Crowds Offer Encouragement while Racers Inspire

Thousands gathered at Hayward Field in Eugene Oregon on Sunday to support those participating in the annual Eugene Marathon

The crowd roared with applause as yet another participant crossed the finish line at Hayward Field.

From young to old, people flooded the stadium bleachers, sidewalks and roads, eager to cheer on loved ones and friends. Participants intermingled with supporters, proudly wearing the medal of participation presented to them upon their finish. Whether racing for time, or simply for completion, every individual walked away knowing they had just achieved an incredible accomplishment.

Starting promptly at 7:00 a.m. at the corner of 15th and Agate St. in Eugene, Oregon, more than 8,000 participants took part in the annual Eugene Marathon on Sunday. Participants could choose to partake in four different events, the kid’s marathon, the 5 K, the half marathon or the marathon.

While every racer entered to achieve a personal goal, they can take pride in knowing that they also helped to raise money for a long list of charities, both national and local, endorsed by the Eugene Marathon. The list includes, but is not limited to, the American Cancer Society, Food for Lane County, the Jane Higdon Memorial Fund and the Committed Partners For Youth.

Standing among the restless crowd at Hayward Field at approximately 9:50 a.m., was Steve and Tracy Vogeltance. They drove down early Sunday morning from Portland, Oregon to support their daughter Elizabeth, a junior at the University of Oregon, in the half marathon. As he watched his daughter cross the finish line, Steve Vogeltance said, “Elizabeth ran track in high school, and we have seen her cross the finish line many times. But today is different. Today is so much more.”

The couple did not even think their daughter would be competing in the event after being bed ridden and sick for the entire week prior. “It is very emotional because you realize how hard she pushed it and how much she had to overcome,” Tracy Vogeltance said.

Some racers skipped, some ran, some walked and some jumped when their awaited destination came into view. Exhaustion seemed to be forgotten as every individual counted down the seconds until all their hard work was about to have paid off.

Rachel Bruce, sophomore at the University of Oregon, felt an extra burst of energy as she completed the 13.1 mile half marathon. “The race was a tangible way to mark how far you have come,” Bruce said. “So many people are running with you and cheering you on. It is empowering.”

Cheers became deafening at times throughout the morning as unexpected participants rounded the final corner of the track. Among the many was a young girl with a broken foot who proudly completed the race paying no mind to her cast. Another strong finisher was an elderly woman, cane in hand. Specialized bikes for those unable to walk also rolled across the finish line.

University of Oregon student Kaylee Thronson woke up early to support her friends who were running in the race. “I’ve never watched anything like it before,” Thronson said. “It is so inspiring. Everyone is cheering for everyone. It is just a happy place to be!”

More than 1200 people signed up to volunteer on the day of the race. They were posted everywhere–from water stations, to a wide variety of booths, to the finish line. While their efforts were necessary for the race itself, it was a team of five full time staff members that made the entire event possible.

Race Director Richard Maher helped found the Eugene Marathon in 2007, the first major marathon to exist in Eugene since 1982. Having ran 20 marathons himself, Maher  is passionate about his job and loves the race day environment. “Participation from our fans always get great reviews in different articles and papers. They are incredible and take away the ‘hurt’ of participants striving for the finish line,” Maher said.

Maher also lined up a diverse range of entertainment to ensure that volunteers, participants, and spectators remained energized from start to finish.

Different bands such as Pedal Power and radio station 99.1 KOOL, were stationed at different mile markers along the entire route. Young children bopped up and down as they danced to a live band set up behind Hayward Field. Pop-up tents featuring Cliff bar, Pepsi and other sponsors brought in gatherings of bystanders enjoying the event.

Placed under a rare sunny Eugene sky, the marathon staff could not have asked for a better turnout or a more enthusiastic crowd. The event brought a community together in a town known across the country for track and field.

The Eugene Marathon offers an opportunity for anyone to work hard towards a goal and achieve a feat well worth recognition.

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