A love story about the Portland Marathon and N. Portland

There’s no better way to soak in the sights, sounds and smells of a city other than to run it. The backdrop of streets, hills, bridges, little pink houses, and passersby create a story with you, the runner. With each forward motion, you breathe in optimism, engage with community and adjust to the time passing. If you’re lucky, Mother Nature delivers a cool Portland mist, a 55-degree day, and warm cloud cover that loosens up to pockets of sunshine. For many, this fall weather in Portland conjures memories of pumpkin picking on Sauvie Island, for me, it’s the Portland Marathon.

Peering down on the street from the 11th story window of the Presidential Suite at the Benson Hotel in Portland, with a musical ensemble of pipes and drums in the background teeming out a lullaby to thousands of street runners, is a fabulous way to spend your very first morning in Portland. As luck would have it, I scored this Historic Hotel accommodation after a last-minute plea. Arriving spontaneously into Portland, I didn’t expect to hear every other hotel tell me, “We’re booked, it’s Portland Marathon Weekend.”

Consequently, years later when I got tapped for a 26.2 mile city journey, I almost owed Portland to return. So I ditched the safety net of crossing the finish line in my home town for a romantic runaway adventure – 4.5ish hours running the Rose City streets after an uncompromising Portland meal and good night’s sleep in an inspiring boutique hotel, polishing it off with an award-winning craft beer after receiving a red rose at the finish line.

Mini PDX Marathon Experience: Start at Cathedral Coffee for pre-run meet up. Run (towards U. of Portland) along N. Willamette till you hit Greely and turn R for the Adidas campus turnaround point. Head back to start. Total miles 7.5 – flat course – great view. Post-run, cop-a-squat at John Street Cafe’ for a Filbert Pancake or a “No Shame two egg breakfast” and Bloody Mary at Interurban, located on the acclaimed N. Mississippi Ave.

Slice of the cheer squad in N. Portland. For more N. Portland runs, University of Portland lists routes HERE.

As the 2019 Portland Marathon comes to fruition, I’m reminded of my favorite part of the run in N. Portland.

Something surreal happens after you overcome the climb to St. John’s bridge at mile 17. Gazing upon the gothic cathedral-like bridge towers, one might feel inspired to whisper “Dear Lord, let’s bring this thing home.” Humbled, you descend upon the stillness of N. Portland, an unpretentious welcome into University territory with a romantic Dead Poet’s Society feel. There, on the streets of quaint old PDX homes, views of Port of Portland, Forest Park, Mt. Hood, and the downtown skyline, you’re greeted by a community offering expressions of encouragement as you approach the infamous mile 22…

The Portland Marathon is a little spoon compared to the prestige of Boston and New York. But hey, the Rose City is serving up torch bearers. You just might get serenaded by the Unipiper at the finish line – a slice of what makes Portland, Portland.