Portland Marathon cancels race, dissolves organization
PORTLAND — The Portland Marathon board of directors has canceled this October’s race and plans to dissolve the 47-year-old organization following a state investigation into the group’s operations.
On its website Friday, the board said it was a “difficult and painful decision” to scuttle the Oct. 7 race and that 2,500 race registrants will get a full refund.
The announcement followed a settlement between the director of the race, Les Smith, and the Oregon Department of Justice, after an investigation found that Smith and companies he ran had illegally borrowed hundreds of thousands of dollars from the organization that puts on the race.
Michael Cox, a spokesman for Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler, said via email that the city had earlier contacted the organization to let them know they would be opening a new search for an organization to put on a marathon in the city beginning in 2019.
After that, Cox said, the organization told the city that starting a search “would undermine their ability to produce a race in 2018.”
The organization said Friday that its decision to cancel the 2018 race was based on a several factors, including a decline in registered runners and its understanding that city officials wanted changes.
The city is looking at options for holding a race this year without the organization, Cox said.
As part of Smith’s settlement with the state, he is required to pay $865,000 and to dissolve a for-profit business he ran, and is prohibited from serving as an officer of any charity again, or ever again being involved with organized races. Smith admitted no wrongdoing.
The settlement was only the most recent jolt on what had already been a rough road for the race. In 2016 the race was nearly shut down by Portland city officials over its safety plan, and officials accidentally awarded the first-place trophy to the wrong person; the following year the race was again nearly shut down by officials over police staffing concerns.
The sport has a storied history in the state, which is the birthplace to Nike, and has hosted numerous years’ track and field trials for the U.S. Olympic team.
Members of the Portland Marathon board of directors did not return messages seeking comment Friday, and a law firm that had previously listed Smith as an employee appeared to have removed his information from their website, and confirmed he no longer worked for the organization.