Great Race keeps them coming back for more

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More than 8,000 runners -- almost 1,000 more than last year -- are expected to take part in the 30th annual Richard S. Caliguiri City of Pittsburgh Great Race tomorrow, said race director Mike Radley. Among the first-time runners will be Mayor Luke Ravenstahl.

"It's a remarkable registration, considering we don't have the best amenities at the finish line this year," Mr. Radley said.

The race customarily ends Downtown at Point State Park, but it is closed for construction. This year's race will end on Liberty Avenue between Commonwealth Place and Stanwix Street, near the Hilton Pittsburgh hotel.


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When participants in the Junior Great Race, which was held last Sunday, are added in, roughly 10,000 people will have taken part in Great Race events this year, and nearly 100,000 people will have watched them.

Since then-Mayor Caliguiri inaugurated the Great Race in 1977, it has grown to be one of the biggest multi-race events in the country, according to On the Roads, the publication of the USA Track & Field association.

Mr. Caliguiri died in 1988 of amyloidosis, a rare disease in which organs in the body accumulate deposits of abnormal proteins, causing organ failure. A portion of the funds raised by the race are contributed to research for a cure.

The 26 men who have run in all the previous 29 City of Pittsburgh Great Races are expected to run in this one, too.

Among those running the 10K event will be a team of three octogenarians: Thomas Cummins, 84, of Scott; Lou Lodovico, 83, of Ellwood City; and Jim Walsh, 80, of Butler.

Mr. Cummins has run in all except the first two Great Races. He runs a mile or two almost every morning, but didn't start running regularly until he was in middle age.

"It was my oldest son," Mr. Cummins said. "He was going into the Marines, and he was getting ready for it. I saw him running a lot and I thought I should do that, too. He inspired me."

Mr. Lodovico, a retired machinist, was even older when he started running regularly.

"I started when I was 60 years old," he said. "I was getting a little heavy, and just decided this was a good way to get in shape."

Mr. Lodovico runs every other day, a total of 20 to 30 miles per week. He's run in the Great Race "seven or eight times before."

"I started to run back in 1962," said Mr. Walsh, who worked in the marketing department for the Bank of America. "I traveled on my job all over the country. I started to jog because there was nothing else to do early in the morning."

Mr. Walsh ran the Pittsburgh Marathon when he was 70. He now runs every other day, about 15 to 20 miles a week. He's run the Great Race "a half a dozen" times before.

"I really admire their commitment to fitness," Mr. Radley said of Mr. Cummins, Mr. Lodovico, and Mr. Walsh. "We're in a society where we want everything to be immediate for us. A sport like running requires a commitment of time. These guys are exemplary athletes in my opinion. They are role models."

The Great Race will begin at 9:30 a.m. tomorrow in Frick Park at Beechwood Boulevard in Squirrel Hill and conclude near the Hilton, Downtown.

The 5K race will start at Fifth Avenue and Atwood Street in Oakland at 8:30 a.m., and also conclude near the Hilton.

A 5K walk will start a few minutes after the 5K run, also at Fifth and Atwood in Oakland.

There will be wheelchair races in both the 10K and 5K distances, with the wheelchair racers starting a few minutes before the runners.

Racers can stoke up tonight at a pasta party at PPG's Wintergarden, with Sbarro preparing the food. Tickets are $8 per person.

The primary sponsor of the Great Race is Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield. It also will sponsor an Expo on the Great Race at the Circuit Centre on Hot Metal Street at the SouthSide Works. The expo, to run from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. today, will offer a last chance to register for tomorrow's races.

The race fee is $25. Runners who are already registered can pick up their registration packets at the expo.

Additional sponsors for this year's race are Allegheny General Hospital, Dollar Bank, Dick's Sporting Goods, essential2Pittsburgh, Verizon, Bechtel Plant Machinery, KDKA-TV, Lite Rock 92.9, BOB-FM 96.9, Pittsburgh magazine and Allegheny Regional Asset District.

For more information, call the Great Race hot line at 412-255-2493 or visit www.RunGreatRace.com.


Jack Kelly can be reached at jkelly@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1476.


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