner – There is a pasta-party at the Spaghetti Warehouse (several shift times for runners) in the historic Strip District are of Pittsburgh (many food vendors/shops in the strip district and worthwhile to check out for out of town runners).  Normal pasta dinner.

Growth of the race – Remarkable in just the second year back with new sponsor and race management team, race sold out in 2010 – 16,000 runners.  Entries for 2011 will be on the website shortly after the 2010 race.

Airport close to the race venue – Pittsburgh International Airport – about 20 minute drive to downtown Pittsburgh

Hotels:  There are many to select in the city:   Omni Hotels, Westing Hotel, Fairmont (the most expensive $250 range per night), Marriot Springhill Suites, Hilton Pittsburgh, Marriot Pittsburgh City Center, Hampton Inn, Doubletree, Renaissance, Courtyard Marriot, Holiday Inn Express, Sheraton Station Square.    Price ranges average $170 per night.  Check out the race websites for details and specials on the hotels.   Many of these hotels are walking distance or a short taxi ride to the race start.   However, keep in mind that it can be challenging to find a taxi throughout the city but all hotels will have taxis.

What is there to do for the kid’s – There are many museums, including the Carnegie Science Center/Sports Center (must check out!), Heinz History Center and this years race will include a Finish Line Festival with a band, food, face-painting, crafts, balloon twisting for the kids.  Also, check out the Gateway Clipper River tour boat ride.  The sugar foods should keep the children “running wild”!

Logistics info:  The race start and finish are in the same (approximate) area.  This eliminates the point to point issues with transportation back to the start, etc.  There are plenty of parking garages in the city and expect to pay in the $5-10 range for most of the facilities.  There is a list on the race website.  In 2009, the finish line was a zoo and it was very difficult to move through the area to locate family/friends (will be improved in 2010 as the finish line will be moved).  Recommendation – finalize a “meet-up” place at the finish, prior to the race.

Specific training advice to prepare the runner for the race – Make sure you spend time running uphills but it’s important for a strong race result to practice running downhill with “tired” legs.  There is a long gradual downhill late into the race that will provide plenty of quad stress!

Traffic issues – none – the race is closed to traffic

Advice for first-time marathoner – The first 11 miles of the course are relatively flat (by Pittsburgh standards) then after crossing the Birmingham Bridge there is a ong gradual climb into Oakland (University of Pittsburgh campus).  You will notice many athletes slowing down significantly.  Don’t start out too fast with the easy flat miles. 

Aid Stations – 18 aid stations with water, lemon-lime Gatorade Endurance formula -   Two aid stations will include Gu energy gels (Vanilla Bean, Chocolate, Tri-Berry, Strawberry-Banana, Jet Blackberry), PowerBars (Chocolate and Wild Berry) will be at miles 12.9, 18.3.  Mile 22 will include salty snacks.    Also a total of 17 Medical Aid stations throughout the course.

Abundance of bathroom facilities - There was a shortage of porto-potties at the start line in 2009, (2010 expects to have more) however expect long lines with the larger race field this year.  Plenty of porto-potties on the race course at specific aid stations.

Grocery Stores in the city to buy some last minute supplies – There are limited stock grocery stores in the city near the race start, however I would recommend walking over to the Strip District for a wide selection of everything you need.

Water or coffee at the starting line – in 2009 there was limited areas of water

Other items of interest – there is a race photographer on the course and can purchase pictures, plenty of cell phone coverage of course to make that all important phone call to friends and family.

Why should an athlete consider this marathon? The race is well-organized overall and I would expect to see improvements each following year.   There are many added features to this year’s race and keep in mind this is only the second year of the “re-birth” of this race. The crowds are friendly and you will get to experience the new “Green Pittsburgh”.   The course is not easy and will be a nice challenge for many runners.  Be aware, it’s a tough one to set a personal marathon PR!   Plan on registering early as it has been full last year and this year.  Of course, in addition to experiencing Pittsbughese (unique words only used by Pittsburgh long-term residents) enjoy all the culture, restaurants and why Pittsburgh was named “The most Liveable city in the U.S.” as it’s no longer a “dirty steel town”.

Wayne Kurtz

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