Marathon Route 16: Eugene Marathon, Eugene OR

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“You have to wonder at times what you’re doing out there. Over the years, I’ve given myself a thousand reasons to keep running, but it always comes back to where it started. It comes down to self-satisfaction and a sense of achievement.” – Steve Prefontaine

There are still people who are confused as to why I run the routes of marathons without actually running the race. When I initially planned this trip I was only running about 10 official marathons; I have since changed that to 23 out of 50. One of my larger goals is running tourism, beautiful runs in beautiful places, putting my feet on the ground in iconic locations that great runners have tread. There may be no more iconic location than Tracktown, USA – Eugene, OR. The combination of idyllic running conditions and historical importance make this stomping ground of utmost importance to a running tour such as my own. The home of legendary coach Bill Bowerman (Author of the best selling book “Jogging” and co founder of Nike), running legend Steve “Pre” Prefontaine, and the birthplace of the Nike corporation has been lauded for its temperate climate, extensive trails, and active culture.  I love running and knew that I would love running the Eugene Marathon.  Selfish pragmatism.I was also jazzed after PRing the previous week in Idaho.  Could I apply the same determination when it was just me and the elements.  Could I run for fun and truly compete with me, myself, and I?  This was going to be the day to try.

Course Review

The morning couldn’t have been more clear or perfect.  Driving from my host home to the stadium felt like driving through The Emerald City in Oz – everything ultra green like the world seen through a Tanquery 10 bottle.  Spring had fully whirled her dress and the fragrances of lilacs and daffodils (and gin obviously)filled the air.  The course starts right outside Hayward Field and getting there a little early, I was able to sneak in, walk the track, and get a picture or two.  As someone who has watched both of the movies about Steve Prefontaine a dozen or more times, it felt like Hollywood was there filming the day’s event.

You start off running through some neighborhood to get your legs limbered up.  At mile 2 you get to enjoy the outskirts of the first of several parks Amazon Park and run Parallel to the Rexius Trail for about three miles.Right as you get to the tip of Amazon Drive, you encounter the most difficult hill of the course, a quick light incline that sets up a smooth and speedy return to Amazon Park.  Along this part of the course, I chose to run on the springy trail versus the road, when I had the chance, and danced among bluebells and buttercups (my photos don’t do them justice). After the park, you hit the second hill of the course as you head back to University territory from the 8th to the 9th mile.  After that you run downhill a little to the white collar district that borders the the Willamette River and the Knickerbocker Foot Bridge that takes you across to Pre’s Trail and into Springfireld.  Running across that bridge was the only headwind I fought that day and turning north on the other bank and heading west gave such an amazing view of the river that it was soon forgot.

Miles 12 through 16 are the most boring of the course, flat streets with cute cottage-like homes.  I’m sure on race day, these streets are filled with neighbors.  I just kept counting down the miles to I got back to Alton Baker Park. As you reenter the park, you pass by Autzen Stadium.  I always find stadiums inspiring to run by on a course.  It reminds me that even a hacker like me can run and compete with the elite of my sport.  Most of my friends will never play golf with Jordan Spieth or basketball with Stephen Curry, but I have run a race against Meb Keflezighi (ok, me and 10,000 other people).  Running past stadiums reminds me of that. Of course, right after that I got a little lost in the Rose Garden area of the park and may have added around a quarter mile on my run. After that, you’ve got nothing but beautiful scenery as you run up one side of the Willamette River and down the other. Well shaded and cool with amazing water views, it’s hard not to be inspired on this portion of the run.  I ran this course on a Saturday and the locals were out in full force on bikes, pushing running strollers, with their running buddies.  Always a smile, always a wave, always an encouragement to enjoy this moment.  I really didnt get tired because I just found a good groove and kept moving.  After crossing over the Owosso Bridge I did get a little tired head back downstream.  Fortunately, there were park water fountains every half mile or so once I entered Skinner Butte Park, because it started to warm up quite a bit right before noon.  Just as I started to flag, my hosts for the town, Dianne Cunningham and Bill Sherman came along in Maurie Jacobs Park to pace me the final 2 1/2 miles, keeping me focussed, pointing out cool things like the Scaled Model Solar System and leading me back to the Hayward Field finish. There is a slight uphill run the last quarter mile from the river to the university, but breaching the gates and entering the field immediately wipes away the memory of that effort.

Lessons Learned

Making Friends in the Community

Not only did I benefit from my host families support and encouragement, but another friend I made that week lived right on the course and offered cold water and a refill on my hydration pack. Not as necessary as other races, but certainly welcome and enervating. I really need to make sure I am reaching out in every way possible for each course.

Proper Shoe Rotation

I added a new pair of shoes into the rotation of the past week and it really made a difference on my feet this week.  I sometime just grab the first pair available, but when I really rotate, my shoes get a break and seem springier. I truly felt like I was walking on clouds.

Physical Review

Feeling great after today’s run. Although not an overall PR, at 5:33:20, this was the fastest time I have ever run an unofficial marathon.  Everything was firing on all cylinders today, if there were minor annoyances, they were quickly dismissed after a little extra walking and breathing.  I was just discussing with a friend that the worst races make the best stories.  No disasters, no heart clenching, jaw dropping, you-did-what?? moments just a beautiful run in a beautiful place.  I look forward to coming back and really racing my heart out.  Thanks for coming along for the journey.  Next week we are going to be strapping on our ice cleats as arctic explorers in Anchorage, Alaska.  As always, I appreciate your comments, questions, and discussions.

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