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By Paul Danzer/Portland Tribune/New route, OHSU partnership revitalize 48-year-old race

The Portland Marathon is getting a new lease on life.

At least that's the goal of Jared Rohatinsky, CEO of Brooksee, the Utah-based company selected to stage the 2019 race.

The Oct. 6 event, which will include a marathon and half-marathon, marks the 48th year in a row that a marathon has been held in Portland. But in most respects it's a fresh start.

"It's an interesting process to take a 48-year-old event and help people understand that this is new. This is very much a rebirth," said Rohatinsky, whose company was selected in January by Mayor Ted Wheeler to take over production of the marathon.

As of late August, slightly more than 2,000 runners were registered for the full marathon and just more than 3,000 had signed up for the half marathon. Rohatinsky said his goal is to have at least 6,000 combined participants on race day.

Longer term, Wheeler and Rohatinsky set goals of having 20,000 participants by 2023 and 35,000 by 2030.

Rohatinsky cites Portland's place as a hotbed for distance running as one reason he is excited about the potential for a re-imagined Portland Marathon.

An important step in the process was partnering with Oregon Health & Science University. The official name of this year's race is the Portland Marathon presented by OHSU. As part of the agreement, OHSU will provide medical assistance for runners.  

Perhaps the most significant change Rohatinsky has made is to the course. This year's marathon will start and finish on Southwest Salmon Street at Naito Parkway. Runners will meander through Northwest, Northeast, Southeast and Southwest Portland neighborhoods, crossing the Broadway Bridge (twice), the Sellwood Bridge and the Burnside Bridge.

"The two main goals were to give runners an unforgettable experience but also to create a route that didn't completely cripple the community," Rohatinsky said, noting Reed College and the Rose Quarter among highlights of the course.

The relatively flat course should be popular with runners chasing personal records or Boston Marathon qualification.

The race is expected to be accredited as a Boston Marathon qualifier. Rohatkinsky said the course was officially measured on Aug. 29.

Cost to participate in the marathon is $155. Cost for the half-marathon is $125. Registration is open through portlandmarathon.com.

Anyone registered but unable to participate can request a refund or have their entry deferred a year or transferred to someone else. Rohatinsky said that's rare for major running events, despite the fact that training injuries, illness or other unforeseen events happen.

Free race photographs, free race results and a two-minute free highlight video are among the perks for participants. Rohatinsky said traditions of the original Portland Marathon, such as handing out saplings and roses at the finish line, will continue.

The Portland Marathon is not Brooksee's first Oregon race. The Mount Hood Marathon has been part of the company's REVEL race series the past two summers. Known for mostly downhill courses, the REVEL race series includes nine races in the western U.S. and British Columbia.

Because the Portland Marathon was not on 2019 race calendars until early this year, this edition is not expected to attract any elite runners.

Rohatkinsky declined to discuss specifics of the agreement with the city. As of Sept. 9, the city had not responded to a request for that information, including how many years the contract runs between Brooksee and the city.

"Our intent is to produce a good enough event that the city never wants us to stop putting it on," Rohatkinsky said.

The Portlandathon was staged last October by Paula Harkin, whose RunWithPaula Events put together a marathon for early October after the cancellation of the 2018 Portland Marathon.

The cancellation occurred after longtime organizer Les Smith reached an agreement to repay money he allegedly borrowed illegally from the nonprofit that ran the Portland Marathon. Smith did not admit any wrongdoing.

In addition to registering runners, Rohatkinsky and his team continue to seek volunteers to help stage the Oct. 6 races and to help with the associated expo that will take place Oct. 5 at the Oregon Convention Center.

Groups interested in volunteering as course marshals, or individuals interested in supporting the event can check the volunteer tab at portlandmarathon.com.

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@pauldanzer


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