Escape from Pittsburgh! During Marathon road closures

Churches in Pittsburgh dreaded the approach of Marathon Sunday. The race course makes a loop around much of the City’s East End, appearing to cut it off from the rest of the world, driving-wise, from early in the morning to early afternoon. Some big churches even went so far as to cancel services.

But there was something they did not yet know: a “secret” escape route in and out of the East End existed. Bob Firth realized that by using the arcing Bigelow Blvd as a “sling shot,” cars can fly over the race course road blockages at key points, connecting the interior of the East End to expressways in all directions. He had his office map out this “sling shot” route on an 8.5” x 11” sheet of paper and then sought to get it distributed as widely as he could.

The news of this map quickly led to Informing Design being tapped as the cartographers of the Pittsburgh Marathon. Now responsible for over a dozen different Marathon-related maps, we also conquered how to guide motorists in and around Downtown’s quite complicated no-go zones on Marathon Sunday, a favorite map of the area’s hoteliers.

But the best thing to come out of Informing Design’s work with the Marathon may be the double mashup online map we developed that seems almost magical: the overall race course appears on the left half of the screen and a detailed view on the right half, with the two maps synchronized. Moving one map one moves the other, their center points matching. Users can then instantly zoom in on a detail of the race course, while at the same time knowing exactly where they are with respect to the whole course. Who knew a marathon would give rise to a video-game-like map site?