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2010 Microwave Incident Helped Prepare Pittsburgh Marathon for Emergencies

Marathon organizers across the country are examining how they can better prepare their races for an incident like the one seen this week in Boston, but much of the ground work for such a discussion was already laid in Pittsburgh following a scare at the 2010 race. 

Not long after the Pittsburgh race started that year, an abandoned microwave oven was found near the finish line, and organizers and police had to spring into action.

“Since the 2010 incident I would say that we have developed an even closer relationship with the city office of emergency management,” said Patrice Matamoros, executive director of the Dick’s Sporting Goods Pittsburgh Marathon. “And then we have also gone through year-round extensive training for a variety of situations that might occur on race day.”

The microwave contained leftovers, but no explosives. However Matamoros said local race organizers are always asking, “What if?”

Organizers will not release details of their plans to keep runners and spectators safe, nor will they talk about their emergency response and evacuation plans. However Matamoros said the marathon “is very prepared to handle race day” and has no plans at this time to cancel or postpone the 2013 race.

In fact, Matamoros said there is great support for not postponing the race.

“A lot of people are coming together and saying that they now have a cause, a huge cause," she said. "They are running for Boston, and this race is more important to them now than it was two days ago.”

Matamoros said they will continue to meet with public safety officials to tweak security plans and will be very strategic in making those plans.

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