Marathon: 25,000 in the streets with thousands more cheering
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More than 25,000 people are expected to run, walk, pedal, wheel or otherwise move through the city's marathon course and related events this weekend.
Along with the amateurs competing only for personal glory, one of the most impressive fields of elite runners in the Pittsburgh Marathon's history will be participating.
Race director Patrice Matamoros said that 60 to 70 elite athletes, from as close as central Ohio to as far away as Kenya and Ethiopia, will be competing.
To qualify as an elite runner, athletes must have posted a certain qualifying time in another marathon over the past 18 months and apply to the Pittsburgh Marathon for approval. This year, the cutoff time for elite runners was 2:19:00 for men and 2:46:00 for women.
The 2011 winner, Jeffrey Eggleston, is returning to defend his title. He started out as the marathon's "rabbit," setting the pace for runners who hoped to qualify for the U.S. Olympic team. Over the last eight miles, though, he pulled away from the pack and won his first marathon in 2:16:40.
Two events are Saturday, the UPMC Sports Medicine/UPMC Health Plan Pittsburgh 5K at 8 a.m. and the Toyota of Pittsburgh Kids Marathon at 10 a.m.
On Sunday, the events are the Dick's Sporting Goods Pittsburgh Marathon, the UPMC Health Plan Pittsburgh Half Marathon and FedEx Ground Pittsburgh Marathon Relay. All start at 7:30 a.m. on Liberty Avenue between Sixth and Seventh streets, with wheelchair racers starting at 7:20 a.m.
The race will finish on the Boulevard of the Allies at Stanwix Street. Then participants will be able to go to Point State Park for a Finish Line Festival that runs from 7:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. It will have live music and a big screen with a live feed of the finish line, as well as food concessions.
On Sunday, the citywide progression of closures for the 26.2-mile race begins in earnest at 6:30 a.m. But streets around the starting line at Liberty Avenue and Seventh Street may start to close as early as late Saturday.
Race officials have urged runners to arrive two hours before the scheduled 7:30 a.m. start of the race. They cautioned that driving and finding parking in the Golden Triangle will be difficult and have suggested fringe parking and/or public transit. They also recommended that everyone have a backup plan.
A new option this year will be to park on the North Shore and ride the T into Downtown. The North Shore Connector, which opened in March, serves stations near PNC Park and Heinz Field. But there's also a Pirates home game at 1:35 p.m. Sunday to complicate matters.
Merrill Stabile, president of Alco Parking, said the lots will try to accommodate those going to either event. The West General Robinson Street Garage, atop the T's new North Side Station, will open at 4:30 a.m. with a $4 rate for those entering before 8:30 a.m. After that, the $15 game-day rate will apply. Gold Lot 1 will open at 5 a.m. with a $5 rate until 8:30, when the $12 game rate takes effect. The North Shore Garage will open at 5 a.m. with the $15 event rate in place all day.
T service from the North Shore to Downtown will begin about 6 a.m. Sunday. Regular Sunday service will run until later in the day, when two-car trains and some extra trips will be added, Port Authority spokeswoman Heather Pharo said.
More than 50 bus routes will be detoured on Saturday and Sunday, with some shortened to drop riders off at T stations for access to Downtown. Details will be posted at www.portauthority.org.
After the 6:30 or earlier closures of streets Downtown, on the North Side, in the Strip District, in the West End and on the South Side, the streets in Oakland, Shadyside and Point Breeze will be closed at 7 a.m., followed a half-hour later by Homewood, East Liberty, Highland Park and Friendship. The Bloomfield portion of the course will close at 8 a.m.
Streets will reopen at various times, typically 30 minutes after the last runners have passed. A detailed guide to the closures is posted at www.pittsburghmarathon.com in the Race Weekend section.
For Saturday's preliminary events, starting at 7 a.m., the Boulevard of the Allies will close from Commonwealth Place to Stanwix Street and Stanwix will close from Boulevard of the Allies to Liberty Avenue.
At 7:30 a.m., many of the streets in an area bounded by Allies, Smithfield Street, Seventh Street and Fort Duquesne Boulevard will be blocked, as will the Andy Warhol and Rachel Carson bridges. At 8:30 the entire perimeter of Allegheny Center will close, as will several streets between there and the Allegheny River.
There will be other closures not related to the marathon events: The ongoing $8.7 million project to repair and resurface 26 ramps and road segments connecting Downtown to the interstate system will restrict westbound traffic to one lane on the Parkway East between Second Avenue (Exit 71B) and the Smithfield Street Bridge from 10 p.m. Friday to 5 p.m. Saturday.
Three ramps will be closed from 10 p.m. Friday through 5 a.m. Sunday: the westbound Parkway East off-ramp to Grant Street; the on-ramp from Grant to the westbound parkway; and the westbound Parkway East off-ramp to Stanwix Street. The posted detour for inbound drivers on the Parkway East who are going Downtown is to cross the Fort Pitt Bridge, go through the tunnel, exit at Banksville Road and use the loop to turn around and head back through the tunnel toward the city.
First Published May 6, 2012 12:00 am