Pittsburgh Marathon on top of security in wake of Boston explosions

Published Apr 17, 2013 at 2:39 pm (Updated Apr 17, 2013 at 2:39 pm)

With the May 5 Dick’s Sporting Goods Pittsburgh Marathon just a few weeks away, runners continue to train, and the staff at the Pittsburgh Marathon continues to put the safety and security of everyone involved as the top priority.

Despite the horrific tragedy at the Boston Marathon on Monday, the spirit of the running community remains undeterred.

“I’ve gone back and forth in 24 hours,” said Dr. Kelly Schussler, a Canonsburg native who currently lives in Columbus, Ohio. The Pittsburgh Marathon will be the second time she has run a half-marathon; she ran the half-marathon last may in Lincoln, Neb.

“I’ve gone from being terrified and wondering if it’s a good idea to run, and in the other direction: It’s important to run for Boston, in support of them. I am still nervous, but I also think that there will be enough security in place, and there will be marathons everywhere in the next couple of weeks,” Schussler said.

Dee Stathis, director of logistics and operations at the Pittsburgh Marathon, said security has been a top priority since the race’s return to Pittsburgh in 2009.

“We take security very seriously and prepare year-round to ensure safety and security on race day,” she said. “We work closely with the city to plan for a variety of situations.”

For Sarah Shue, a 30-year-old Peters Township resident, not running the half-marathon that she has been training for for months is not an option.

“In my heart of hearts, I don’t think anything is going to happen, that this was an isolated incident,” she said. “Being that it’s my first time running, I am nervous anyway, and this doesn’t help – but it’s not going to stop me.”

In the 24 hours after the bombings in Boston, Stathis hadn’t heard of anyone pulling from the race. In fact, she said that the response was quite the opposite.

“What we are actually seeing is a huge outpouring of runners wanting to show support for Boston. Our Facebook page has been loaded with positive comments, people asking what they can do to help, and encouraging people to volunteer and participate and honor those in Boston,” Stathis said. “Everyone has really united in wanting to participate.”

The Pittsburgh Marathon works closely with police, the Department of Homeland Security, emergency management services, and other city departments.

“In light of Boston, it will give us points to review and enhance what we currently have in place,” Stathis said.

“We cannot let the terrible acts of a few affect our support for what promises to be a safe and successful Pittsburgh Marathon,” Pittsburgh Mayor Luke Ravenstahl said. “We have successfully hosted large-scale events ranging from Super Bowl and Stanley Cup parades to the G-20 Economic Summit, and I am confident that our well-trained public safety officials will keep residents and visitors safe during next month’s race.”

Stathis echoed those sentiments: “We have a very comprehensive plan in place, and we really want to showcase Pittsburgh. We are ready for the marathon and want everyone to feel safe, secure and ready.”

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