As a native Oregonian who is also a runner, I’ve always heard about the Eugene Marathon. Of course the Portland Marathon gets a lot more lip service, but Eugene is not one to sneeze at. Considering that Eugene has been home to many of the greatest runners of all time, including the “famous even to non-runners” Steve Prefontaine, it’s a race that’s always been on my radar.
I am personally the type of runner who doesn’t do the same marathon twice, but I’m also the runner who doesn’t want to see the course before I run it. It’s hard enough for me to get through all those miles without knowing how much farther I have to go to see the finish line. I ran the Portland Marathon in 2006 and a few after that outside of Oregon, but I didn’t really want to venture too far from home now that I have two small children and not a lot of time for destination races. Honestly, I was okay with not running another marathon until the kids were a bit older, but somehow I found myself saying “why not?” when a bunch of my Sunstone Running Club friends signed up for the Eugene Marathon late last year.
The Eugene Marathon rules require you to go to the race expo the day before the race to pick up your race packet unless you want to pay a $15 fee to pick it up on race day. I’m not going to lie, some of my friends who were racing were not happy with this; especially those that had a long drive that had to be scheduled around expo hours. However, it would have been a really early morning to make the drive on race day since the race began at 7:00AM. My husband and I decided to make a weekend of it and drive up early Saturday to hang out in the city before checking into the hotel and going out to an early dinner. Our hotel didn’t allow us to check in until 4:00PM but luckily it was only about a half mile from the start line. And despite the fact that it’s more expensive to pick up your race packet on race day, there is the option of picking up race packets for your friends, which I was happy to do since I knew someone who was not going to make it into Eugene before the expo closed at 6:00PM.
The expo was held right at Hayward Field, and it was pretty amazing to enter one of the best-known historic tracks in the world. The lines weren’t long, so it didn’t take long to collect race bibs. The expo tent was basically a big horseshoe shape, and you had to collect your bib at one end and your shirt at the other end, giving you the opportunity to walk through the entire expo to get everything you were entitled to. All of the vendors were really friendly and there was definitely stuff to see, but if you can’t make it to the Expo it’s not a huge deal. However, if I was one of the runners from out-of-state or country (there were runners from ALL OVER), it would have been a cool place to hang out.
There were some technical challenges when we were picking up race shirts as some shirt sizes and bibs got mixed up, as well as one friend not having a bib ready for him at packet pick-up. However, all of these snafus were ultimately resolved and the staff were friendly and helpful along the way. There were some questions as to how things would go on race day, but we needn’t have worried.
There was an app for the race available, but the instructions for using it indicated that if people wanted to keep track of where you were during the race, the runner needed to have their phone with them. I didn’t plan to carry my phone or anything else during the race. Since my husband knew my race number, he was hoping maybe my chip hitting the mat at various spots along the course would allow him to use the Eugene Marathon website to track where I was rather than the app. Unfortunately, what he found was that the website was down throughout the entire race, so that was a bit of a disappointment.
However, I’m happy to report that the grievances listed above stop here. In the end, I felt this was, in fact, a very well-organized event, despite these small snafus.
Race morning, we had gorgeous weather and the corrals were well marked and ready to go. I was in corral C and everything seemed to start pretty much on time. I felt like there were lots of people on either side of me until the marathon and half marathon split off from each other at mile 10, but I never felt cramped or unable to move at a comfortable speed. At about mile 9, we hit the biggest hill of the marathon, which was honestly nothing major considering I was used to running a lot of hills in Portland. There was a line of balloons at the top of this hill and people cheering from near and far to celebrate passing this milestone. It was awesome. The crowd support throughout this race was phenomenal, and they made me feel really welcome in this little town that was out to support the runners.
I talked to quite a few runners and met a girl from Chicago who was running her 24th marathon. She considered it an honor to be running in Eugene and to get to finish at Hayward Field, and that made me all the more grateful as well since my journey was not nearly as far. The signs along the way helped keep us all moving as well. “If Trump Can Run, So Can You,” “I’m So Proud Of You, Complete Stranger,” and “Your Feet Hurt Because you Are Kicking So Much Ass” were just a few samples of reading material along the way that had me chuckling. The route was flat and scenic, with some views of the town, the neighborhoods, and many paved paths throughout park locations. I followed the pacer holding the balloons that advertised the time I wanted to finish in, then got a bit ahead of him, and then stayed with him until about mile 20 when my legs decided that maybe going further was not something they wanted to pursue. I slowed way down and this was when the mind vs body struggle began for me and every mile seemed to drag. There were water and Gatorade stations every 2 miles throughout the race, and it was always obvious which was which, and there were plenty of other options too, like Clif Gu, bananas, and orange slices. All the garbage was cleared away pretty quickly and there wasn’t a huge zoo at the aid stations. Everything on the course ran like a well-oiled machine.
My Garmin ran out of power at about mile 25, but I knew I was close. I kept looking ahead for that stadium, knowing that Hayward Field was the ultimate destination for that finish line. When I rounded the corner and saw it, I tried my best to speed up just a tad. As I ran into the stadium and onto the track, I was greeted with a rush of adrenaline and a lot of people cheering. There it was, the finish line! And to the right of that finish line, bleachers full of people clapping and cheering for us. It was an epic finish, (in my mind,) even though I’m sure I wasn’t going all that fast at that point. I crossed the finish line, got my medal, and turned in time to see one of the other runners puke her guts out all over the grass.
I was handed a reusable water bottle and a bag full of food and there was no line to get my final picture taken by the race photographer. I was grateful for no food tent negotiations in favor of a conveniently measured bag of grub since I was feeling a little overwhelmed after I finished the race. It really helped because I wasn’t able to stay at the expo long. My hotel had an earlier checkout time than what I’d been told when I made the initial plans, so I needed to get back to my room to get showered and out the door. The marathon had showers available, but I didn’t really feel like dealing with it.
Overall, I would highly recommend this marathon to anyone considering it. It was by far one of my better race experiences. All of the race officials and volunteers were very friendly and helpful and the course was completely inspirational. If I were “that” runner who did the same marathons over and over, this would definitely be on the list.