2016 Portland Marathon

I can now check Oregon off the “marathon in every state list.” After a four year hiatus, I ran marathon #24 in Portland today. My official time was 5:38 but there are some caveats that bring it down almost 20 minutes (to around 5:20). More on that in a bit.

Once again I ran it with my running buddy Matt Shobe. This is the fourth marathon we’ve done together (Portland, Detroit, St. Louis, and Huntsville). Matt is much faster than me but he patiently jogs alongside me, tells me jokes, and asks me to do a systems check about every other mile. This time he had to take a dump around mile three that added five minutes to our time. We also each had three other bathroom breaks, which added another five minutes. We’ve decided that eating Pho the night before is not the right food strategy for a marathon.

There were a few things about the marathon that were great. The volunteers and staff were awesome. This is the 45th year for this marathon and Portland shows up to take care of the runners. We stayed in the Hilton a few minutes from the start and finish – that was nice. And the marathon started at 7am which means I’m now on a plane heading home so I can spend the evening with Amy in Boulder.

Other than that, the marathon sucked. The weather was awful – it rained the entire time. Matt and I bought some MontBell shells the day before so our upper bodies were sort of dry. My iPhone, which is carried in my fanny pack is busted and Matt’s Nexus is as well. I have a few blisters on my toes, which never happens, and is a result of 27 miles in soggy shoes. Both of our fingers were numb and waterlogged by the end. And there were long stretches of the course that were just dark, wet, and soul sucking.

Normally a marathon is 26.2 miles. But this one was 27.

We didn’t ever see the mile marker for mile 1. When we eventually saw the mile marker for mile 2, our watches said 2.5 miles. When I crossed the finish line, my watch said 27.02 miles. This fucked up my running strategy way more than I expected as I spent miles 3 to 7 obsessing about the extra distance. My plan was to walk through the water stations but they weren’t consistently spaced so at some point I had no sense of what my run:walk pattern was. This contributed to us going out to fast, which was probably the most painful part of the race, which was completely self inflicted.

Other than the bathroom breaks, we were either at or below 11 minute miles for the first 11 miles. We drifted up to 12 minute miles for the next few and the I completely hit the wall at mile 16. A string of very slow miles – times I’d typically see in the last few miles – started. 13:42, 12:36,13:54, 14:53, 14:36, 13:36, 14:52, …

At mile 18, I told Matt to just go ahead and we’d meet up at the end. He said “no fucking way – I have one mission today and that’s to get you across the finish line.” I love him.

At the system check around 20, I finally figured out how to describe how I was feeling. “Globally great, locally shitty.” We chucked a bit and I said “all my global variables are in an acceptable range but my local variables are completely screwed up.”

We crossed the 26.2 mark at 5:27 on my watch. This wasn’t my PW (personal worst) – that’s 5:47 – but it was close. If you subtract the bathroom time, It’s a little under 5:20, which is still slow for me (I’m usually in the 4:45 – 5:10 range with an occasional 4:30.

It was an incredible relief to cross the finish line. I was done. We hugged, walked to the hotel, took showers, had a beer, ate some food that wasn’t Gu, pretzels, or gummy bears, and then headed home.


Also published on Medium.

  • Well, that sounds almost exactly that the life of a startup: nothing happens as planned, but the smart entrepreneurs manœuvre their way and end-up winning!

    Godspeed for a great achievement. Really proud of you. I was checking on RTRT continuously.

  • It is always harder to get back, glad to see you finish and even happier to see you had Matt running with you.

    • He saved my butt. It would have been even harder to get through without him.

  • Well done on finishing Brad… tough some circumstances make it all the more of an achievement

  • Dave Colliver

    Nice work Brad on finishing! Thanks for blogging about it.
    Gearing up for the Detroit 1/2 next weekend so your post was inspirational!

  • (Always with such graphic detail, Brad!)

    Completely agree with your overall take. This one was mostly a slog and I was grateful for the company, and for the body glide on my toes that seemed to stave off blisters. Sure wish someone would’ve called an audible and switched the event date to Saturday. The weather was friggin’ perfect then. Looking forward to #5!

    • Thank you my friend for hanging in with me … No more Pho next time.

  • BSchildt

    Congratulations Brad! Every marathon is hard and you are fortunate to have a running partner like Matt. I am always amazed at how much easier physical challenges are with a strong partner – sort of like having the right co-founder.

    • Yup. Matt was awesome.

  • Tim Hudson

    Congrats! Being a veteran of numerous marathons ( & endurance events/IMs..) all of them are tough and each one different depending of conditions & terrain…& makes it even tougher trying to fit all the time in to train also..

    • Thx. The rain really hurt me on this one.

  • Mensch. Way to power through it pal…

  • gravity_defiant

    Wait, tell me more about those 10 extra blocks. I thought my watch was just messed up!

    Also, congratulations. If it helps, you beat me.

    • It looks like all the waves except A went an extra 0.5-ish miles (maybe a little more). It’s pretty easy to see if you have a GPS map of your run – just compare it to the course map.

      • gravity_defiant

        Thanks. I’ve found a bunch more info, including my own GPS data that I finally bothered to look at.

        Honestly, I could totally get over this if the race officials weren’t being such jerks about it. Unless they pull it together and apologize, though, I won’t be running this race again–despite the fact that I live a warm-up jog from the start line.

  • Michael FitzGerald

    We got herded!
    http://www.kptv.com/story/33359767/runners-raise-questions-about-portland-marathon-distance
    I was in Corral D and ran into the same issues at Mile 1. Ultimately, STRAVA had me at 26.8.

    • Pretty disappointing response from the race director.

      • Michael FitzGerald

        Yes, disappointing. People trained for months and spent thousands of dollars in travel, childcare, and missed work to do this race. And he’s trying to say it only affected non-BQ runners as if that would matter.

  • marksmith1981

    Congrats Brad and Matt and great post – I can almost feel the pain! Although having never ran over 16 miles yet I just gotta use my imagination 🙂

  • brad, great to see you running long distance again….albeit, a rainy-longer-distance experience than planned ;-). it is wonderful to have someone running along side. #joyous. congrats!

  • Tom N

    When you run marathons you have to have some bad ones to offset the good ones. Try Big Sur marathon,that’s the best one I ever did.

  • Lisa Reeves

    Congrats!! I didn’t know you were doing Portland. Sorry to hear about the logistics and the weather. Have you ever done Chicago? It was last Sunday, too — really well organized and manageable. We had +30 runners from my Boulder club in the race.

    • Chicago was awesome – I did it a number of years ago. It was my fastest race and my favorite of the big city marathons I’ve done.