What went wrong?
The Portland Marathon made it to Southwest Portland for the first time in recent memory on Sunday, October 6 and at least a dozen local elite runners got to see a lot more of this part of town than they bargained for.
Due to a colossal case of misdirection, the pack of runners behind the leader and eventual winner, Kallin Kahn, left the course just past the nine-mile point of the 26.2 mile race and kept running down Barbur Boulevard. Undeterred by speeding cars and trucks sharing the road with the runners, the misguided dozen or so took a left turn on Terwilliger Boulevard and ended up running through the Riverview Cemetery before getting back on course at the west end of the Sellwood Bridge.
I was staking out the intersection of Highway 43 and the Sellwood Bridge to get some photos of the runners as they ran past the distinctive entrance to Riverview Cemetery. The Portland Marathon passing through Southwest Portland seemed newsworthy. Boy was it. At about 8:15 a.m. the first of the marathon runners, Khan, came into view amidst the half marathon runners. In most marathons you would expect the runners chasing the leader to arrive at the Sellwood Bridge within a minute, maybe two or three at the most.
At 8:23 a.m. I looked across the lanes to the Portland Police Bureau Sergeant on duty for some insight. As a triathlete himself who ran this race last year, I thought he mighjt have a clue where the otehr runners were.. He said he'd just heard on his radio that the group of runners in second place had run off the route. It was after 8:30 a.m. when those runners were finally spotted, heading down the hill from the cemetery, looking like lost explorers finally reunited with civilization.
None of the runners had time to tell us what happened as they ran by. They did not look happy. Rebecca Ellis of Oregon Public Broadcasting radio talked to one of those runners after the race. Zach Custer, who ended up finishing ninth, nearly half an hour after Khan crossed the finish line, said he was running south out of downtown Portland with the other runners when they failed to drop down to Macadam Avenue in an area known as the Ross Island Bridgehead.
As Ellis wrote on the OPB website, "Custer said he began to sense something was awry when he didn't see a checkpoint at the 15-kilometer mark, (the equivalent of about 9.3 miles). Once he entered a tunnel with cars driving past him at 55 miles per hour, he was certain he'd strayed off course. "
The exact route to Riverview through Collins View is only known by the men who ran it.
Their return to the race was noted by 19th-place finisher Scott MacDonald, who didn't get lead astray. He recalled on the Portland Running Company Race Team facebook page, "Wondering why those guys passed me at mile 22. I thought they were sand bagging as I was running even splits. They blew past me but they looked like they should be passing me so I wasn't too thrown off my game."
Jared Rohatinsky, CEO of Brooksee, the company that produced this year's Portland Marathon, told OPB's Ellis his firm was trying to figure out what happened to a couple of on-course signs that were missing and said a volunteer on a bike who mislead the runners was not a regular volunteer but "was essentially a lone wolf woman who was out riding her bike." He pointed out that just a handful of runners ran off course while nearly 6,000 runners did just fine.He vowed his company would refund the entry fee of $175 to the affected runners and give them a free pass to all marathons Brooksee produces in the future.
You count on us to stay informed and we depend on you to fund our efforts. Quality local journalism takes time and money. Please support us to protect the future of community journalism.