Update, Noon Oct. 25: John Chapman with Pittsburgh’s Office of Special Events confirms to The Incline that all paperwork and preparations for the Hell on Hills 5K have been finalized.
Chapman confirmed that the rescheduled race will take place as planned on Saturday.
Pittsburgh’s Hell on Hills 5K has been resurrected and is returning for a second year, just weeks after the world’s steepest 5K was cancelled amid a standoff between organizers and city officials over public safety requirements and their steep costs.
“We are officially back on — this time for [Saturday, Oct. 28] — with a new course and the city’s blessing,” race Director Bethany Ruhe told The Incline today.
Katie O’Malley, a spokesperson with Mayor Bill Peduto’s office, confirmed the 28th as the newly agreed upon date, but said there are still a few details left to iron out. O’Malley explained via email:
City officials and the office of Special Events continue to [talk] with the event organizers to finalize details and determine appropriate safety precautions and costs associated with the event. Saturday, Oct. 28, 2017 is the new agreed upon date. Event organizers have proposed new route options and the permit process is in progress but not yet finalized.
The race was originally scheduled for last Saturday, but was cancelled after organizers received a public safety bill from the city that they said they simply couldn’t afford.
So what changed? Not much according to Ruhe.
During last year’s inaugural run, Councilwoman Natalia Rudiak’s office covered the public safety bill out of her office’s budget.
Talks with the city over the last month changed neither its requirements nor its initially quoted public safety bill — roughly $9,000. Instead, the difference maker was the additional time Ruhe had to fundraise, she explained.
“The issue the first time was that it took [city officials] so long to tell us what the bill was going to be, and I didn’t know how much money we had to raise.”
Race organizers initially described this year’s talks as occasionally chaotic and the city as reliably intractable. Soon after the race’s cancellation was announced late last month, Peduto’s office pushed for talks between organizers and city officials to resume.
“Let’s get together and work it out,” Ruhe said the mayor’s office told her.
In an email to The Incline, Peduto’s office confirmed, at the time, that the city’s Public Safety Director and Chief of Operations would continue working with Hell on Hills organizers to “resolve outstanding issues and prevent a [complete] cancellation” of the event.
The Beechview 5k includes a run up Canton Avenue, the steepest street in the country or world, depending on who you ask.
With the rescheduling, it will remain so, although slight course adjustments have been made, Ruhe said, as much to appease city officials as to embrace the event’s new landing date.
“Now we’re the only Halloween 5k in Pittsburgh. … We’ve even added a cemetery to the course to embrace this.”
Canton Avenue remains on the route, in fact it’s the starting point. Smaller adjustments have been made later in the course — at the behest of city officials — to limit overlap with Beechview’s trolley lines and some of the area’s major roadways.
Ruhe said the city has also donated some items or dropped charges for others. This includes some of the barricades used to enact street closures.
Meanwhile, Ruhe said she plans to keep the race on the last weekend in October in the years ahead. “We have every intention of fully embracing the mantle of the city’s only Halloween 5k.”
She said this will make planning and fundraising easier. She also expects the city’s requirements and related expenses to remain roughly the same going forward.
“The city is still adamant that due to the uniqueness of the course, that this is just what they require to let us run the race. So we will do the race every year on the same weekend and on the same route, and I’ll know what the costs will be.”