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Pittsburgh Marathon Organizers Say All Post-Pandemic Races Will Incorporate Social Distancing

Megan Harris
90.5 WESA
The Pittsburgh Marathon usually draws close to 40,000 runners. When organizers cancelled in March, about 27,000 people had signed up. They issued refunds to half and expect to spend about $80,000 shipping swag to the others who pledged to run at home.


On today's program: Takeaways from Pittsburgh first major virtual marathon; Mercer county election officials prepare for a record number of mail-in ballots; and sports bettors turn to table tennis while mainstream sports remain on hiatus.

The Pittsburgh Marathon has a lot of swag to ship
(00:00 — 9:30)

The organizers behind the Dick’s Sporting Goods Pittsburgh Marathon issued about 14,000 refunds ahead of its 12th annual running on Sunday. The event was one of dozens cancelled locally to help quell the spread of COVID-19, but instead of throwing in the racing medal, about 13,000 would-be participants opted instead to lace up at home.

CEO Troy Schooley, who leads P3R, the group behind the event, says six months ago, he didn't put much stock in virtual foot races. Before the pandemic, they weren't very popular, so there aren't a lot of best practices built into the concept. Schooley says Sunday changed his mind. 

“The Pittsburgh running community—and really the running community around the country—is so strong that we made the best of it," he says, citing Pittsburgh natives in California and Hawaii whose progress he monitored online. "It was really encouraging seeing the runners continue to really move with us."

For now, the Fleet Feet Liberty Mile is still scheduled to take place live in July, but Schooley says P3R is reimagining how all of its future races might implement social distancing at start and finish lines, hydration stations along the courses, medal presentations and more.

Schooley says organizers will look to city, state and CDC guidelines on how to move forward. 

“We’re just going to take it, really, one event by one event at this point.”

Election officials are receiving hundreds of mail-in ballot requests
(9:38 — 13:53)

Nearly one million voters have asked for mail-in ballots since the commonwealth expanded its mail-in voting option last fall, long before the world knew about the novel coronavirus.

“At the time, we had no idea how important this change would be,” Gov. Tom Wolf told the press on Monday. But the deluge of requests is putting a strain on county elections departments across the state.

90.5 WESA’s Chris Potter spoke to one Mercer County elections director whose workers are struggling to keep pace.

The deadline to request a mail-in ballot is 5 p.m. Tuesday, May 26. They're available online at Pennsvlvania's elections website.

PA sports bettors pick up a love of table tennis during the shutdown
(14:02 — 18:06) 

This should have been a busy spring for Pennsylvania sports lovers, but every sport and season remains indefinitely suspended by the coronavirus outbreak. 

But as Keystone Crossroads’ Miles Bryan reports, sports bettors are still getting their kicks exploring niche endeavors like Russian table tennis. 

90.5 WESA’s Julia Zenkevich contributed to this report. 

The Confluence, where the news comes together, is 90.5 WESA’s daily news program. Tune in weekdays at 9 a.m. to hear newsmakers and innovators take an in-depth look at stories important to the Pittsburgh region. Find more episodes of The Confluence here or wherever you get your podcasts.

Kiley Koscinski is a general assignment reporter for 90.5 WESA. She previously produced The Confluence and Morning Edition. Before coming to WESA, she worked as an assignment desk editor and producer at 1020 AM KDKA. She can be reached at kkoscinski@wesa.fm.
Kevin Gavin is the host of WESA's news interview program "The Confluence." He is a native Pittsburgher and served as news director for 90.5 WDUQ for 34 years. Since the sale of the radio station by Duquesne University to Pittsburgh EPM, Inc. (now Pittsburgh Community Broadcasting Corp.), he served as Executive Producer of Special News Projects prior to being named as host of "The Confluence" five years ago. kgavin@wesa.fm
Megan Harris is a writer, editor, photographer and curator for Pittsburgh's NPR News station. She leads editorial coverage for The Confluence, 90.5 WESA's live, one-hour, daily morning news show.
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