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OHSU pulls Portland Marathon sponsorship for 2021 citing hospitals at 'fullest capacity'

In a statement, OHSU said it's doing everything it can to avoid adding to its hospitals' burden. The Portland Marathon is scheduled for October 3.

PORTLAND, Oregon — Oregon Health and Sciences University (OHSU) has pulled its sponsorship from the Portland Marathon for 2021.OHSU, which has helped lead the fight against COVID in Oregon, called the move a ‘postponement.’

No one from OHSU was available to answer questions on Labor Day —but it seems OHSU does not like the optics of sponsoring the marathon at the same time the university's health experts are telling the rest of the public to keep six feet away from anyone not in their household, or wear a mask even when outside.

The statement posted on OHSU's website said:

OHSU has made the difficult decision to postpone our sponsorship of the 2021 Portland Marathon. Our mission is to improve the health and well-being of all Oregonians, but our ability to fulfill that mission is currently challenged by the unprecedented influx of patients severely ill with COVID-19. Our hospitals are at their fullest capacity, our members are exhausted, and we are doing everything we can to avoid adding to their burden. Participation in the marathon, as a runner or volunteer, is, of course, a personal decision for our members and the general public, but as Oregon’s academic health center and a public leader in health and science, OHSU will not be sponsoring this year’s event.

RELATED: Exhausted, defeated, sad: Health care workers in OHSU's ICU treating COVID-19 patients who are sicker and younger than ever before

The Portland Marathon is a long-standing tradition in which elite and novice runners gather in the closed streets of downtown Portland on the first Sunday of October to do something most people will never do: run 26.2 miles. This year's marathon is happening on October 3.

Marathon organizers also were not available to answer questions but put out their own statement saying they understood the decision.

The race website makes it clear there will be COVID restrictions.

Everyone must have proof of vaccination or a negative COVID test within 72 hours of the race. Everyone will also have to wear masks at the gathering areas at the start and finish but not during the run.

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Along Portland's waterfront, runners KGW stopped at random said they would be comfortable gathering with those restrictions.

“I feel if people are vaccinated and they wear masks when they're really close, it’s all fine,” said Bruce Appleyard.

“Yeah, I think...outdoors I would feel comfortable,” said Jim Puetz.

Pam Schallau is signed up for the marathon and is planning to run the half marathon distance of 13.1 miles on what would have been her mom's 88th birthday.

“Just stay spread apart. I’ve been doing virtual races and some smaller races around," said Schallau. "So as long as people are respectful of that— but I think they will be.”

Another runner, Miranda Doyle, who plans to run the full marathon said over email "I’m a little nervous about COVID, of course, but will wear a good-quality mask during any parts of the race where I can’t distance and my friends and family will get to see the video from the finish line instead of being in a crowd.”

Have a comment or story idea for reporter Pat Dooris? Email him at pdooris@kgw.com