Culture of Eugene Inspires New Runners

Just when you think the marathon is over as you see the flushed faces of accomplished runners draped in their shiny silver thermal blankets making their way from the finish line, another burst of wild screams is heard from the outskirts of the historic Hayward Field. 

The Eugene Marathon, consisting of a 26.2 mile race, begins by the historic Hayward Field home to the University of Oregon’s track team known as “The Hardest Team to Make.”

Hayward Field is also the home to four and soon to be five of the U.S. Olympic Team trials after this year.   

The Eugene marathon provides a scenic running experience for over 8,000 participants along with 1,200 or more volunteers supporting them along the way. 

Providing options for a half marathon run as well, consisting of 13.1 miles, it could not be a more perfect spring day in Eugene for runners of all experiences and ages to come together as they push each other to reach their goals.

Training since January, participant Kate Phillips accomplishes her first ever marathon beating eighty percent of the runners times ending the race in three hours and twenty minutes. 

One of Phillips’ main motivators for running the race is to support the non-profit EJ Autism Foundation in Long Island, NY schools that increases awareness and raises money for autism research funds. 

Running since junior high, and continuing on to be a a runner at a D1 school at Xavier University in Cincinnati, Ohio, Phillips says, “It never stops. It’s you versus yourself.”

Covered in scratches all over her legs from making a pit stop at mile twenty to pee in the bushes, the large grin never leaves her face as she laughs. The feeling of community and hundreds of people all coming out for a common goal and purpose is what she loves most.

“This is where Olympians will be running. The culture here is definitely noticeable.” says Phillips’ friend Kelsey who rooted her on until the finish line. She brags of her friends accomplishment of finishing with the seasoned veterans who have done up to a dozen marathons. 

Without the support of the crowd, and enthusiasm of the officials, the experience and reaction of the runners would not be as effective.

Another newcomer, Russell Wingard, 48, enjoys the relaxation after he completes his first Eugene marathon. Not usually a runner, he got into cycling after he spent a few summers in New York and was seeking something else to take up.

Wingard says, “After I quit cycling, I took up running and now it’s got me hooked.” Now having participated in four marathons, he was in awe at the pure energy and passion Eugene has for running. 

“Legends were made here and I think all the runners feel that and we’re super honored to be able to keep that love alive.” Said Wingard. Talking about one of the famous and well known runners in history, Steve Prefontaine, international track star and legend who went to the University of Oregon.

No matter what your age or experience level, the energy and support from spectators and officials prove to be one of the main motivators for the runners.

Deciding to run the half marathon on a whim, runner Nathan Traudman thought it would be a perfect way to celebrate his twenty first birthday the day of the race. Planning on just rooting on the veterans at the starting point, he thought it was time to run his first race instead.

Traudman lives on Agate street and says he always sees runners that make him inspired to take it up himself. “I see guys running all the time, I mean, I see girls kicking my ass and that motivates me, I really want to be a good runner.” Said Traudman.

The support and motivation of his friends taking part in the half marathon as well made his decision easy as he decides he’s going to run it the day before the event.  

“I want to do something big for my 21st and I can’t run a whole marathon so half marathon it is, right?” said Traudman. His motivated attitude paired with his stamina from playing lacrosse for fun and intramural softball at the university, he feels he can take on the challenge. 

”There’s a huge running culture here and it definitely gets me out the door.” Said Traudman. He said he makes a point to make his route incorporate running by Prefontaine’s memorial area called “Pre’s Rock” running the trails that he ran. 

The Eugene marathon proves to be a symbol of the appreciation and love the city has for it’s running culture and history because it has such a large effect on the runners, pedal taxi worker Alex Baker explained. 

Working all day to shuttle fans and exhausted runners to their cars, the energy and charisma of the crowd members was unexplainable.  



Kate Phillips at the end of the race showing off her blackberry bush battle wounds.

About Kelsey Rzepecki

20-something on that 8-5 by day, music blogger and show-goer by night.
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