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The Pittsburgh Marathon: What You Should Know This Weekend

Nearly 40,000 participants will run in the weekend's events.

The Pittsburgh Marathon is celebrating the tenth anniversary since its 2009 reboot. Events begin Friday with a health and fitness expo until 8 p.m. 

Other programs include a 5K run, toddler trot and kids marathon Saturday, and the half-marathon and full marathon Sunday.

The annual staple is a spectacle in Pittsburgh. Here's what you need to know for this weekend, whether you're planning to lace up your sneakers, cheer from the sidelines, or would rather participate in a marathon of the Netflix variety.

Sunday traffic will be bad.

It happens every year. Race director Patrice Matamoros estimates that over 200,000 people will be out and about this weekend to watch 40,000 runners go for the gold. That'll pump about as much money into the local economy as a Penguins home playoff game. 

Aside from the crowds, the marathon will shut down some roads, including parts of Carson Street, Forbes Avenue and Liberty Avenue for up to six hours on Sunday.

From the City of Pittsburgh:

Road closures will begin Downtown on Friday, May 4 at 12 p.m. on the Boulevard of the Allies between Wood Street and Stanwix Street. This roadway will remain closed through Sunday, May 6. For Saturday, May 5 events -- including the 5K race, Kids Marathon and Pet Walk -- North Shore and Downtown road closures will start at 7:15 a.m. and end at 12 p.m. For Sunday, May 6 events -- including the Marathon, Half Marathon and Marathon Relay -- Downtown road closures will start at 1:30 a.m. and continue around the city through 2:30 p.m. Please note that certain sections of the city will be completely closed off to traffic on race day. Residents in those sections who may need to leave during the race should consider parking their car outside the closure areas.

Although Saturday is jampacked with events, Pittsburghers shouldn't see too much disruption.

Feel like escaping this weekend? There's a map for that. It includes the official marathon routes plus some ways to avoid them. Check it out below. 

Credit Pittsburgh Marathon
Here's a way a way to run away from Pittsburgh if you don't feel like running through it.

Weather might be rough on Sunday, too.

The National Weather Service is predicting cloudy skies and temperatures reaching 72 degrees for Saturday. There's a 50-percent chance of scattered thunderstorms late in the day on Sunday with light winds and a high of 69 degrees.

If you're racing, read your program thoroughly. If you're spectating, still give it a glance.

There are 65 pages of information in this year's official program, distributed to all participants. The guide includes pace times, locations of gear checkpoints, runner guidelines, start line locations, emergency and medical information, rules, and post-race details. 

Divisions help participants set goals, and they're fun to track. 

Aside from gender divisions and age divisions that span under-18 to 80+, the Marathon features some interesting categories. There's a wheelchair division, a $1,000 prize for the fastest Pennsylvanian, and the Athena and Clydesdale Divisions, which offer cash to the fastest women over 150 pounds and men over 200 pounds, respectively. 

Matamoros says divisions help even the least-experienced marathoners set goals.

"It gives people something to aspire to and it's a sense of achievement," she explains. "In life, it's somewhat competitive in anything you do. Everybody's always looking for who's the fittest, who's the fastest."

But small goals are a great way to someday reach something bigger. 

90.5 WESA spoke with the full marathon's oldest and youngest participants, 76-year-old Jerry Agin and 16-year-old Benjamin Kravets. Listen here.

And there are clear front-runners.

Credit Courtesy of the Pittsburgh Marathon
Two-time Pittsburgh Marathon champ Clara Santucci goes for a threepeat.

Two-time Pittsburgh Marathon champion Clara Santucci is returning as an "Elite Athlete," and so is Jacob Chemtai who won last year.

"These are my hills. No one's going to run them better than I am," Santucci told Karen Price for the official program. She sprained a hamstring ahead of the 2016 Olympic Trials, and she's suffered other injuries since, but she hopes to reign supreme as the Pittsburgh Marathon's first three-time champ. 

In the half marathon, Aliphine Tuliamuk, Lindsay Flanagan, Leonard Korir, and Matt Llano are standouts.

You can track participants along the route and see finish times through the Pittsburgh Marathon website or app. 

But people run for reasons other than winning. 

Matamoros expects $1.3 million to be raised for good causes, through the Run for a Reason Charity Program. And the Marathon has helped more than 31,000 kids to get fit through the youth races. 

Many participants are celebrating milestones in their lives, according to Matamoros. 

There are cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy, who see the marathon's finish line as a stand-in for the day they hope to beat their disease.

There have been stroke survivors, testing the limits of their bodies as they train muscles that don't quite work the way they once did.
And a kidney transplant recipient who ran the race with the person who donated the kidney.
Every year, Matamoros explains, families participant in honor of loved ones who passed away. 
Matamoros also mentioned the powerful story of Jeff Whitmore, who suffered cardiac arrest on the finish line of the Marathon in 2015. He was in a coma for a couple of days after. But now he's back in 2018 and ready to run. 
"When they cross the finish line, we're laughing and crying with them," Matamoros says of these motivated runners.

Matamoros's advice to Pittsburghers? Just relax.

"At the end of the day, the closures around Pittsburgh don't amount to much more than four to six hours. And in that four to six hours, a million point three is going to be raised for charity, there is going to be [thousands of] people doing something they never thought they could do," she says.

Adelina Lancianese is the assistant producer for the NPR Story Lab, a creative studio that fosters newsroom experimentation and incubates new podcasts. At the Story Lab, Lancianese works primarily on investigative, long-form projects, and also helps organize the annual Story Lab Workshop for the development of new independent and Member station podcasts.
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