Inaugural MLK race draws 250 people
By Lee Perlman/The Portland Observer
More than 250 people got in some early exercise as they gathered at 7:30 a.m. Sunday to kick-off the first annual MLK Dream Run sponsored by the North-Northeast Business Association to celebrate the multicultural neighborhoods in north and northeast Portland.
The runners covered courses of five, 10 and 15 kilometers through 11 neighborhoods. The time represented a compromise with the city’s transportation bureau. Organizers, including Henry V Events, had wanted to race on Saturday to avoid interfering with Sunday church services. The early Sunday start avoided conflicts, and as it happened, spared competitors heat that reached 94 degrees later in the day.
Some 150 volunteers assisted with the event. Emmanuel Temple Bishop G.T. Wells provided a prayer for the sendoff, and a song from Joseph Lee Wen. The top men and women finishers received their prizes from Lurleen Shamsud-Din of the business group and City Commissioner Amanda Fritz.
Shamsud-Din was a stand-in for NNEBA chair Joice Taylor, who was ill on event day.
Joice has done so much for this community,” Fritz said.
Also on hand were Dante James, the newly hired executive director of the Portland Office of Equity, and Wendy Hollister, widow of long-time Nike executive Geoff Hollister, for whom the 15 kilometer race was named.CountyCommissionerLoretta Smith gave out the five kilometer awards.
Jordan Welling won the 5 K event in 15 minutes and 15 seconds, while Larisa Manuel was the top woman finisher in 16:38. Marisa Shoemaker was the overall winner for the 10 K event in 32.21, while Dan Franek was the top male finisher in 37.21. The 15 K winners were Lawrence Merrifield in 56.00 and Hallie Janssen in 57.57.
Franek, a local resident, said he had anticipated with some dread a long uphill run on North Mississippi Avenue. “I wouldn’t call it fun, but there’s satisfaction in doing it,” he said.
According to James Hanson of Henry V., the event had 36 sponsors, and 50 area businesses gave cash or in-kind contributions, including prizes for a race-day raffle.
Fritz mentioned other events such as June’s Good in the Hood and Juneteenth festivals and said, “We have so many opportunities to look at who we are, who we want to be.” She noted that Portland has had just two African-American city council members in its history and said, “That doesn’t reflect our values. That’s the reason for the Office of Equity. We have to do better than the last 100 years.”
James and Shamsud-Din both reminded the crowd that the race is not just for healthy exercise, but a tribute to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and that he stood for social justice as well as racial equality.
Longtime African-American businessman and activist Paul Knauls Sr. gave praise to set of new historical markers under construction at Northeast Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard and Hancock Street that gives perspective to the social and economic progress that has been made.