Thursday, August 16, 2012

Marathon organizers create shortcut - Pittsburgh Post Gazette

For the past four years, the Pittsburgh Marathon has given runners a chance to face the challenge of tackling 26.2 or 13.1 miles. Tonight, there will be a shorter challenge.

Between 1,200 and 1,500 runners will race down Liberty Avenue, taking part in the inaugural GNC Liberty Mile.

Organized by the Pittsburgh Marathon, the Liberty Mile is a one-mile road race designed for runners of all ages and ability levels. There's a fun run category that's open to all runners, and an elite competition that will feature some of the best milers in the world.

"We're really excited," race director Patrice Matamoros said. "I think we're ready to go. It's a lot easier to plan a one-mile race rather than a 26.2-mile race."

Runners will take off on Liberty near 17th Street, and finish between Sixth and Seventh Street. The course is essentially the first mile of the Pittsburgh Marathon course, run in reverse.

The "One for Fun" category will start at 7 p.m., and the elite field will run at 8:10 p.m..

"I think it's going to be a blast because when they finish, they've got Market Square, they've got food and drink specials, they've got a band and then they can come back and watch the professional runners run," Matamoros said.

The elite women's field features two runners with personal bests under 4:30, including Gabriele Anderson, who finished fourth in the 1,500-meter U.S. Olympic Trials in June.

On the men's side, 10 competitors tonight have broken the four-minute mark.

Each winner in the elite field will take home $4,000, part of the $25,000 purse that is the third-largest in the country for the mile.

"It's going to be a good race," Matamoros said. "It's going to be fast and it's going to be very, very competitive."

The race is also working with an organization called Bring Back the Mile, which hopes to restore the mile to prominence in the American sporting landscape.

"It's the one event that everybody can relate to, no matter who you are in the United States," said David Monico, marketing director for Bring Back the Mile. "We think, eat, sleep in miles."

Matamoros agreed with the universal appeal of the mile distance. She noted that while not everyone can run a marathon, running a mile is a very doable feat.

"I think it's great because it's a very achievable distance," she said. "Anybody's who's starting running, it all starts with that one mile to make running part of your life."

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