PRC Runs the Marathon Course
The under-new-management Portland Marathon debuts an all-new, couldn't-be-more different course in October 2019. Before you have to run it, we dispatched members of our Race Team to run the course in segments and preview it for you.
Each segment, save the last one, is five miles long. You can follow along on the Portland Marathon website right here. Read about the whole course, or take it in segments yourself, via the menu below.
This is the tour guide you wish you had running next to you to answer your questions on race day—if you felt like talking. Each segment preview includes descriptions of landmarks you will pass and local knowledge to enhance your appreciation of the sights around you, and—who knows—maybe the rest of your time in Portland. Enjoy!
Miles 1 through 5, as seen by Amy Hopkins
The first 5 miles of the new marathon course immerses you immediately in the heart of downtown Portland. As you fly through the first mile, you will first pass through Pioneer Place mall. Just two blocks away is Pioneer Courthouse Square, also known as “Portland's Living Room," where on any given day you might see community events such as Zumba, meditation, or a summer concert.
A bit further up on the right you will pass one of Portland’s highly touted and quirky eating establishments, Voodoo Doughnuts, offering toppings like bacon and Fruit Loops.
Right before the 2-mile mark on SW Alder Street, you will pass an all-time favorite brunch spot, Tasty 'n' Alder, one of John Gorham’s fun, family-style steakhouses with an innovative and culturally diverse menu. Come back later not only for a boozy milkshake, but also to take a walk up the street to another Portland favorite: Powell’s City of Books, the largest used and new bookstore in the world, occupying an entire block and housing approximately one million books.
Just past 2 miles, look to your left as you pass the Multnomah Athletic Club and Providence Park, home to the Portland Timbers and Thorns, our beloved local soccer teams. "You can't stop us—we are the Rose City!"
You will then turn the corner to enjoy the bustling and eclectic NW 23rd Ave with can't-miss shops and restaurants including Blue Star Donuts, Salt & Straw ice cream, and McMenamin’s Rams Head Tavern.
After this, you are off to speed down past Slabtown and Nob Hill, where those tempting smells on NW Thurman Street are coming from St. Honoré's French pastries and the most authentic bagels in town at Kenny and Zuke's Bagelworks.
Now you're headed into the heart of the Pearl District, an upscale residential and shopping district that once housed warehouses and industry but is now known for its restaurants, art galleries, and craft breweries like Breakside Brewery. As you finish off five miles, resist the urge to cool off in the nearby Jamison Square fountains, a favorite splash pad and gathering place when it's warm.
Miles 6–10, as seen by Ashley Fanning
Once you make your way onto the Broadway Bridge, enjoy the view of the Steel bridge over to your right. Don't worry about missing the view, though; you'll see it again soon!
Why don't you take some time during your trip around the Moda Center to thank your lucky stars that you're running over this bridge and not the other one. While you might lose out on the Steel's waterfront loop options, Broadway serves as the way over the river if the dreaded train is blocking your way to the waterfront.
Crossing the Willamette twice is much better than being stopped by a train during a race. Oh, look! It's the Steel Bridge again!
On your way to historic Old Town, you'll be passing back through Portland's Chinatown. At the intersection of Davis Street and 3rd Avenue, be sure to check out the quirky crosswalk painting that fits Portland from late fall to late spring. One of the greatest parts of running through a place like Portland is discovering all the creative artistic takes on the local street markings as you run through the city.
As you head down Naito, watch out for the the Mill's End Park, also known as the World's Smallest Park. Make sure not to blink or you'll miss it! It's the tiiiiiiiiny little shrub sitting in its own section of the median. Legend has it that it's also the only colony for Leprechauns outside of Ireland. Watch your step!
As you say goodbye to Gov. Tom McCall Waterfront Park, try your best to enjoy the slog down to the South Waterfront. The OHSU tram running overhead should be a good reminder that it could always be worse.
Miles 11–15, as seen by Scott Tucker
Approaching Mile 11: Swooping down SW Hood Avenue and catching a last glimpse of Mt Hood to your left, you’re leaving the city for a while. Curving onto SW Macadam Avenue and following the Willamette River as you head south, you’re running toward the historic neighborhoods of Sellwood and Westmoreland.
Macadam Avenue is smooth, flat, and lush with trees and riverfront parks—a time to hit your goal pace for a couple miles as you approach the halfway point.
By Mile 12 you can see the river clearly and the new Sellwood Bridge that marks the beginning of the aforementioned neighborhoods and river vistas. The Sellwood Bridge is a hill; you’ll feel it, but the view is great, so don’t forget to look downstream to your left.
Immediately after the bridge is a 90-degree left into the most beautiful view of the entire course: Oaks Bottom Wildlife Refuge. The course winds along a bluff overlooking the wildlife refuge just at Mile 13. It’s so distracting, you don’t even notice the few feet of elevation you’ve gained!
Approaching Mile 14 takes you into Westmoreland and its friendly main street surrounded by turn of the century Portland craftsman homes. Sellwood and Westmoreland were originally incorporated as separate towns and were known for their fruit orchards. The trees lining the neighborhood are so big now that their branches arch over the streets, creating a canopy.
Another straight run back to neighboring Sellwood, around the block, and you’re headed north again along Westmoreland Park. It’s flat, smooth, and a good place to maintain your goal pace. Enjoy it while it lasts, because at Mile 15 you have a few inclines to negotiate.
Miles 16–20, as seen by Laura Jenks
Mile 16 starts at the north corner of Westmoreland park. Before the quick climb over Mcloughlin Blvd and the railroad tracks, take a quick peek to your right to see a Monet-like scene on Crystal Springs Creek.
After the climb you will be rewarded with a slight downhill into the historic Eastmoreland neighborhood. On the course to your right will be maple trees and the Eastmoreland golf course, and to your left, beautiful old Portland homes. You'll see a lot of these over the next five miles, but do not expect to get bored of them as they are all very unique. Towards the end of mile 16 you will have a slight uphill as you continue to climb into the neighborhood.
Just after completing mile 16 you will wind past Duniway Elementary School and then on to Reed College Place, a .8-mile stretch that you will cross twice during this five-mile segment. This parkway is lined with stately homes and linden trees with leaves turned a golden yellow by race day.
At mile 17.25 you will enter Reed College. This is the first time that the Portland Marathon has run through this campus, but it has the potential to host a scream tunnel à la Wellesley College at Boston. You will spend a half mile exploring the 100-year old campus and emerge on a shaded downhill. That buzz you're feeling now? Maybe from the Reed Research Reactor, the only nuclear reactor operated primarily by undergrads.
At mile 18 you will wind back onto Woodstock Avenue and the front side of the college. Here you will face an uphill before turning right back down Reed College Place.
For the last two miles of this segment you will enjoy a descent through Eastmoreland. Take in the variety of trees and their changing colors before arriving back at Bybee Street for a final climb up and over Mcloughlin Boulevard and back down to SE 22nd Avenue where you will take a right and finish off mile 20.
Miles 21– 25, as seen by Scott Tucker
Leaving Reed College is like coming out of a forest and into the open. The marathon course rejoins the half marathon course at mile 20 and turns north to head for downtown and the finish.
The straight and flat half-mile section along 22nd Avenue is welcome after the hills around Reed College, but brief, because turning left onto Reedway is a deceptive uphill. It looks like it might be flat, until you are halfway up and you realize it’s not.
But that’s over soon enough and you can settle in for a flat cruise north on Milwaukie Avenue. Coffee houses compete with brew pubs and distilleries for real estate along Milwaukie. Check out the patriotic Milwaukie Market at Mall Street, and notice that you are gradually running downhill. Ahhhh.
There is a quick little jog around the block at Lafayette Street and reconnecting to Milwaukie at Rhine Street just at mile 22, and then you enjoy cruising for another few blocks until you turn left onto Franklin Street. I think the course planners were channeling NYC Marathon when they laid out this part of the course through the neighborhood of Brooklyn, because Franklin Street is a 0.2 mile hill that spanks you just as your legs are feeling the previous 22 miles.
But there’s good news: A nice downhill follows as the course ducks under Hwy 26 (Ross Island Bridge) and spills out into the Hosford-Abernethy neighborhood (so named after two elementary schools).
Mile 23 marks the end of neighborhoods and a return to downtown and the riverfront esplanade. The esplanade is a popular running route that you will catch beginning at the Portland Opera office and the Tilikum Crossing Bridge (this is a pedestrian/bicycle/mass transit-only bridge with a striking design). You will scoot past OMSI (check out the 1950’s era naval submarine USS Blueback moored there) and under the freeway before popping out onto side streets lined with remodeled warehouses and historic Produce Row.
Water Avenue takes you farther north, over the train tracks, and, after a couple zigs, corkscrews onto the Burnside Bridge. Mile 25 is midway over this classic bridge and your last little uphill gradient. Crossing the river once again, you are home free!
Miles 26–Finish, as seen by Ashley Fanning
While the this river crossing will most likely not be highlighted on the heatmaps of most local runners, you have it all to yourselves today! No sharing the bike lane with those lousy scooters, and there is no need to worry about cars zooming past—so soak in that view of the Willamette from the Burnside Bridge.
Once you get back Downtown, fight the urge to turn left towards the mouthwatering smells coming over from Voodoo Doughnuts (still). Just remember there's one waiting for you at the finish, no line or anything!
A couple more turns through Old Town and you'll soon be back on Naito with the finish in sight. You're almost there! No stopping for the Leprechauns this time, baby! You're almost there! Go! Go!