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Teams of runners from throughout the area will converge on the Mon Valley this fall during the Great Allegheny Passage Relay.
The two-day race is an overnight 150-mile relay run that begins at 10 a.m. Oct. 14 in Cumberland, Md., and ends at 4 p.m. Oct. 15 on Pittsburgh’s South Side. The trail is divided into different legs with each runner contributing at their own skill level.
This is the fifth year for the event, which began in 2018. The event was virtual-only in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Bryan Perry, executive director of the Great Allegheny Passage Conservancy, said McKeesport and Duquesne will be critical exchange zones, where runners with fresh legs will take over for their tired team members.
“While one person on the team is running a leg of the race, the additional team members will be following the trail on the roadways in support vehicles either resting or waiting to take their turn on the course,” Perry said.
“One of those exchange zones is in McKeesport right by the marina, and the other is in Duquesne so if you see a van load of tired runners on October 14th or 15th, don’t forget to cheer them on,” Perry said.
Exchange zones are difficult to map out because there aren’t a lot of areas along the trail where vehicles can get close to the trail, he said.
“The GAP Relay is truly a one-of-a-kind event that services runners of all experience levels,” said Doug Reigner, director of community relations with the Great Allegheny Passage Conservancy.
“This event brings together the entire running community. Marathon runners down to 5K runners can find a leg of the race that fits their capabilities,” said Reigner.
The GAP Relay was designed by P3R Keep Pittsburgh Running, which oversees the Pittsburgh Marathon and other large running events.
“The designers had the intentions of including as many people as possible so that runners of all levels could feel comfortable joining the relay,” Reigner said. “I don’t know of any other event on earth like this one.”
Each relay entrant will receive a commemorative medal, long sleeve tech T-shirt featuring custom artwork, and swag bag. Additionally, the team captain will receive a free pair of running shoes from Brooks Running.
UPMC Health Plan is the presenting sponsor of the race and UPMC health care professionals will be providing medical care and support for runners.
Runners will get to experience many beautiful scenic areas along the trail but locally, Reigner said, the best views in the Mon-Yough area are probably on the Riverton Bridge. What was once a train crossing for the Pennsylvania Railroad between McKeesport and Duquesne is now a valued spot for bikers — and runners during the GAP relay.
“The bridge is no longer a place for tracks. It’s a place for treads,” said Reigner.
Jason A. Mignanelli is a freelance writer from Pittsburgh’s North Hills and a student at Duquesne University. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Originally published June 20, 2022.