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Pittsburgh Marathon changes up, settles on Downtown finish

| Friday, Jan. 27, 2012

Four years, four different finish lines. Pittsburgh Marathon organizers hope they're done with the redesigns.

Organizers announced Thursday that this year's race will end on the Boulevard of the Allies, with a walk-off into Point State Park. If all goes well, there will be no need for a new map in 2013.

"Our goal is to have a permanent finish line," race director Patrice Matamoros said. "I think we want to make this a success for this year. It just seems logical to be out of Pirates and Steelers territory because we're subject to their schedule. Whatever allows us permanence is key."

The finish line in each of the first two years since the marathon's return was around the David L. Lawrence Convention Center, but the narrow Downtown roads created too many problems for runners and spectators. Last year's race finished on the North Shore between PNC Park and Heinz Field, and while the location was ideal for handling the volume of people, the May 6 race date this year conflicted with a Pirates home series against the Cincinnati Reds.

That left organizers searching yet again for a suitable finish. In addition to deciding on an area, organizers must consult with nearby businesses and churches, work with city and rescue personnel, and get the course officially certified.

"It's tricky based on the real estate we need," Matamoros said. "We need to take into account space that would accommodate a flow of 20,000 runners on race day coming into that area, along with spectators. The only space we thought would be logical would be the Boulevard of the Allies with its 59-foot-wide roadway."

The finish line will be between Stanwix Street and Commonwealth Place. Runners will continue another several hundred feet and walk off into the park, where the finish line festival will be held.

Much of the rest of the route will be the same. A major change to the half-marathon course has the 13.1-mile runners joining the full marathon runners in crossing the Birmingham Bridge before heading left onto Forbes Avenue. The others continue up the hill into Oakland to finish the 26.2-mile course.

"It offers a lot more width for the half-marathoners because we've been tucking them away on the back roads of the South Side," director of logistics Dee Stathis said. "This will definitely give them a wider course."

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