Pitt students participate in city marathon

By Gwenn Barney

It was a wet and wild day at the… It was a wet and wild day at the Pittsburgh Marathon.

As the starting gun sounded at 7:30 a.m. today, the nearly 16,000 runners participating in the full-marathon, half-marathon and relay events launched themselves down Smallman Street in the Strip District and into a drizzle that soon turned into a downpour.

This year’s race, sponsored by Dick’s Sporting Goods, marked the second running of the Pittsburgh Marathon following a 5-year hiatus for the event. Participants in the full-marathon ran 26.2 miles and passed through many Pittsburgh communities including Downtown, the North Shore, South Side, Shadyside and Oakland. The race included a 60 percent increase in runner participation from the 10,000 athletes who ran last year, organizers said. The extra spots came when the organizers found additional sponsors.

The race seemed to be running smoothly until a bomb scare near the course forced city Police to detour the final part of the race.

Police said an electronic device was found in a microwave oven on the sidewalk after the leaders had finished the course. Police cordoned off several blocks near the original finish line for the full-marathon and half-marathon.

The bomb squad used a robot to disable the device, the Associated Press reported, and the all-clear was given for the area shortly before 11 a.m. City police confirmed the report this morning, adding that the device was not an actual explosive.

The turn of events did not affect the times of the race’s medal winners, though orginizers canceled the awards ceremony normally following the race. On the men’s side of the race, Kipyegon Kirui won the full-marathon with a time of 2:17:12. Wilson Chepkwony finished second with a time of 2:17:44, and Mahammed Awol finished third about two minutes later.

Lynnette Wilkinson was the top female finisher in the full-marathon, clocking in at 2:38:44. Alena Vinitskaya finished second at 2:42:33, and Phebe Ko finished third just over three minutes later.

Though they were not medal winners, several Pitt students coped with the rainy weather to participate in the marathon.

“It felt good most of the time,” sophomore Steve McCarroll said. “The rain kept everything cool.”

McCarroll participated in the full-marathon with hopes of qualifying for next year’s Boston Marathon. Running the marathon in Boston has been a goal of his for over a year. To qualify he needed to complete the 26.2 mile course in 3:10:00. For much of the race McCarrol maintained the seven minute per-mile pace required to achieve his goal.

“I was doing great,” he said.

Then at mile 13, a painful muscle spasm took hold of his right leg. He ran a mile and a half through the throbbing pain, but couldn’t push his injured leg any farther. “If it was at the end I would have soldiered on and finished,” he said. “But because it was right in the middle I just kind of called it quits.”

Though disappointed, McCarroll is holding out hope that he will still one day make it to the Boston Marathon.

“By the end of this week, I’m sure I’ll be out for a jog,” he said. “And there’s always next year.”

While McCarroll was running for Boston, sophomore Brooke Wieczorek had somewhere a little more distant on her mind. Wieczorek ran the marathon as a fundraiser for the charity Haiti H2O, an organization raising money to strengthen water infrastructure in the earthquake-ravaged country. As of race day, Wieczorek had collected $820 for the charity, along with fellow sophomore and marathon runner Rachel Miller.

“I’m really impressed,” Wieczorek said of the donations. “I didn’t think people would be this generous.”

Most of the donors were Pitt students from her dorm and people from her hometown, Allentown. Wieczorek said running for Haiti opened her eyes to the poor living conditions that still affect the country after the earthquake.

“You think about it, especially during long runs,” she said. “When you’re running alone there’s time to think about it.”

Wieczorek felt that running Pittsburgh’s hills would pose a bit of a challenge. Thoughts of her charity goal helped her continue throughout the race, and she finished in 3:38:52.

Wieczorek hopes that she can soon travel to Haiti on a service trip to provide those affected by the disaster with some hands-on assistance.

Long before Wieczorek reached the finish line, freshman Julie Hallinan celebrated her 19th birthday by completing the half-marathon in 1:43:59. Hallinan ran most of the race in step with her boyfriend and fellow freshman Andrew Voystock, who completed the race a minute after the birthday girl.

Hallinan said that running the half-marathon was a cool way to celebrate. “On my birthday, I’m usually just at home, and my mom will bake me a birthday cake,” she said

The excitement of the day caused her some stress in getting ready for the race. She had to shut off her cell phone early last night because she couldn’t sleep through the ringing as friends called to wish her a happy birthday.

Hallinan’s twin sister Jane, who attends the Art Institute of Pittsburgh, was at the race to cheer her on and provided her sister with the Pitt Power needed to finish the race. At mile 12, Julie spotted Jane holding a sign with the words “Hail to Pitt.”

“Just knowing that my friends were cheering for me helped me finish,” Hallinan said.