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Portland Marathon meets Iraq
by: JIM CLARK, Race director Les Smith says the Portland Marathon wants to be the sponsor for the U.S. Army half marathon.

Some people will participate in the Portland Marathon from half a world away.

Race organizers are working with the military to host and support half marathons at three posts in Iraq as part of the Portland Marathon's 'First Half.' Eventually, race director Les Smith says the Portland Marathon wants to be the sponsor for the U.S. Army half marathon.

'I'm being visionary here, they're the ones who are the boots on the ground and trying to get things done,' says Smith, an Army veteran who served in Germany after being drafted during the Vietnam War. 'With these guys coming back from (Iraq), we'll be in tight with them. I'd like to become one of the sponsors of the (Army) half marathon, and use it as a training event for ours.'

Members of the Army, Air Force and Marines and Department of Defense civilians and contractors will run half marathons in Iraq this year.

On Sept. 27, a week before the Portland Marathon, about 300 people, mostly from the 5th Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division, based in Fort Lewis, Wash., will be running near Camp Victory in Baghdad. On the same day, members of a special task force for border transition, from Fort Riley, Kan., will run at Camp Warrior at Sulimaniya in northern Iraq.

On Oct. 3, a day before the Portland Marathon, about 170 people, mostly members of the 41st Infantry Brigade Combat Team of the Oregon National Guard, will run at Camp Adder in Tallil.

Some participants will do the half marathon in full military gear, Smith says.

The idea started with a Stryker Brigade lieutenant, who wanted to stage a marathon the same day as the Portland Marathon.

'But they couldn't use that date, and we got to talking about it, and they said they could do a half,' Smith says. 'I said, 'Fantastic.' Because we're going to kick off a half marathon, a restricted one, one that doesn't conflict with our full marathon.'

Smith says the marathon will not charge anything to the participants of the Iraq half marathon, and has sent them special finisher T-shirts, lapel pins, runner's bibs, medals and challenge coins. About 150 volunteers have been recruited.

The Hood to Coast race did the same thing with military personnel, but Smith says the Portland Marathon has gone the extra mile.

'We're very excited about it - it's gone together logistically,' he says. 'We're helping out at least one charity, the Wounded Warrior Project, and maybe two.'

Smith says the Portland Marathon, set for Oct. 4, has resisted doing a half marathon on its home turf, fearing that too many people would opt for the 13.1 miles rather than the full 26.2. A restricted registration time will probably be implemented.

Meanwhile, Smith says registration is way up for the marathon. Interested runners can still register at www.portlandmarathon.org and at the Oregon Sports Authority at the Portland Hilton Oct. 2 (11 a.m. to 8 p.m.) and Oct. 3 (9 a.m. to 6 p.m.).

Photos and information from the Iraq runs will also be posted on the Web site.