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The 2018 Portland Marathon: How Paula Harkin is Getting it Done

We love local race directors here at Run Oregon. One we love to run with that has put on amazing events for many years is Paula Harkin of Run With Paula Events (RWP) and Portland Running Company (PRC). She was recently selected to revive the Portland Marathon for 2018. After the ups and downs of the race being in jeopardy and then cancelled, local runners are ecstatic that a local organizer – and specifically Paula Harkin – was selected to put on a race. Registered runners had already been refunded, and she’s got to create her own agreements with sponsors and vendors, so she is starting from scratch on what we are sure will be an outstanding event.

It will be a LOT of work, but if anyone can do it, it’s Paula Harkin. Within one day of the City making the announcement, Paula revealed the Portlandathon: a marathon, half marathon, and 5-mile run plus a 4-mile River Walk. As someone who has put on a few races, I know how much work it is – and my events were nowhere near as big or polished as races like the Goddess Half Marathon or the Hippie Chick. So I sent Paula a few questions to find out just how she’s going to pull this off … and possibly even earn the opportunity to be the long-term race director of a Portland marathon!

Portlandathon will be run on Sunday, October 7. Click here to register!

Run Oregon: The City of Portland accepted applications to find a race director that could put on a 2018 race, even though the rights to put on the race in 2019 and beyond are not guaranteed. What was that application like?

Paula Harkin: The application for the Portland Marathon 2018 was more of a questionnaire. There were seven questions that needed to be answered in affirmative, and I was able to say yes to all of them, one of which was asking if I had experience producing a race in Portland with more than 2,000 participants. (The Pints to Pasta 10k, which RWP founded, had more than 3,500 runners at its peak.)

Run Oregon: You have a “unique set of skills” to paraphrase Liam Neeson. You’re a competitive runner, a long-time race organizer, a running business owner, and an active run-community member. How have your past experiences prepared you for this?

Paula Harkin: I am excited to use my experience as a race director and business owner to deliver. However, being a runner is the real advantage. I know what I want as a participant. I don’t plan on missing the mark on that. When I finish a marathon in another city such as Berlin or Chicago or Honolulu, there is something great about having space to relax, enjoy the accomplishment, and sit alongside other racers that experienced the pain and agony or joy of the event. I think this was missing from the Portland Marathon. We can’t change the course this year, but we can change the feel of the marathon and I think that is my specialty. We get to have a marathon in Portland on October 7 and I am excited about that.

Run Oregon: Tell me about the logo. How did you get such a cool design so quickly?

Paula Harkin: I LOVE our logo and our design. We work with Bauer Graphics (I LOVE THEM). We had only a few days to come up with a name and the design. Heather Bauer was emailing me at 1:15a with updates! She was super responsive and didn’t give up on me! We also got permission from Raymond Kaskey, Sculptor of Portlandia, to use the Portlandia-like figure in our logo. I was ecstatic when Mr. Kaskey returned my message. You know how excited I can get! Between the name and the logo I felt the momentum shift! It felt right! It felt like there was new life in the marathon! It was an amazing feeling to have these things come together. Then there is the video of Dave singing the PORTLANDATHON song (scroll to the bottom of this post). It was a crazy 24 hours.

Run Oregon: What are some of the biggest tasks ahead of you between now and October?

Paula Harkin: I think the biggest task is putting everything in place in such a short amount of time. I have a good relationship with the City of Portland. I have a history of working with many of the departments and I have a good understanding of what can and cannot be done for 2018. I have already spoken with The City, TriMet and Parks and Recreation, and am hoping to get approval to make a few changes at the start and finish line and add a Saturday Community River Walk. I feel that even if you are racing the marathon, half marathon, or 5 Miler, you can come out and walk with the community the day before. My vision is to get some of our public officials out. I would really like to walk with (Portland Police Chief) Danielle Outlaw (she seems like a #badass to me), who I saw speak at the Sunshine Division Auction this year.

I want to make PORTLANDATHON a celebration of our city and our running community. I love our waterfront and would love to highlight it. Portland Parks has a rule not to allow events on the waterfront after Race for the Cure, because they plant grass seed after that event, and they need to give it time to germinate and grow before the rain sets in. They also have a three-event-per-month limit. They are at that limit … so I have some work to do. I have spoken with the City, and will do my best to work some magic to highlight the best of Portland using the current course. I will work hand in hand with everyone involved and do what I can in the next few months. It’s a giant puzzle.

Run Oregon: What are the next steps?

Paula Harkin: Today I am working on the host hotel piece which may or may not include an expo. We are looking for sponsors that want to be a part of this movement to make 2018 PORTLANDATHON come alive and create something great for the people of Portland while welcoming those coming from out of town. I understand the commerce piece of this event and how it can have a positive impact on our city. I love Portland and want to have that reflected in this event no matter how big or small.

Run Oregon: How can the running community help out?

Paula Harkin: Register! Participate! Volunteer! I am so proud to hear from so many people about volunteering. It’s no surprise that the community is offering their time and service to this event. Volunteers make the race. We cannot produce this race without our community. I have a rudimentary volunteer page set up now and I am currently working on developing placements, and will update over the next few weeks.

So there you have it, Run Oregon readers! Registration for the 2018 Portlandathon is now open, with the marathon starting at $115. She is looking for volunteers and sponsors, but the best way you can help out is to register – permits alone for this type of event cost around $50,000! Sign up sooner rather than later, as prices will increase as the race date draws near. Registration will include a race shirt, finisher medal, and food.

One last thing I want to add: I asked Paula who was her biggest support in this effort, and she immediately answered, “Dave Harkin.” (Her husband.) Life goals, friends. Life goals.
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About Kelly Barten (936 Articles)
I started the Run Oregon blog in February 2007, because I felt like running in Oregon and SW Washington deserved more positive coverage. I also wanted to level the playing field so that small, non-profit races could compete with big events; and to support LOCAL race organizers. I'm a Creighton Bluejay (undergrad) and an Oregon Duck (Sports Marketing MBA), and I live in Tigard with my husband and two kids. My "real job" is working for an incredibly awesome math textbook company doing marketing and production.

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