Marathons and races within a day's drive from Pittsburgh


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Do you have what it takes to be a Runner of Steel?

If you're not among the 30,000 runners who've already signed up for the 2013 Dick's Sporting Goods Pittsburgh Marathon or UPMC Health Plan Pittsburgh Half Marathon, good luck finding out.

The 26.1-mile footrace and half marathon on May 5 are sold out. That means the only way for you procrastinators to get in on the action is to sign up to run for a charity (which requires fundraising) or to find someone who's looking to transfer his or her bib.

Or you could choose another race. You've trained all winter, after all. Don't you want to go for it?

Luckily, there are several endurance events within easy driving distance of Pittsburgh that are being staged around the same time as the Pittsburgh Marathon. Registration is still open.

Here's a roundup:

April 20: Blue Ridge Full and Half Marathon

This small road race in and around Roanoke, Va. (registration is capped at 600 for the marathon), is billed as "America's toughest road marathon." That's because racers face several lengthy and challenging hills up Mill and Roanoke mountains that give new meaning the phrase "runner's high" -- a total elevation gain/loss of 7,234 feet for marathoners and 2,528 feet for half marathoners. The reward for all that hard work, though, are the spectacular views of southern Appalachia's diverse beauty.

The party afterward includes live music as part of the Down by Downtown Music Festival (downbydowntown.com), a beer garden, food vendors and more. There still may be spots at a buffet-style pasta dinner ($25) on April 19 that will be emceed by running greats Frank Shorter, Bill Rodgers and Bart Yasso, who has completed races on all seven continents.

There's also a local connection: race organizer Pete Eshelman is from Pittsburgh (his parents own Morning Glory Inn in the South Side).

Full marathon: $100; half, $85. www.blueridgemarathon.com.

April 20: Boston Trail Half Marathon

This 13.1-miler isn't hundreds of miles away in Massachusetts; it's in Elizabeth Township's "little Boston." The out-and-back race starts and finishes at the Boston Trailhead of the Youghiogheny River Trail, part of the Great Allegheny Passage. Flat and fast, the course is on a crushed limestone rails-to-trails surface.

Post-race events include music, food and refreshments.

Registration: $40, accepted until April 12 at www.thebostontrail.com.

April 26-27: American Odyssey Relay Run Adventure

This race between Gettysburg, Pa., and Washington, D.C., covers 200 miles in two days. It's meant for a team of runners -- organizers suggest 12, who each run three 4- to 7-mile legs of varying difficulty -- leg 6, which climbs 1,171 feet over 6.9 miles is considered "very hard" while leg 27 along the C&O Canal from Weverton to Brunswick, Md., is "easy."

The entire relay must be completed in 36 hours, so runners will have to run one leg at night. You'll also need two vans. (Crazy, we know.) But what's great about this race is that novice runners can compete with those who are much more experienced.

After crossing the Mason-Dixon Line, teams get to refuel (and shower) at the "Odyssey Oasis." The route includes several historical sites, including Antietam National Battlefield and Harpers Ferry, W.Va.; the final runners get to hoof it across Francis Scott Key and 14th Street bridges in D.C. before the finish at Southwest Waterfront.

Registration: $1,440, or $120 per runner for a team of 12. www.americanodysseyrelay.com.

April 28: Gettysburg North-South Marathon

One way to mark the 150th anniversary of the Civil War's most famous battle this year is by running Gettysburg's third annual marathon -- a rolling course through its historic battlefields. It's expected to draw up to 1,000 runners.

Registrants decide whether to run for the North or the South (race numbers and shirts will be colored for each side), and there will be a scored competition between the two sides. A commemorative prize (beer glass with the event logo on one side and quote on the other from Abraham Lincoln's Gettysburg Address on the other) will be awarded to the winning side.

The out-and-back course, which is Boston qualifying, finishes in Downtown Gettysburg. Post-race activities include food and beverages; there also will be historical events taking place in Gettysburg that weekend (visit www.gettysburg.travel for details).

On Oct. 20, there's also the sister Blue-Gray half marathon.

Registration, $100; www.gettysburgnorthsouthmarathon.com.

April 28: University of Charleston Half Marathon

Looking for a flat race with almost no hills that also raises money for charity? Managed by students, this relatively new race along the Kanawha River in Charleston, W.Va., benefits university charities in Kenya. It's held on the same weekend as the annual Governor's Cup Regatta, so there's plenty of family-friendly events planned.

Registration, $50 through April 5 and $60 after; www.uchalfmarathon.com.

May 4: Cinco de Mayo

This "come & go" race in Warren, Pa., offers you the chance to compete in up to four races before noon: a half marathon, a 5-miler, a 5K and a 1.5-mile race. Or, run them one after the other for a total of 22.7 miles, a feat that will earn you a sombrero and Mexican belt buckle at the finish.

Organizers describe the course as "gorgeous, stupendous, low-traffic, scenic, rural, pretty flat, make-you-happy-to-be-alive." A Bull Dance and Pinata Smash follows the final award ceremony.

Everyone who completes the Cinco Half Marathon or the 22.7-Mile race will receive a Zapata mustache mug, and top runners in each race distance receive a one-of-a-kind, ceramic Cinco Race plate, bowl and cup.

Prices range from $20 to $80, depending on the distance, until Friday. and goes up to $90 for all four races on Saturday. www.runthecinco.com.

May 5: Cincinnati Flying Pig Marathon

You think Pittsburgh is tough? Just wait until you hit Mile 5 of this challenging Boston-qualifying race in downtown Cincinnati, which includes full and half marathon options. Who knew the Buckeye State was so hilly?

You get bragging rights to running a race in two states with this one, as the course crosses the Ohio River into Covington, Ky., and then back again before starting that tortuous climb.

The race is so named to honor the city's past as a hog-processing center; Cincinnati came to be known as "Porkopolis." In that vein, many of the spectators cheer racers wearing pig costumes.

The race includes a victory party at Yeatman's Cove on the Ohio River that continues until 3 p.m. with live music and food.

Late registration for the marathon is $105 and the half costs $95. www.flyingpigmarathon.com.

May 19: Cleveland Full and Half Marathon

Ready to rock'n'roll? The 36th annual Rite Aid Cleveland Marathon -- one of the 50 oldest marathons in the country -- features one of the flattest and fastest courses in the U.S. And with more than 20,000 racers, there will be plenty of people to keep you company.

The course incorporates the city's landmarks and most active neighborhoods, and runners also run by Lake Erie and Edgewater Park. Sadly, for Steelers fans at least, you'll also pass Cleveland Browns Stadium.

On race day, a beer garden opens at 8 a.m. at the 26.3 Mile Rock Party located just past the finish line, and there's live entertainment along the course.

The marathon/half marathon is $100/$85 until April 10 and $10/$95 until May 12. Register at www.clevelandmarathon.com.

health

Gretchen McKay: gmckay@post-gazette.com, 412-263-1419 or on Twitter @gtmckay.


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