The Pittsburgh Marathon is upon us. The biggest roadrunning event in Pittsburgh held annually in May. Rather than write the same article all the other Pittsburgh media outlets will write, we here at TPOP are taking another angle. We ?ve decided to talk to some veterans in the greater Pittsburgh running community and get some quotes from true runners on the Pittsburgh Marathon.
John Swauger is the lynchpin of the Indiana Road Runners Club and has been so for three decades. His legendary running club newsletter started on papyrus and has morphed into an e-newsletter. John is a friend to all the local running stores and clubs and is a strong running advocate for all of western PA.
Ed Doyle is the owner of Up-N-Running: a specialty running store with locations in north Pittsburgh and Ebensburg (near Johnstown). He ?s been plugged into the local running community years before his first store opened in 2004 as his son Kevin ran professionally for Brooks ? Hanson Brothers. Fellow Hanson runner and Olympian Brian Sell is a store regular and close friend.
– How many times have you participated in some version of the Pittsburgh marathon?
John – I ?ve ran four marathons, some halfs and a few relays. I always try to participate in one of the variants.
Ed – I ?ve run four marathons as well. One before the five year race hiatus and three since. I ?ve run a couple halfs and did a relay as part of an Alzheimers ? fundraiser.
– Question for John: Since you ?ve run 19 full marathons, with only four being Pittsburgh, could you speak to how Pittsburgh compares nationally to other marathons?
John – Pittsburgh is excellent. Just a notch under New York, Boston and Chicago. I ?ve run Boston a couple times and will this year, but I always come back and do some version of the Pittsburgh race. Running over the bridges are some of my favorites memories in all the marathons I ?ve run.
– The Pittsburgh marathon and its variants keep gaining in numbers. Why do you think it keeps getting more popular?
John – Patrice Matamoros has done a great job promoting the race. It ?s also in a beautiful city in the most beautiful time of year in that city. It has a great expo and not having to be bussed makes it very easy for the runners. It ?s also our hometown marathon so it brings out us people in western PA.
Ed – I concur that Patrice has done a fabulous job. I also look at the changing runner demographic. There are a lot of Baby Boomers that are getting into running later in life. They might be retiring younger and want to stay fit. There are also many Baby Boomers that consider the marathon to be a check on their ?bucket list. ? The Pittsburgh marathon shows this increasing Baby Boomer demographic.
Also, this isn ?t as much a destination race; it ?s a local race for the local running community and you almost have to make an excuse why you ?re not doing Pittsburgh.
– I don ?t believe that the downtown Pittsburgh running community understands how the Pittsburgh marathon affects the running community in the whole western half of Pennsylvania as far east as State College and Somerset. Could you speak to me about this phenomena?
Ed – At our north Pittsburgh store we generally have 20-25 runners each year do our training program and meet for long runs each Saturday. This is a pretty good number for our area. We take the runners through a program that concludes with a 20 mile long run. All types, both beginners and advanced runners join us. The Ebensburg running club also always has runners training for versions of it and Ebensburg is 70+ miles from Pittsburgh.
John – Of the 225 households that are on the Indiana Road Runners Club list we normally get 50-60 members participate in some version of Pittsburgh.
We actually have a member that has run every marathon ? even the five years there wasn ?t an official marathon. The group of runners, who call themselves the Sole Survivors, met and ran the course themselves without it being marked. They almost got arrested the one year as they were preparing to ?race ?.
– Question for Ed: In a utopian running society, every town has a specialty running store that is the hub for all things running like Up-N-Running. All the small specialty running stores normally take the the big box sporting stores to task for inferior service. This would provide irony to Dick ?s Sporting Goods being the main sponsor of the Pittsburgh marathon and the small stores supporting the race. Could you speak to that?
Ed – Well, first thing is that Dick ?s brought the marathon back in 2009. Without Dick ?s we wouldn ?t have the marathons so all of us are thankful for that. Second, initially the race expo was just a Dick ?s expo, but since then local vendors have been invited to be involved. I can only speak for Up-N-Running, but I think that Fleet Feet and Elite Runners and Walkers etc. also share the opinion that we have a partnership with Dick ?s and it ?s nice. I also think Dick ?s sells good shoes and supports the local running community well.
– Following up on the expo question, it ?s been stated that Pittsburgh has a great race expo. What makes Pittsburgh ?s expo so good and why should a runner go to a race expo?
Ed – Well first off the vendors offer really good deals. This isn ?t true of all race expos. It ?s actually discouraged by the shoe companies. Secondly, you can get a lot of advice between all the running experts, trainers, etc. You can get taped up for free if you need to. Lastly, Pittsburgh has some neat spectacle type things. Last year they had a national half marathon treadmill competition. They also have a kids’ race. It ?s a very well done expo.
would like to thank John and Ed for sharing their thoughts. Good luck to any TPOP readers participating in this year ?s races.