What do you do when you’ve been planning your 40th annual event, have booked the start/finish area at large cost for permits and logistics a year in advance, have over 10,000 people arriving from around the world, and an ad hoc protest group decides to squat in the same place?
The Portland Marathon took the high road to negotiate with the Occupy Portland group over the use of Lownsdale and Chapman Squares, which are inside the marathon’s “red zone” adjacent to the finish line. The race will take place on Sunday, October 9, 2011. After a day of courteous negotiation on Friday, the Marathon will go ahead with its usual fencing off of the parks, and install blackout netting so finishers are not distracted by the protester’s camp in the park.
The Portland Marathon is a non-profit volunteer organization. It is truly a “people’s marathon” that rewards all finishers, including walkers who finish in 7 to 9 hours as well as runners who finish in a less than half that time. They field over 4000 volunteers, many coming from other community groups who staff water stations and the start and finish and share in the proceeds from the event.
The Occupy Portland movement is opposed to the excesses of corporations. The Portland Marathon is the sort of organization they should promote in contrast to corporations. It is a tourist destination event, bringing in thousands of runners and walkers from around the world who can then support local food carts, restaurants, stores and hotels. Many of the runners and walkers also participate in charity programs and raise donations for causes such as breast cancer and leukemia and lymphoma.
What Protesters Need to Know:
- The Portland Marathon is exactly the sort of organization you want to promote.
- Marathon and half marathon racers finish the race at the end of their endurance. They need immediate access to heat sheets, water, snacks, porta-johns, medical aid, their gear drop and meeting up with their loved ones. They need as few obstructions a possible back to their vehicles or public transportation to make it home after they finish.
- In addition to 13,000 runners and walkers, expect another 10,000 family members and supporters who also want access to the finish area to cheer for and pick up their loved ones.
- Immediately after the race is no time to proselytize a runner or walker. I have had several of them vomit on me after I assisted them at the finish line. As for myself, I always finish in tears, highly emotional after putting out an extreme effort after months of preparation and sacrifice.
- The race isn’t over till it’s over. Walkers continue to finish for 8 or 9 hours after the start — and they start last, with as much as a 30 minute delay, so expect finishers to come in until 5 pm. Please cheer them and keep the street clear for them.