Dapper Dan Sportswoman gave marathon new life as director

On April 15, Patrice Matamoros was in the Pittsburgh Marathon offices going from one meeting to the next. As the race director, she had a busy few weeks ahead of her leading up to the race May 5.

During one of those meetings, Matamoros was interrupted by a coworker, who told her there had been a bombing at the finish line of the Boston Marathon.

As the United States' premier marathon, the Boston Marathon was streaming live on the TV in the conference room at the Pittsburgh Marathon offices. Matamoros and her coworkers gathered there as the tragedy unfolded.

"Just shock and disbelief," Matamoros said of her reaction. "I couldn't even believe something like that would happen. I was just horrified."

After the initial shock wore off, a more pragmatic concern set in: Matamoros and her staff had their own marathon just under three weeks away.

For her deft handling and direction of the 2013 Pittsburgh Marathon amid significantly increased security concerns, Matamoros has been named the 2013 Dapper Dan Sportswoman of the Year.

It wasn't easy. Matamoros recalled the days and weeks leading up to the race, understandably, as even more chaotic than normal.

"I think in past years, the two weeks before the race have been really crazy, busy, hectic," she said. "This year, it felt like four weeks of race week instead of just one because of all the things we were making sure we had in check for the marathon."

Those preparations included hiring an additional 200 police and security forces to work on race day, as well as changing security protocols for runners and spectators.

As the first major American marathon after Boston, Pittsburgh also served as a sort of example for how to handle race security in the wake of the bombings. Matamoros said directors from the Chicago, Houston and Twin Cities marathons, among others, visited on race day, both to lend a hand and see how things ran.

"We just shared some of the stuff we had done and I think it was a good opportunity for them to see what plans we had in place and how it unfolded on race day," Matamoros said.

"You don't know how good your plans are until you're using them in real time."

In addition to making sure that the race went off without a hitch, Matamoros and her crew were also able to provide an unforgettable experience for 37 runners who could not finish the Boston Marathon because of the bombings. With Dick's Sporting Goods picking up the tab, the Pittsburgh Marathon flew them out and let them run.

"It just was so unbelievable that we could offer that opportunity and that Dick's Sporting Goods was willing to provide that opportunity for those runners," Matamoros said. "I think it was life-changing for them and it was life-changing for us."

Matamoros is already deep in preparations for the 2014 Pittsburgh Marathon, which hopefully will go off with fewer complications.

Matamoros has served as the marathon's race director since she helped bring it back in 2009 after a five-year hiatus.

The marathon weekend -- composed of the big race, the half-marathon, the kids marathon and the 5K -- is the group's flagship event, but Matamoros and her colleagues are also responsible for a number of other events throughout the year.

They stage an annual Halloween 5K run, and in 2012 added the Liberty Mile one-mile race to the calendar. The newest addition was a 10-mile race in November that debuted last month.

"Our goal is really to showcase Pittsburgh as a healthy and fit city," Matamoros said. "We are so happy that so many people in Pittsburgh and across the state of Pennsylvania come to run and show that we do have a really healthy city."

Sam Werner: swerner@post-gazette.com and Twitter @SWernerPG

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