PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — The race to become the organizer for Portland’s 2019 marathon is heating up, with 13 groups – including some well-known names – submitting documents as part of the city’s application process.
IRONMAN, which owns the popular Rock N’ Roll marathons, and Brooksee, which operates the REVEL Race Series, are among the organizations that responded to the Portland Bureau of Transportation’s request for information. This summer, the city agency will be releasing a more formal request for proposal as part of the application, outlining its requirements for a 2019 race operator.
Earlier this year, many running enthusiasts believed the city wouldn’t play host to a marathon in 2018. The former Portland Marathon group informed the city in April that it would be canceling its October race. Previous race director Les Smith reached a settlement with the Oregon Department of Justice earlier that month after an investigation revealed Smith had illegally received hundreds of thousands of dollars in loans from the organization.
The Portland Bureau of Transportation created two different applications as a result: One for the 2018 marathon, which will take place on October 7, and a separate process for the 2019 marathon. PBOT eventually said only one applicant, Run With Paula, fulfilled all the criteria for the 2018 selection process, which required that applicants had previously organized a large, local race.
Run With Paula, owned by Paula and Dave Harkin, have also submitted documents to the city as part of the 2019 application. Other locally based groups expressed interest as well, though the field includes organizations based throughout the country.
Jared Rohatinsky, vice president of business development for Utah-based Brooksee, says his company’s REVEL series gives Brooksee a unique competitive advantage, calling the group “not a stereotypical marathon organization.”
“We know what marketing strategies need to be employed to get people there, what to spend on Google ads, Facebook ads, which websites to hit and email lists to do blasts on,” Rohatinsky said. “Then we have our own massive audience, with tens of thousands of our own runners and [their] emails.”
Many of the plans share goals to increase participation numbers, reroute the marathon’s course throughout the city, and expand charitable and community engagement efforts.
The Oregon Sports Authority, a locally based non-profit aimed at improving the local economy and quality of life in Oregon through athletics, says it intends to attract between 8,000 and 10,000 participants in 2019, and as many as 20,000 runners by 2022.
OSA says it intends to engage the services of DMSE Sports, a race management team led by Dave McGillivray, the race director of the Boston Marathon.
“It’s hard to beat – it gives us immediate credibility across the country, and even globally,” OSA chief executive Jim Etzel said about its partnership with DMSE Sports.
Another local applicant, however, said he believes his proposal is stronger because it would truly keep operations local. Investment manager Steve Brown said he started speaking with the city two years ago about bringing a new marathon to Portland. His proposal, Rose City Marathon, would locate its start and finish lines in the city’s Rose Quarter, and work with the Doernbecher Children’s Hospital as its lead charitable organization.
“OSA is a tremendous organization, but their history and legacy is supporting other events, not putting on events,” Brown said.
In contrast, he said his proposal brings together “a deep bench of race committee folks who have run over 100 years of events like this.”
Perhaps one of the most surprising groups to submit ideas was Portland Marathon, Inc. — the organization that had been operating the Portland Marathon prior to 2018. Board member Richard Busby, who submitted the documents, did not respond to multiple interview requests.
Several of the applicants who did speak with KOIN 6 News stressed the importance of a long runway, in order to have the time necessary to drum up interest in the race and work with city officials on marathon preparations.
The application process, however, is getting off to a slower start than the applicants or the city would have liked. Etzel said PBOT had told him the next step in the process – the release of the formal request for proposal – was going to happen by end of June. It still hasn’t been released.
PBOT spokesperson John Brady acknowledged the delay, explaining that the agency is undertaking a process like this for the first time.
“If we need to take a little extra time, we’re going to, because we want to get it right. But we’re also very aware that there are deadlines and we need to get it done,” Brady said.
Brady did not have an updated release date for the request for proposal, but he said the agency does still intend to select a race operator by the end of the summer.