Runners, take your marks! It’s almost time once more for the DICK’S Sporting Goods Pittsburgh Marathon. Over the first weekend of May, nearly 40,000 runners will make their way through a 26.2-mile tour of the City of Pittsburgh, and about 350,000 spectators will line the streets to cheer them on.

If you’ve ever participated in the Marathon, either as a runner or a visitor, you know that it’s much more than a race. It’s a fun, open-air, community-wide celebration featuring 14 historic Pittsburgh neighborhoods. If you’ve never joined in, what are you waiting for? The starting gun? Join your neighbors and have a blast at one or more of the festivities taking place.

A few highlights: At the GNC Live Well Pittsburgh Health and Fitness Expo, runners get a first-class welcome to the City of Champions. On race day, neighborhoods along the course will host festivals showcasing their unique vibe and history. Runners can celebrate their accomplishments at the Finish Line Festival in Point State Park. With this year’s theme of “Black and Goal”, cheer groups are encouraged to hold signage and root for runners along the entire route—making this the largest tailgate party in ‘Burgh history.

Pittsburgh’s public art is one of the many wonderful things that make it a very livable city. In this series of five articles, we will feature specific neighborhoods, with a special lens on the eclectic and colorful public art that is visible along the course. This first in the series highlights the Strip District, Downtown and Uptown.

STRIP DISTRICT

Pittsburgh is replete with cool enclaves and whimsical neighborhoods, yet no other part of our town is as iconic as the Strip District. It’s where memories are made, traditions are kept and a whole lot of good food is shopped for and savored. Natives know that the Strip—spanning from the 11th to 33rd Streets—was once primarily a collection of mills and factories dating back to the early 19th Century. Today, it’s the go-to shopping district for fresh fish and meats, ethnic groceries, kitschy Pittsburgh paraphernalia and, of course, the almost-famous Primanti’s sandwich. When you come out to cheer on the runners, treat yourself to a fresh taco, biscotti, peppy roll or other fare from street-side grills along Penn Avenue.

“The Strip Mural”

“The Strip Mural” at 1907 Penn Avenue is a vibrant, larger-than-life composite of scenes from the neighborhood. Compressed yet realistic, it puts viewers inside the main shopping area that they are actually on—complete with a touch of the city skyline. Artists Carley Parrish and Shannon Pultz drew hues from every spectrum of the color wheel to make the image pop, and the metal birds sculptured into the air add a 3-D quality.

“History of Jazz”

Runners might want to put a little swing in their step as they round Penn Avenue between 28th and 29th Streets. That’s the spot of “History of Jazz” by multiple artists. In living color you’ll see local greats Stanley William Turrentine on sax, Grammy award-winner Ray Brown on base, beloved George Benson on guitar, virtuoso David Roy Eldridge on trumpet, “Misty” composer Errol Garner on piano, Art Blakey on drums and vocalist Lena Horne (she lived in Pittsburgh for several years).

Race Route Highlight: The Strip District is the beginning point and the first 2.5 miles for both the half and full marathon. It is also miles 24 to 25.5 of the marathon course, as runners loop back onto Liberty Avenue in the Strip.

Downtown murals, photos via Google's Public Art Map

Downtown murals, photos via Google’s Public Art Map

DOWNTOWN

The Golden Triangle, our city center, is located at the confluence of the Allegheny and Monongahela Rivers, which meet and greet the Ohio River. Along the full marathon route, participants will be surrounded by building monikers—PNC Bank, U.S. Steel, PPG, BNY Mellon, Heinz, Federated Investors and more—and be able to view the historic Smithfield United Church of Christ and Oliver Building. Half-marathoners will glide by the stately City County Building and Allegheny County Courthouse. Art in the business district rightfully reflects great industrial barons that are both local legends and global captains of industry, such as Henry Clay Frick, Henry J. Heinz, Andrew Mellon and George Westinghouse. Runners will also near the French fort, Fort Duquesne (today it is a museum).

“Yesterday’s Tomorrow”

At the starting line—the corner of Liberty and Seventh Avenues—is the future-retro-themed mural “Yesterday’s Tomorrow” by artist Brian Holderman. It spans the entire side of the parking garage at 900 Liberty Avenue. Appropriately, the scene depicts transportation past, present and future.

“The Two Andys”

Full-marathoners can enjoy “The Two Andys” by Tom Mosser and Sarah Zeffiro. Rising above Wiener World at 628 Smithfield Street near Strawberry Way, it’s a playful image of two more local luminaries—Andy Warhol and Andrew Carnegie—getting coiffed under beauty parlor hair dryers. The work is slightly ironic: a steel tycoon soaking his nails and a pop-culture celeb reading Fences, the 1983 play by American playwright (and Pittsburgh native) August Wilson.

“Creation Rex”

Stephen Butler’s T-Rex roars to life along the Boulevard of the Allies near Cherry Way—the finish line for all races. A throwback to the Prehistoric Age of the Carnegie Museum of Natural History’s DinoMite Days campaign, “Creation Rex” is one of the few remaining from the original 100 dinosaurs bred to showcase the works of established and emerging artists. Now living at the Art Institute of Pittsburgh, Creation Rex dons get-ups to suit the seasons, occasions like Earth Day, and to cheer on our local sports teams. Will he be wearing cross-trainers on race day?

Race Route Highlight: Runners line up to start the race on Liberty Avenue at 10th Street (near the Westin Hotel) all the way to Stanwix Street. Runners for all races will finish downtown on the Boulevard of the Allies near Wood Street. Marathon runners will travel down Smithfield Street before turning on Boulevard of the Allies to finish; half-marathoners will travel down Fifth Avenue to Grant Street before turning onto Boulevard of Allies to finish (this is new this year). Point State Park is the location of the post-race party.