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Marathon Season Heats Up in Pittsburgh

With the Dick's Sporting Goods Pittsburgh Marathon less than three weeks away, organizers are trying to assemble a small army of volunteers to help ensure a safe and smooth race day.

"When you have about 25,000 runners you need quite a few people to support those runners on the course on race day and throughout race weekend," said race director Patrice Matamoros. "We probably need about a thousand more volunteers at this point, so the need is urgent."

Adding to that urgency, unusually warm spring temperatures could create less than optimal running conditions when the starting gun goes off on May 6th. Monday's running of the 2012 Boston Marathon was hampered by temperatures that unexpectedly reached into the mid 80s, causing more than 900 to drop out of the race and sending 152 runners to the hospital.

The average temperature for race day in Pittsburgh is 57º F, according to National Weather Service records. If that pattern holds, conditions should be nearly ideal for distance running, but organizers are taking no chances.

"We always plan for the worst case scenario, so we have backup cups, backup water supplies everywhere," Matamoros said. Ample hyrdation is key. A shortage of water was blamed, among other factors, for heat-related injuries and one death in the 2007 Chicago Marathon, which officials shut down after the mercury topped a record 87 degrees. Conditions in Pittsburgh have almost never been that bad, Matamoros said.

In addition to making sure runners are well hydrated, Pittsburgh Marathon volunteers are being trained in emergency action protocols in the event that a runner needs medical attention. "What happens, in your worst case scenario, if somebody goes down in front of you: what do you do first?" Matamoros said. "Who do you contact, and what does that process look like?"

Runners are reminded to be aware of race day conditions and heed color-coded flag warnings posted on the course: a green flag means ideal weather; yellow means conditions are beginning to deteriorate. "When you see a red flag, that means you need to slow down, you need to drink at every stop," Matamoros said. "This isn't going to be a PR day for you." The relatively rare black flag means the race has been suspended.

Volunteers are needed to serve as course marshalls, man starting corrals and aid stations, assist elite runners, and perform other duties. Those who prefer to work indoors can sign up to work the marathon expo on May 4-5. Volunteers will receive a T-shirt and other incentives including the opportunity to earn free Pirates tickets.

To volunteer, call (412) 471-2114 or email