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Bend Marathon moving to online event amid Covid-19 restrictions

Hoped to set precedent on what future outdoor events can look like

BEND, Ore. (KTVZ) -- The Bend Marathon is going to look a little different this year. Again.

Each spring for the past several years -- until last year -- the city fills up with hundreds of runners participating in the Bend Marathon. But due to COVID restrictions, the popular running event is now transitioning to a 100% virtual marathon.

This is the second year in a row that the marathon has not been able to have an in-person event.

During Wednesday night’s Bend City Council meeting, councilors were unable to come to agree on issuing the marathon a special event permit.

Marathon organizers had submitted a proposal that outlined a number of safety protocols that were going to be in place to make the marathon a safe event, so it could go forward in May.

But the councilors discussed the issues and were unable to come to an agreement.

“The loss of last year and now the loss of this year, it’s a significant impact as a small business,” said Kari Strang, co-owner of the Bend Marathon and a cross-country coach for Summit High.

She says making that decision, to convert the marathon to an online event, was tough.

One of the main issues the councilors expressed concern about was the number of participants that the marathon was expecting to have, which was about 900 people.

One of the key safety points that Strang highlighted was that the marathon start was going to be conducted in waves, to avoid a mass gathering.

“We were hoping to have it on a way where we would have wave starts," she said. "We would have no more than the allotted number of participants allowed in the race venue for any time, based on whatever the guideline for the county restrictions that we were in at the moment." 

Stang said she is grateful and appreciative of the councilors' time for looking into the marathon’s proposal. But she feels that the running event would have been a great outdoor event to help safely bring the community together.

“We were looking to work closely with city officials to be able to come up with a way to be that precedent-setting event and to really raise the standard for what health and safety looked like for events in our community," she said, "And we were disappointed that that outcome wasn’t the decision they reached."

Mayor Sally Russell suggested during the discussion that the event be moved to another date but Strang said that wasn’t really an option.

“A lot of people, when looking at events, think that, ‘Oh, you can just delay it,’" she said. "But in a community like Bend, a lot of our events are run by small businesses, and we have a lot of local events. And so if you move the event to a different weekend, you're potentially encroaching on someone else's business and someone else's event."

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Leslie Cano

Leslie Cano is a multimedia journalist for NewsChannel 21. Learn more about Leslie here.


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