Volcanic ash may have silver lining for Pittsburgh marathon
Lighting seen amid the lava and ash erupting from the vent of the Eyjafjallajokull volcano in central Iceland early Sunday morning as it continues to vent into the skies over Europe. Low-energy lightning is sometimes active during eruptions, arcing between particles as they exit the volcanic vent at around 100 metres per second..
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For some of the world's top runners, the biggest challenge the Boston Marathon posed was getting to the starting line. But travel nightmares, created by the eruption of an Icelandic volcano, could be a dream for organizers of the Pittsburgh Marathon.
As many as 500 runners missed Monday's Boston Marathon because of travel restrictions, but organizers of the Dick's Sporting Goods Pittsburgh Marathon will appeal to many to consider running their race May 2.
Race director Patrice Matamoros said some of those displaced runners could run the Pittsburgh Marathon.
"It could be a long shot, but it definitely is a possibility," Ms. Matamoros said.
The subject came up in a breakfast between Ms. Matamoros and Jim Estes, USA Track and Field Long Distance Program director, Monday morning in Boston.
The London Marathon, to be run Sunday, was also threatened by the volcano's dust, but Ms. Matamoros was told all of London's elite field will make the race.
Though Pittsburgh's race has reached its 16,000-runner registration cap, Ms. Matamoros said the additional runners would not strain race operations because of the low volume of potential newcomers.
She said it makes sense for Pittsburgh to appeal to runners who missed Boston's race because they won't want to waste their training.
"They're definitely going to be looking around for another race," she said.
Pittsburgh's race will give those runners a chance to cash in -- literally -- on months of training.
Her pitch is pretty straightforward: Runners good enough to qualify for Boston would have a good chance to win the Pittsburgh Marathon, and the $6,500 cash prize that goes with it.
But that might not be lucrative enough to lure some of the world's best.
The men's and women's winners of the Boston Marathon received $150,000 each, and elite runners typically receive appearance fees.
Robert Kiprono Cheruiyot, who won Monday's Boston Marathon, was also awarded $25,000 for setting a course record. The entire purse of the Pittsburgh Marathon is $45,000.
Other barriers include travel arrangements, accommodations and paperwork for foreign competitors.
Ms. Matamoros said she will try to assuage at least one of those complications; she plans to talk with sponsors to see if the marathon can offer appearance fees for elite runners.
"These runners need a race," she said.
First Published April 20, 2010 12:00 am