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Seemingly every veteran runner who has competed in a marathon has a weather-related horror story.

Barbados' 90-degree heat and near 100 percent humidity once jumped up and bit Tammy Slusser, forcing her legs to feel as if they were made of cement.

For Hans Rottmann, a cold, sideways rain just wouldn't relent one day in Harrisburg, making his 26.2-mile trek about as miserable as, well, spending three hours running outside in the freezing rain.

Both local elite runners will tackle tomorrow's Pittsburgh Marathon and, from the look of the weather forecast, neither of them -- nor the approximately 10,500 others -- will be affected all that much by the weather.

KDKA-TV chief meteorologist Jeff Verszyla said runners -- and spectators -- should expect plenty of clouds throughout the race with a chance of a shower and temperatures ranging from the mid-40s to the mid-50s.

With the worst-case scenario likely just a bit of rain, the buzz among the elite runners is that the likelihood of a surprise winner splitting the tape first has dwindled significantly and, among the recreational runners just trying to finish the race, their chances of completing their goal have risen.

"When the weather is ideal, or at least close to ideal, you take that wild card out of it," Mr. Rottmann said. "But when you have really bad weather, such as it being very hot or very cold, you sure can have a great equalizer."

And true to being a Western Pennsylvanian -- Mr. Rottmann and his family live in McCandless -- he chose to draw a parallel to Football and, more apt, to a Steelers game.

It's that late-November 2007 victory in which the Steelers , on the quagmire of what was Heinz Field that night, slogged past the Miami Dolphins, 3-0, that comes to mind when the subject of foul weather is broached.

"Think about that game and the impact the weather can have on an athletic event," Mr. Rottmann said. "I mean, there was no question that night and that year the Steelers had a much better team than the Miami Dolphins did. But the Steelers just barely got by in that game because, as everyone saw, the weather can be the greatest equalizer there is. When the weather is poor, and it becomes a major factor, it reduces the advantage of the guys who are expected to win, and that is with anything in athletics."

In running 87 previous marathons -- and winning the Pittsburgh Marathon twice -- Ms. Slusser, of Monroeville, has seen it all from searing heat to stinging hail. She, too, understands the splendor tomorrow's weather will bring, even if "splendor" might not be how spectators would describe a morning hovering around 50 with a chance of rain.

"The worse the conditions are, I think there are definitely more people who have a shot at winning," Ms. Slusser said. "When it is really hot, or it is rainy, there is more of a chance for what I call 'blowups' from the runners who everyone thinks are going to win. With the weather how it is going to be, just about perfect, I'd say less people have a chance, and it will come down to which runner is in the best shape and who has trained the best. To be able to take weather out of it is a big relief."

It sure is for these runners, most of whom are also amateur meteorologists, or, as Mr. Rottmann put it, "All the serious runners pay attention to the weather even if they don't admit it. We are kind of addicted to it a little."

KDKA-TV weatherman/station announcer Jon Burnett will be among the runners in a seven-mile relay portion of the event. Mr. Burnett has run the entire marathon before, doing so in 1988 when he completed it in 3 hours, 36 minutes.

And, get this straight about Mr. Burnett: He derives zero satisfaction from delivering a soggy or gloom-filled forecast. Actually, it is quite the opposite.

"Personally, I would prefer to avoid the drama, but I don't control the forecast, I just tell people what it is," he said. "But for this marathon, it looks like there won't be any drama with this forecast. I would think the weather, for the runners, will be nearly perfect as far as they are concerned.

"We all have to remember this is Pittsburgh this time of year and I have seen Pittsburgh Marathon weather that has run the entire gamut, from record highs to where it didn't get out of the 40s for the race. It is a real tossup scheduling something in early May in this area, but it seems like, for this race, the runners could not ask for anything better."

Today's marathon coverage online at post-gazette.com

n The Finish Line blog

nReader photo gallery (upload your pictures)

nCourse video

nCourse map and road closings

Author:Fox Sports
Author's Website:http://www.foxsports.com
Added: May 2, 2009

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