Tuesday, February 24, 2009

The Portland Marathon is a Calm Festival...

Mrs. Bear and I now head up every year for the Portland, Oregon marathon; held either at the end of September or during the first weekend in October. In 2008, there were a total of 7,786 finishers for the 26.2 mile distance. Most of these entrants came to Portland with a partner and/or a child or two; thus, some estimate there are an additional 10,000 to 16,000 people in downtown Portland during the long (late Friday morning through Sunday afternoon), event-filled, weekend.

It is no surprise then that people often ask me if it isn't "simply crazy" staying downtown during this period. The answer is no, it is actually quiet and peaceful. The great majority of the entrants have trained for weeks and weeks (generally, 16 to 18 or more) in order to complete the run and avoid the dreaded DNF - did not finish. Some of the runners want not just to finish but to qualify for the world-class Boston Marathon.

All the runners are nervous before the Sunday run and spend hours at the Expo looking at the latest shoes, sports apparel and gear. They also do their best to eat well during the final 48 hours and some will join the event-organized pre-race pasta feed at the Portland Hilton.

So, the hotel rooms are quiet with these "early to bed, early to rise" athletes, amateur and otherwise. On race-day Sunday, the one noticeable thing you might hear is the sound of hotel water pipes running - for showers - as early as 4:00 a.m. and extending through close to 6:00 a.m. Most of the marathoners are getting up one to three hours before the race to eat breakfast, shower and walk over to the downtown starting point.

After the race, you see literally hundreds of finishers limping around downtown; sometimes they're being helped up stairs by their friends and family members. Usually they want nothing more than a good warm bath, a bold coffee, a beer or two (Michelob Ultras and Bud Lights are available for free to finishers of the 5-mile run and the marathon), and a big dinner. Then it's back to bed to catch up on the sleep lost to nerves and worry from the prior two evenings.

In summary, the thousands of visitors in downtown Portland during the marathon weekend are better behaved than a convention of elementary school teachers in Anaheim. Trust me on this.

Photo: flickr (pkripper503)

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