Friday, September 22, 2006

Some road closings start tonight for Great Race

Tell me why some of the roads need to be closed on Friday at 7 pm for a race that happens on Sunday at 8 am. That is silly.
Image from the new Mark Rauterkus public domain photo album called signs.
The races should be able to happen without such a choke hold on the neighborhoods. If a driver screws up in a race zone, it should be double the fines, such as with a 'construction zone.' Then they can close the road at 6 am and get along just fine.
Some road closings start tonight for Great Race Some road closings will begin tonight in advance of the 29th running of the Richard S. Caliguiri City of Pittsburgh Great Race on Sunday morning.

The Finish Line area, located at Penn Avenue and Liberty Avenue between Stanwix Street and Commonwealth Place and Stanwix Street between Penn Avenue and Liberty Avenue, will close at 7 p.m. today and will remain closed until 3 p.m. Sunday.
Better yet, and this was the case with the now defunct Pittsburgh Marathon, don't run the race on the roads. Move a good portion of the race off of the roads, then things go much more smoothly.

The Pittsburgh Marathon was designed to snarl traffic. It needed way to many police officers, on bonus pay. It needed too many road blocks. It was a major road nightmare. Many of the churches had trouble too.

We should hold a marathon in this city -- and not utilize the roads but when necessary. Then use only a bit of the roads so as to night tie up major roads from start to finish.

Run the race down the busway. Run the race on a river path. Run a race in a park. Run a race on Sarah Street -- not East Carson Street. Run a race in an out-and-back fashion too. Or, run the race in loops.


Rob said...

The Great Race has had between 7,000-13,000 runners, if I remember right. The Pittsburgh Marathon had about 3-5,000, although I'm fuzzy on that one.

The river routes aren't wide enough to handle that number of runners. The Busway would be, but the scenery (one of the reasons people choose a marathon, believe it or not) is terrible. Running 26.2 miles (42.2k) in loops? CMU's track is 400m -- that would be 105.5 laps -- a logistical nightmare and would kill people from boredom.

The Pittsburgh Marathon had been the host to various Nationals races over the years. Until the last year or two (if memory serves) it attracted world-class athletes. One of the big selling points was that it toured so many Pittsburgh neighborhoods.

Pittsburgh Marathon was a destination marathon. It attracted runners to the city, was an incredible PR boost. Now, we're chumps and the people of Cleveland don't whine nearly as much and still have an excellent marathon.

The Great Race is also a destination race for those who run 10Ks. It's advertised in the major running magazines, there are tour packages to it, and it also promotes Pittsburgh. It's not as good as the marathon, but still.

The streets closed on Friday are around the point. They still permit most access to the area, they're not crucial arteries, and they permit setup for the finish line. If you ask me, it's trivial.

There are races all the time in the parks and even on CMUs track (a mile race). But those races aren't as big and they're not as important. The marathon moved from North Park to Pittsburgh partially because the scenery was more varied (the lake is a 5 mile loop, and the marathoners had to run it 5 times plus a start and finish, if I remember right) and because it couldn't handle the number of runners.

Two major races in a year that cause less total traffic disruption to the average citizen than the Pirates (albeit all at once) is nothing.

1st Presbyterian Church downtown, one of the hardest hit churches, turned it's Sunday services into a ministry for the marathoners. I had breakfast there and worshipped before the 2001 marathon. On the North Side, the Missionary Alliance church had their congregation cheering on the runners. Some Orthodox church on the South Side had a priest in cassock blessing runners who wanted it as they went past. In Oakland, a church or parachurch ministry had prayer tents for the runners. I didn't stop there -- I was afraid I'd never move again if I stopped by the 13 mile mark.

Churches outside the affected area arranged worship exchange days where their congregants that couldn't get across the marathon course would go to a church on the interior and those that couldn't get into the interior would worship at the outer churches. A lot of friends were made that day, and in more than a few cases, members were swapped for members that lived closer to one church or the other, to the benefit of both churches. Trust me, having to drive 10 miles to get to church has it's disadvantages.

From West Penn to the Point in the last 4 miles, never have so many people prayed so hard as most of the Pittsburgh Marathoners.

What I think of those that whined about the Pittsburgh Marathon is that they either have an incredibly shallow hold on their faith that can't deal with trivial disruptions or they're unimaginitive and dying. Harsh but true. I'd name one church in particular, but it closed it's doors, so it's no longer relevant.

As far as Public Safety, what you seem to be forgetting is that the Pittsburgh Marathon was used as a disaster evolution by the Public Safety department. Sure, police, fire, and EMS were on overtime, but it doubled as training. The very same procedures that would be used in a real emergency were used during the marathon. By getting a large segment of the public safety department to go through this every year, to the point it became routine and boring, meant that if something (say, a train derailing underneath the Bloomfield Bridge and releasing toxic smoke and carrying ethyl isocyanate, like that would ever happen) ever happened, the Public Safety people would do what they were used to doing. Attempting to get people to perform new behaviors in an emergency makes a bigger disaster of a disaster. Having routines that work in a disaster is the only thing that prepares you.

The loss of the Pittsburgh marathon was a great loss for the safety of Pittsburghers in a time of increased threats, whether deliberate or accidental. (As for the latter, remember, I was also on the hazmat team, explained what ethyl isocyanate would do if it escaped (Bhopal was methyl isocyanate, heavier by a carbon and a couple hydrogens), and helped arrange strategies for dealing with polyvinyl chloride smoke -- trust me, the threats are increasing.)

Mark Rauterkus said...

Rob, there is no way you'd run a marathon on a 1 mile track. Give me a break. That is just absurd.

A Triathlon series in Texas, 3 races, had Olympic distance, 1/2 Ironman and Ironman. The run loop was 3x for the Ironman. It went around a lake. Very easy to do and not too much redundancy.

Mark Rauterkus said...

Rob, I feel the pain of not having a marathon. The city is diminished a great deal without the race.

However, I also saw the pain of having a marathon the way it was staged.

And, most of all, the marathon died. It was killed by Tom Murphy. I have no political respect for Murphy and he is to blame for many failures around here.

The way the marathon was staged led to its death.

It can be re-born in a much better way and LIVE.

Mark Rauterkus said...

As to the public safety elements -- I dare say that is a 'stretch.'

If you want to learn about and train with polyvinyl chlorine and emergency routes -- do that. There are few transfered skills.

Rob said...

The marathon died because the City cut it as a bargaining tactic. Changing it from being a world-class event to a local event was another mistake. It's death had nothing to do with the course or the practical race-day staging.

And as far as the public safety?

I used to work for the City of Pittburgh's EMS. That's how we used it, that's how the police department used it, that's how fire used it. 911 had to adapt. Outside ambulances were brought in -- and we learned how to work with them with their variety of radio allocations. Amateur radio operators took it as one of their major training evolutions.

It's in no way a stretch. It's the truth. I've been part of the planning for it. The marathon was a "scheduled disaster" that was used to train.

It was also the only time we ever saw triage toe tags outside of a disaster, too. That, I believe, was a mistake, but that's an argument for another time.

Mark Rauterkus said...

If you want to hold training for a disaster -- hold training for a disaster.

It is a disaster that the city doesn't have a marathon.

Go figure.

I coach and tell my kids -- practice does not make perfect. Only perfect practice makes perfect.

To do what you are not really doing but doing another thing is why the city is in the toilet now.

This is why the the Wabash Tunnel is owned by PAT, a port authority. This is why the stadiums got a bulk of its funding from the sewer authority. Go figure.

Do what you do. And do it well. Don't do something else when you are doing this.

The web they weave chokes us all. You can't defend it unless you are happy there is no marathon. I know that isn't the case.

An argument for another time -- sure. Delay the death. Delay the hard decision. Delay the future.

We need folks in Pittsburgh, like you Rob, to get to the roots of the problems and own up to the short fallings.

Now I got to go to the Great Race Expo as Grant and I are going to do the 5K.

And, if it was up to me, the Great Race would be a 10 K only. The marathon would be a marathon -- only. Screw the add-ons. If you want to have a 5K -- have a 5K. If you want to have a hunger walk, hold a hunger walk. If you want a disaster drill, hold a disaster drill.

Everything and everybody and every action needs to be accountable and pull its own weight. Otherwise, nothing is accountable.

Rob said...


It's clear you are not familiar with actually having to deal with a disaster, or how to train for one.

All disaster skills have to be transferable. That's the mistake that Homeland Security is making. They train people for specific events (as they did at the PNC Park disaster) and that will fail. It has failed. Look at the NOLA response. FEMA was destroyed by Homeland Security. Brown was merely icing on the cake.

In the Pittsburgh Marathon:

Every service had to explicitly use the Incident Command System, instead of doing it implicitly each day.

Amateur radio operators (who regularly practice using ICS) worked in conjunction with public safety, familiarizing the PS people with the added capabilities of amateur radio. From Oaklahoma City to 9/11 (including, I might add, Somerset) to NOLA to smaller responses elsewhere, amateur radio has been there and needed because normal lines of communication crash.

Hospitals get to see how their everyday procedures mesh with disaster response.

UPMC and the Center for Emergency Medicine used the Marathon as a training ground for their residents and nurses in learning to deal with disaster response.

Outside "mutual aid" was gathered in and assisted with the response and learned where their equipment was incompatible with the city.

Excess equipment in storage for disaster response is taken out, cleaned, checked for usability and actually worked with.

You can't afford to do that level of training unless you have the marathon underwriting some of it. I estimate about 25% of Pittsburgh EMS personnel were explicitly involved in the marathon response -- and that's not including the 30% who would normally work that day and wound up being trained incidentally, too.

HazMat disaster responses were held several times -- I was involved in several, including the Heinz (Shouldn't the one supervisor be in East Hills by now?) plant, the South Oakland, and the Herr's Island drills. We got a handful of people trained at each of those -- nowhere near the 25% for the marathon. Over several years, virtually everyone in Pittsburgh EMS received training through the marathon.

Cannon, Kennedy, Garretson, Full, Cox, McCaughn (sp? sorry), Tutscock, and the supervisors, as well as the medic command physicians (Stewart, Paris, Mosesso, etc.) deliberately used the marathon to train their personnel. Their plans for the marathon each year were actively designed as a training response for a generic disaster. New hirees were deliberately posted in places where they would learn the most from the marathon. Pittsburgh medics, running on outside ambulances, got a chance to see and recruit the best from the surrounding services. (A good reason why there ought to be a county-wide EMS service by the way -- that was a little rotten, and it's how I got hired.)

The Pittsburgh marathon response was studied as an example of how to train for disasters. Other cities have modeled their response on us.

By the way, it also made Pittsburgh one of the safest marathons in the world -- it's why I chose to run my first marathon here. Kona's was passable, especially since Train to End Stroke had stroke victims running, but it was the one problem I had with Cleveland. At one point, I found myself on a completely empty street. Had I collapsed, I would not have been found for 10 minutes. Scared the crap out of me -- I was wondering if I made a wrong turn.

Unfortunately, with the demise, the readiness has decreased as personnel leave and new personnel are hired. We're losing all that training. The average career of a paramedic is 5 years.

If you think you train for specific disasters to prepare, ask yourself which disasters do you train for? Do you know how many potential disasters there could be in Pittsburgh?

You can't plan for them all. You have to plan generic and adapt, and you have to have a wide variety of your people who know the response capabilities and who can act independently in a coordinated manner.

I'm not stretching things. I know, I watched, and I learned from the best. I saw what they did and learned from them why they did it.

Mark Rauterkus said...

Now you're talking.

I did the Great Race. I looked more and more at what was going on behind the scenes. I saw the radio volunteers and tents and such.

I get your points.

Good to know Pgh was at the cutting edge in this effort, in the past. Gone now.

So, we should have marathons being sponsored by .... UPMC, of course, and Homeland Security, and the Marine Corps. (grin)

Gotta run.

I've got more Qs later -- for YOU.

What about running on asphalt vs. concrete?