Hopes dashed after marathon runners go off course


About 15 of the marathon's fastest men ended up taking a wrong turn and running 2 extra miles

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — The 48th Portland Marathon got high marks from thousands of runners who liked the new course on Sunday. The race attracts competitors from around the world, but some of the top runners ended up either quitting the race or finishing with terrible times due to a mistake by the company the put on the race.

Two things stand out when looking back on what went wrong. The lead runner, Kallin Kahn was so far out in front that the other top runners couldn’t even see him, and there were no signs or people at the critical turn that led runners astray.

When a group of about 15 of the fastest men were supposed to make a turn just past the 9-mile marker near the Ross Island Bridge, they kept running straight instead.

“I noticed a car going by so close to the runners,” said marathon runner Dan McDowell. “I thought they had just gotten on the course by mistake somehow.”

They were on Southwest Barbur Boulevard instead of heading toward the Sellwood Bridge, more than a mile off-course. The runners stopped briefly to figure out how to get back on course, but after realizing what had happened, some runners dropped out entirely. The unexpected detour added 10 to 28 minutes to their marathon times.

“I was heartbroken,” said McDowell. “Disappointed, sad—I had put my best effort in planning and training and there was nothing I could do to get that chance back.”

There were no signs, cones, or bike marshals at the crucial spot.

Brooksee, the Utah-based race organizing company that put on the marathon this year contacted the runners individually once realizing the mistake.

“It was failure of execution as opposed to failure of planning,” said Jared Rohatinsky, the CEO of Revel Races and the Portland Marathon. “That location in question should have had 2 signs which were ultimately not put up. Which again, was a failure in execution on our part.”

As soon as they realized the error, staff were able to keep thousands of other runners directed properly. They said they will make sure there will be cones, signs, and marshals in place at critical spots in the future.

After the race, the runners who went off course had their race fees refunded, but months of training had already disappeared in a matter of minutes. One runner, Zach Custer, was trying to get a qualifying time to run the Berlin Marathon.

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