About 1,500 men and 221 women competed in the first Pittsburgh marathon, held on May 5, 1985. Nearly 300,000 spectators cheered as competitors ran over the city’s hills, bridges and abandoned street car tracks into Point State Park.
It was a profitable day for Lisa and Ken Martin, the first husband and wife to be marathon winners. The couple, who had trained in the hot sun of Mesa, Ariz., left Pittsburgh $55,000 richer.
Lisa Martin, a 24-year-old native of Australia, had become one of the world’s best marathon runners while training for the Olympics as a student at the University of Oregon.
Her husband, Ken Martin, was a collegiate track coach. The couple praised the city, the race organizers and the people of Pittsburgh for cheering on the runners.
The city was in a celebratory mood. Bands played, people hosted parties and there was a break dancing competition in Homewood. On race day, weather conditions were 63 degrees with partly cloudy skies. By the time the last runner finished, the temperature had risen to 74 degrees.
Ken Turpin, 44, of Penn Hills, was the first person to cross the finish line in a wheelchair. Spectators greeted him with thunderous applause.
One local competitor placed fourth. Only three of the elite runners finished ahead of Don Freedline, then a 29-year-old graduate student in exercise physiology at the University of Pittsburgh.
A native of Apollo, Pa., Freedline was living in Squirrel Hill when he trained for the 26-mile, 385-yard course. He placed fourth with a personal record of 2:17:17 and won $7,000. He received an additional $2,000 for being the second United States male finisher. The Pittsburgh Marathon served as The Athletics Congress men’s national marathon championship, adding $6,000 to the race’s purse.
A man on roller skates did not finish the race. Ralph Montgomery, 38, of West View, started the race between wheelchair competitors and runners. He was arrested after weaving back and forth in front of runners.