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BY PAUL DANZER/PORTLAND TRIBUNE/Some top competitors went off course, but layout won't change after first running under new management

PMG PHOTO: CHRISTOPHER OERTELL - Kunitaka Imaizumi crosses the finish line in second place in Sunday's Portland Marathon.

The weather was ideal, the course was popular and the neighborhood enthusiasm appreciated.

For most who took part in the rebirth of the Portland Marathon on Sunday, Oct. 6, the experience was a winning one.

The notable exception was that about 15 of the fastest runners ran off course and either had to run a few extra miles or ultimately drop out of the race.

The breakdown happened around mile 9 of the 26.2-mile race. Lead runner and winner Kallin Kahn and a police escort were so far in front of the pack that they were out of sight when they made a turn near the west end of the Ross Island Bridge.

When the pack of runners behind him reached the turnoff, there was nothing marking where to go, so a group of runners wound up on Southwest Barbur Boulevard and had to find their way back to the bridge, adding more than two miles to their race.

Jared Rohatinsky, CEO of the Utah company (Brooksee) that staged the race, said a course marker was in place within a minute of learning about that initial confusion. He understands the frustration of the impacted runners.

"It was a failure of execution rather than a failure of planning," Rohatinsky said.

Rohatinsky said no more than 15 runners went off course.

"We believe we have communicated with all of them, but there might be one or two we haven't heard from yet," he said Tuesday. "We immediately issued a full refund to all those who were impacted and offered them all free race entries to any and all future versions of the Portland Marathon that we produce." 

It was the 48th Portland Marathon, but a debut Portland Marathon for Brooksee under a five-year contract with the city of Portland.

Kahn, a 22-year-old Portland resident, finished 21 minutes ahead of the next runner — a gap in part caused by the confusion at mile 9. The winning time for the Illinois native was 2 hours, 25 minutes, 15.83 seconds, a pace of 5:32 per mile.

The women's marathon winner was Jamie Gibbs, 36, whose time was 2:48:00.02. She is a Colorado native who works at Nike in Beaverton. The course confusion likely contributed to Gibbs finishing so high in the overall results.

About 6,200 were registered for the marathon or half marathon. Of those, according to results on the PortlandMarathon.com website, 451 did not finish or did not start.

A total of 2,116 marathoners finished the 26.2-mile race — 1,269 men and 847 women.

A total of 3,633 runners and walkers finished the half marathon — 2,184 women and 1,449 men.

Those numbers were considered good, given the 2019 Portland Marathon date was announced only eight months before the race. Many marathoners plan their race calendar more than a year in advance.

The Portland Marathon by OHSU — Oregon Health & Science University will remain the title sponsor in 2020 — has a contract through 2023 with the city.

According to Rohatinsky, early feedback has been that the event was "a massive success."

Rohatinsky's company was selected by the city in January to stage the marathon. The 2018 race, under the moniker Portlandathon, was organized by Paula Harkin's Run With Paula Events after the Portland Marathon was shut down when Les Smith, who staged the first 46 marathons starting with 1972, was accused of stealing more than $800,000 from the nonprofit that staged the event.

From a participant's perspective, the most notable change from previous Portland Marathons was the course, which wound through a variety of neighborhoods and crossed three bridges. Based on early feedback, Rohatinsky said the course will remain the same next year.

"There would be mutiny if we made any significant changes to the course," he said.

Based on surveys returned the first few days following the race, Rohatinsky said 90% rated the race experience better than in previous Portland Marathons and another 6% said it was about the same.

"We're proud of that," he said.

He said he and his team will iron out "a lot of small, nuts and bolts" details after reviewing the event. The 2020 Portland Marathon is scheduled for Oct. 4 and registration is open at portlandmarathon.com.

"The task now is to get the word out to the entire running community, both nationally and internationally, that the Portland Marathon is back," Rohatinsky said.

He said word of mouth among the running community will be a key tool to growing participation in the race.

"Runners themselves will be our greatest promoters," Rohatinsky said.

The spectator support and neighborhood involvement drew appreciative comments from runners, according to Rohatinsky.

New this year, runners were given the opportunity to vote for the neighborhood that contributed the most to their race experience. The five neighborhood associations that receive the most votes will receive a financial donation. Voting for those prizes, via email to all race participants, remained open through Wednesday.

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@pauldanzer


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