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Registration for Pittsburgh marathon soaring

With the Pittsburgh Marathon still more than two months away, registration already has exceeded last year's record field and organizers have set a cap.

There are 13,000 runners on board for the May 2 race so far, and registration will close at 16,000.

"If you're going to run, it's time to get in," race director Patrice Matamoros said Thursday.

A record 10,500 people registered for the marathon in its return to the city streets in 2009, including 4,300 for the full marathon, 4,500 for the half marathon and 450 relay teams. The previous record was 6,419 in 2003, the last time the race was held in the city before its revival last year.

"At this time last year, we had right around 5,000 (registered,) so we've seen a huge surge," Matamoros said. "We've been out and about a lot more. We went to nine different marathon expos and got the word out and probably reached over 200,000 runners just through those expos."

As a result, Matamoros said, they have a lot of new and out-of-town runners registered for the race, including participants from 47 states and 10 countries.

And all this before organizers have kicked off the push for the half marathon. They'll do that with an appearance by training guru Hal Higdon that's scheduled for Feb. 26.

Higdon has been offering tips and advice and helping runners train for races for decades, and there's a link to his on-line training plans featured on the marathon's Web site.

So what's his advice for runners whose training has been thrown off by the snow the past two weeks?

They may not be as far behind as they think, as long as they've been doing some running and physical activity, he said. And, yes, shoveling snow counts.

If they have been mostly inactive the past two weeks, that may be a different story, he said.

"Just like you can't cram for an exam, with a marathon you need to do the work," Higdon said. "Taking two weeks off totally is not the greatest idea because research suggests that for every day lost in training it takes two days to make up the fitness. They'd need to spend four weeks getting back to where they were before the snowstorm. But if they maintained some level of activity, they can get back into it."

UPMC Health Plan Pittsburgh Half Marathon Kick-Off Event

When: 6-7:30 p.m., Friday, Feb. 26

Where: University of Pittsburgh's Duratz Athletic Facility, 2nd floor, 3400 Water Street, Pittsburgh, 15203

Cost: Free.

Register: www.pittsburghmarathon.com

On the schedule: Hal Higdon will motivate runners, talk about his own experience in marathons, discuss where runners should be in their training for the Pittsburgh Marathon or Half Marathon May 2 and hold a question and answer session.

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