Guarded Pittsburgh Marathon still fun to run
In the weeks leading up to the Pittsburgh Marathon, the race appeared to take a back seat to security plans designed to prevent an attack like the April 15 bombing in Boston.
But on Sunday, standout performances by runners and a festive atmosphere along the sun-drenched marathon route dominated the story, even though a 23-year-old runner in the half marathon collapsed about a mile short of the finish line and died. Family and friends identified the man as Kyle Chase Johnson, 23, of McCandless.
Acting city police Chief Regina McDonald said officers were manning a total of 471 points along the race course, with 231 manned by city police officers and 240 by officers from other agencies, including university police and school crossing guards.
Meanwhile, 17 bomb squad technicians, 45 SWAT officers, 24 K-9 handlers with dogs and an undisclosed number of intelligence officers responded to any calls of suspicious people or packages along the course.
A total of 17 suspicious packages were investigated and determined to be safe. Most were garbage cans, unattended backpacks and one discarded television, McDonald said.
Federal authorities will pay overtime costs related to raising security beyond past marathons in response to the Boston Marathon bombings, said city Public Safety Director Mike Huss.
“The city, county and our regional partners will be made whole,” Huss said.
“The biggest thing about today, and planning for today, was finding the right balance,” Pittsburgh Marathon director Patrice Matamoros said.
“We worked hard to ensure this was a secure event, but we didn't want to create a somber or morose mood where security was so overbearing that people were afraid to enjoy themselves,” Matamoros said.
Although nearly 28,000 people registered for races that drew an estimated 100,000 fans, traffic headaches paled in comparison with last year's event.
Fewer people required medical help than the 60 who did a year ago. Authorities reported a handful of minor disturbances, including a drunken spectator escorted from the course before 8 a.m., and a report of a suspicious package, which turned out to be a TV someone had left on a sidewalk.
Friends Erin Cassese and Sera Matthew of Morgantown, W.Va., were still smiling long after finishing the half marathon. They raved about the crowds and the beautiful day and said security did not intrude on their fun.
“The people were really excited. I loved the cowbells,” said Matthew, 32.
A mariachi band played in the North Side. Spectators waved humorous signs, with messages such as “Run Like You Stole Something,” “Why do all the cute ones run away?” and “Hurry! There's beer at the finish.”
Near the University of Pittsburgh, a drum line helped push the tempo.
“They made you want to run faster than you should have,” said Staci Wasco, 33, of New York City.
Aaron “The Uke Slinger” Jones of Latrobe sang the blues along Fifth Avenue in Shadyside, at Mile 14 of the race. After 2½ hours, Jones developed a rasp that seemed to enhance his singing.
“I mean, I've done three-hour gigs, no problem. But usually you get 15- or 20-minute breaks between sets,” Jones said.
Runners had fun, too.
“Let's see, there was a lady dressed like Wonder Woman, a guy in a Frownie suit from King's Restaurant, tutus over spandex and some of the craziest wigs,” said UPMC Sports Medicine athletic trainer Amy Stephenson, 29, of Youngwood.
The day had its serious moments.
Before races began, the crowd and runners observed a 15-second silence for those injured and killed in the Boston Marathon bombing. Countless people wore T-shirts and waved signs in remembrance. One man ran while holding an American flag on a pole. Many ran for other charities and causes.
A large red sign hanging from the True Runner store in Shadyside read, “If you're trying to defeat the human spirit, marathoners are the wrong group to target.”
Tom Fontaine is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7847 or email@example.com. Staff writers David Conti, Aaron Aupperlee and Carl Prine contributed to this report.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Sidewalk to be widened on Smithfield Street in Pittsburgh
- 25 arrested in Western Pa., West Virginia child sex trafficking investigation
- Family of Shaler girl killed by drunken driving suspect wants focus on DUI laws
- University of Pittsburgh puts issue of Cosby’s honorary degree on agenda
- Upper St. Clair man escapes injury when car gets stuck on Fla. railroad tracks
- Another office building to sprout at Moon business park
- Advocates begin countdown to start of Pittsburgh’s sick leave law
- Western Pennsylvania population growth, in ‘exurban’ areas, bucks national trends
- Emails reveal deep divisions on Plum School Board as sex scandal festers
- Parents of Shaler girl fatally struck by suspected drunk driver will hold press conference
- Greenfield Bridge, symbol of infrastructure decay, to be built anew