What to Watch Out For in This Year’s Pittsburgh Marathon

Marathon weekend can be a challenge for both runners, who are trying to finish the grueling race, and spectators who are simply trying to get around. We've got the info you need, whether you're running or watching from the sidelines.

photos by Richard cook


Thirty-five thousand runners are gearing up for the Pittsburgh Marathon Sunday, preparing to take a route that starts downtown and wends its way through the city, crossing five bridges and all three of Pittsburgh’s rivers in the process.

Here are some tips for this year’s marathon, whether you’re running or just watching from the sidelines.

For Runners
Any marathon runner can tell you that you don’t just wake up one day and run 26.2 miles straight. Participants train for months leading up to the race, and their health and safety is a leading concern for the marathon’s organizers.

This year for the first time, medical professionals will be embedded in the race, ready to give immediate assistance to anyone who needs it. Ten doctors will be spaced throughout the course, some running the full marathon and some the half, running at different paces to cover as many runners as possible.

There are also 17 medical stations distributed along the course, one every two to three miles for the first twenty miles of the race, and one every mile in the last six.

After weeks of training, there are still some important health considerations to make on the big day. UPMC offers these tips for marathon runners, both first-timers and veterans:

  • Drink lots of water. Drink freely the day before the race, and drink 16 ounces of water when you wake up the day of the race. Additionally, drink 8 ounces of an electrolyte-replenishing sports drink 10 minutes before the race.
  • Don’t stop hydrating during the race. Different runners have different needs when it comes to fluids, but it’s always important to keep drinking when you run long distances. Drink when you’re thirsty, and take small sips instead of gulps. Drink more if you sweat more, and less if you sweat less. And be careful — there is a such thing as being too hydrated.
  • Don’t forget to carb up. During the race, consume 30 to 60 grams of carbohydrates once an hour or so, which could be 8 to 16 ounces of sports drink or gel in addition to water.
  • Eat breakfast. There’s a reason they say it’s the most important meal of the day. On marathon day, eat a breakfast that’s high in carbohydrates and low in protein, fat and fiber. Think bananas, bagels or energy bars.

For Everyone Else
Although the runners are the stars of marathon Sunday, tens of thousands more watch the races, and the marathon also affects city-dwellers who are simply trying to get around.

Road closures begin Friday, in anticipation of the races throughout the weekend that lead up to the marathon.

The race traverses 13 neighborhoods and dominates Downtown, meaning that road closures are hard to avoid. Luckily, Pittsburgh expert Bob Firth — the man who designed many of the city’s wayfinding signs — has solutions already worked out if you need to get around the city this weekend.

Bus routes aren’t safe from marathon activity either. Almost every bus that goes through Downtown will be detoured on Saturday and Sunday. On Saturday, detours will begin at 7 a.m. and end around Noon, after the day’s races are finished. On Sunday, detours will begin with the first bus around 5 a.m., and end once the marathon is over, around 2 p.m. You can check specifics about the route you want to take here. 

See a full list of road closures here, and a full schedule of marathon events here.


Categories: The 412