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North Hills Monthly

Pittsburgh Marathon Good for City, Charities

May 01, 2017 08:22AM ● By Hilary Daninhirsch

The Pittsburgh Marathon starting line

Runners from 16 countries and 49 states will be competing in the Dick’s Sporting Goods Pittsburgh Marathon on May 7. Though marathons have been held in Pittsburgh for just over 100 years, the event as we know it began in 1985. Because it lost its title sponsor, the race was not able to financially sustain itself from 2003-2008, but the nonprofit P3R brought the race back in 2009 with Dick’s Sporting Goods as the title sponsor. We spoke with the organization’s CEO, Patrice Matamoros, about what is involved in ensuring that the event runs smoothly each year. 

North Hills Monthly (NHM): What makes Pittsburgh an ideal city for marathon runners?

Patrice Matamoros (Matamoros): I think it’s because we have such a fantastic sports city. People come out and cheer, a really important aspect of a marathon. We’ve had such phenomenal course support, fantastic spectators, fans, and neighborhoods come alive on marathon day. We’ve heard pretty amazing stories where runners had gotten bad blisters and someone will run into their house, find a pair of shoes and give it to them. The spirit of people in Pittsburgh adds to the whole dynamic of what we do.

NHM: Tell me about the course—where does it start and end?

Matamoros: We would ideally love to hold the marathon on the same route every year, but the course changes because of construction. There is a slightly different route this year than what we have had in the past. We’ve had the same start and finish line for four years; that is a huge plus because we know how to manage that with the amount of people coming through. The starting point is on Liberty Avenue downtown, and it ends on the Boulevard of the Allies, right near Point State Park.

NHM: How does the race stand out from other major city marathons?

Matamoros: Well, I think we’re known for course support and neighborhood support. Our marathon winds through 13 different communities in Pittsburgh, with a great story behind every neighborhood that we run through.

NHM: How many registrants are you expecting this year?

Matamoros: We are expecting a total of 40,000 runners across our weekend of events, including 5,000 that are running the full marathon.

NHM: Are there other options for people who want to participate in some way but maybe not run the entire course?

Matamoros: They can volunteer—we love our volunteers and have a great volunteer program. We also have smaller distances for people who don’t want to run 26.2 miles; the half is 13.1 miles. There is also a relay that has varying distances, so you can run anywhere from three-plus up to six-plus miles. We also have a 5K on Saturday. We have a really fantastic Kids’ Run also; 6,500 kids will line up at start line this year to run a mile. We also have a Toddler Trot and a Pet Walk.

NHM: Are there age limits?

Matamoros: You have to be 18 to run the full marathon; there are no upper age limits. We have had a couple of 80-year-olds who have run in the past.

NHM: What about security concerns—how do you address that?

Matamoros: Obviously, after Boston everything really changed. We have pretty good security plans in terms of our race-day planning. We create secure zones for runners and spectators; we work with state, county and city law enforcement professionals to create security that starts on Friday all the way to Sunday at the end of the marathon.

NHM: What other events happen in Pittsburgh during marathon weekend?

Matamoros: On Friday and Saturday, GNC Live Well sponsors a health and fitness show with over 100 vendors that specialize in running and sports merchandise at the convention center. We’ll see over 50,000 people come through. Events such as the 5K, the Kids’ Marathon, the Toddler Trot and the Pet Walk take place on Saturday.

NHM: How has the Pittsburgh Marathon evolved?

Matamoros: There is a larger running community, and the audience is larger. At its height, there were 6,500 participants in the marathon before it went away. Now, throughout the whole weekend we’ll have 40,000 people participate in some of the events, while another 50,000 go through the expo. We really have become a service organization and cater to runners on a variety of different levels—providing a VIP experience is an important part of what we do.

We also started a running club, which is the largest one in the Greater Pittsburgh area.

Another thing that has changed significantly is the technology of being able to track runners with social media. It’s a day that Pittsburgh goes worldwide; we typically trend on social media on race day.

NHM: Tell me about the Pittsburgh Marathon’s involvement in any charitable work, including Run for Reason, and why the organization chooses to give back.

Matamoros: It’s a huge component of marathons now; that is another thing that has changed through time. When we came back in ’09, we reached out and got a handful of charities and really started establishing a charity program. We now have 40 official charity partners and 66 contributing charities; this year we’ll hit a milestone of raising $10 million dollars through charity.

Charities recruit runners who then raise money for their "run for a reason.” Runners will sign up under a charity and raise money for them through their training, as well as on race day. 

NHM: The marathon is held annually—what happens behind the scenes the other 364 days?

Matamoros: We are already preparing for 2018—we’re looking at construction, at roadwork, etc. My job is to ensure the financial diversity and fiscal solvency so that the marathon will never go away again, so we work on other events throughout year, too. We have a pretty big list of events that are growing, including a 10 mile, the Pittsburgh Triathlon, and the Great Race Expo, so we’re pretty busy throughout the year.