Tom Swinford, photographed last month at Newport High School, is the Newport Marathon race director and says the Newport Booster Club benefits greatly from being the event’s parent organization, as proceeds support Newport High School athletics. (Photo by Michael Heinbach)

The Newport (High School) Booster Club is proud to host the return of the Newport Marathon and Half Marathon, scheduled to begin with a 6 a.m. full marathon walk, followed by the start for full marathon runners at 7 a.m. and half marathon participants at 7:45 a.m. Be advised that the eastbound lane of Yaquina Bay Road between Newport and Toledo will be closed from about 7 a.m. to noon Saturday.

After the race was canceled in 2020 due to the pandemic, organizers held a virtual event last June, though several runners ran the course in person in an unofficial capacity. This year, the Newport Boosters look forward to welcoming a full-blown Newport Marathon back to the area.

“Well, I actually have mixed feelings about things to be honest,” race director Tom Swinford said earlier this week. “On the one hand, it’s awesome that we have over 900 runners and their support crews that are going to make it about 2,000 people coming to town to experience our community and shop in our businesses, use our services and take in our scenery. But the hard part is that’s it’s been two years since we’ve done this, so the learning curve (with organizing the event) is almost like it’s renewed. … We used to be a well-oiled machine, and now we’re back looking for all the places that need some oil.”

The first Newport Marathon was held in 1999, and the Newport Boosters took over hosting duties in 2007. The nonprofit “promotes and facilitates the character and skill development of youth(s) through the support of sports and other extra-curricular activities at Newport High School.” The club, which serves as the marathon’s parent organization, uses income from the event to support Newport High School athletics, athletic participation, scholarships and additional extracurricular activities, focusing, but not entirely dedicated to the cross country and track and field programs.

“As race director and part of the boosters, it’s my job to get as much money to teams and clubs as possible that we make from this event,” Swinford said. He continued, “But beyond that, a big chunk of that money goes into the booster account that helps us pay for things we’re looking at, like supporting an athletic trainer, and how we can support fields and facilities and other coaches and their programs.”

The marathon starts at Yaquina Bay State Park, near the historic lighthouse, and athletes head through the Nye Beach area before returning to the state park past the Yaquina Bay Lighthouse. Runners then hug the coastline as they continue on Yaquina Bay Road toward Toledo for the turnaround before returning down Southeast Bay Boulevard to the finish at the home of the event’s presenting sponsor, Oregon Coast Bank. Other local sponsors include the News-Times, the city of Newport, Thompson’s Sanitary service and others.

Course highlights include a downhill run underneath the Yaquina Bay Bridge and a cruise along Newport’s historic Bayfront. Aid stations are provided about every two miles along the race route, featuring oyster shooters at the stations at miles 11 and 19. The USA Track and Field-certified course has a reputation for being fast and flat, and it is an official Boston Marathon qualifying event. The most treacherous portion of the course is an approximate 40-foot hill at mile No. 4.

Awards ceremonies for age and gender classification groups will follow Saturday’s racing, with half marathon awards scheduled for 11 a.m. and a 2:30 p.m. ceremony for full marathon participants. Both are hosted at the Yaquina Bay Yacht Club, 750 SE Bay Blvd. That’s the same location where athletes must pick up race packets between 3 and 9 p.m. today (Friday). There is no day-of-race packet pickup.

Entries, online only, were limited to 1,000 for the marathon and 250 for the half marathon. Since its inception, the event played host to athletes from all 50 states, Canada, Europe and Central America.

Last year’s virtual marathon overall winner was 46-year-old Gerritt Schaffer from Sweet Home, who finished in three hours, 14 minutes and one second.  The female winner was Valarie Ells from Bend, who broke the tape in 3:26.24. In 2019, the most recent in-person Newport Marathon, Seattle 28-year-old Taylor Wolfe was the overall winner in 2:46.18. Daniela Decristo, age 25, from Winston-Salem, N.C., was the 2019’s full marathon’s fastest female, clocking in at 2:56.50.

See the sports section of the Wednesday, June 8, edition of the News-Times for a recap of the marathon.

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