Portland has a rich railroad history dating back to the mid-1800's and the city remains a hub for Union Pacific Railroad and BNSF Railway to this day. Portland is also known as one of the best-equipped cities in the nation when it comes to public transportation and light rail infrastructure.
The Portland Marathon has worked extensively with local transportation authorities to create a race route and an operating plan that allows runners to experience the best of Portland while also maintaining the flow of rail transporation on race day. The event will implement innovative solutions to ensure that no participants are stopped by trains during the race.
Light Rail Crossings
TriMet's MAX Light Rail system blankets Portland with hundreds of miles of rail. Although there are many locations where the race course crosses light rail tracks, there are only four of these locations at which trains or buses will actively cross during the hours of the race. These locations are:
- NW Flanders St & 5th Ave / NW Flanders St & 6th Ave (near marathon mile 1.0 and 7.0, not on half marathon course)
- SW 1st Ave & Harrison St / SW 1st Ave & Lincoln St (near marathon mile 8.50, and half marathon mile 0.50)
- NW 1st Ave & Davis St (near marathon mile 7.50 and 25.50, and half marathon mile 12.40)
- SE Reedway & 17th Ave (Bus Only) (near marathon mile 20.7, and half marathon mile 7.6)
At each of the four locations, there are multiple trains or buses that are scheduled to cross the race course during the hours of the race. However, runners will never be stopped by the trains or buses. Instead, the race uses a "Train Box" system to allow trains and buses to safely make it through the route while not altering the race in any significant way. A train box is a temporary shift in the actual race course that re-routes runners along an alternate and equidistant course before rejoining the regular course. A train box happens any time a train or bus needs access across the race course while runners are also present.
To demonstrate how a train box functions, the crossings at NW Davis St & 1st Ave will be used as an example. In this instance, the regular race course runs east on Davis St and turns right onto Naito Pkwy as shown by the light blue and purple lines in this map. When a train arrives, runners will be instructed to turn right on 2nd Ave and then turn left on Couch St to rejoin the regular race course at the intersection of Couch St & Naito Pkwy. That detour route is shown by the red line in the map.
Stated differently, all runners will follow the path shown by the light blue line; but some runners will follow the red line rather than the purple line when a train crossing needs to occur. The same type of operation will be implemented at each of the other locations with active train or bus crossings. Runners must follow the directions of the course marshals and volunteers at each train box location.
Heavy Rail (Freight Train Track) Crossings
There are two locations where the race course crosses heavy rail (freight train) tracks. The first is near marathon mile 23 (half marathon mile 10) at the intersection of SE 4th Ave & Division Pl. The second is at marathon mile 24.5 (half marathon mile 11.4) on SE Stark St, slightly west of SE 2nd Ave.
Crossing #1: SE 4th Ave & Division Pl
This railroad is privately owned by Oregon Pacific Railroad (OPR). OPR management has graciously agreed to suspend all train traffic during the hours of the race to ensure that runners will never have to stop for a train. To show appreciation, runners are encouraged to visit OPR and take one of the fun and scenic Portland Train Rides on Saturdays.
Crossing #2: SE Stark St
This railroad is privately owned by Union Pacific Railroad (UPRR). UPRR conducts freight transportation operations and leases the rail for Amtrak travel at this location. UPRR has graciously agreed to suspend all rail traffic during the hours of 8:00 AM to 12:00 noon at this crossing. This 4-hour suspension will allow all half marathon participants and the vast majority of full marathon participants to cross this location with no interuption.
To ensure that no runners will ever be stopped by train traffic, a re-route will occur at this location at 12:00 noon. All participants who arrive at the railroad crossings slightly west of the intersection of Stark St & SE 2nd Ave (approximately mile 24.3 of the marathon) after 12:00 noon will be re-routed for the remaining 1.9 miles of the race. Their times will be valid as though they had ran the original course and they will continue to be supported at aid stations so long as they remain within the 15:00 minute per mile required pace. This re-route will impact those running a pace of approximately 12:00 minutes per mile or slower (roughly 5:15:00 marathon time). This Re-Route Map shows the route that will be implemented after 12:00 noon.
Impact On Course Distance & Certification
All variations of the course, including all instances of re-routes for train crossings, have been measured and certified so that all participants will run a certified course and will thus be eligible for Boston qualification regardless of re-routes. Every iteration of both the full and half marathon routes equal the specified 26.2 or 13.1 miles as required for certification.