The University of Oregon campus was buzzing with excitement early this Sunday morning, normally a day reserved by students for sleeping in and enjoying some quiet. As early as six a.m., Agate street was jammed with runners, joggers, walkers, volunteers, and spectators alike, all waiting anxiously for the start of the fifth annual Eugene Marathon.
The Eugene Marathon is an event all of its own. It consumes an entire weekend and includes a 5k, Kid’s Duck Dash (a 1k course after kids have tracked 25.5 miles over a period of time), Marathon (26.2 mile), and Half Marathon (13.1 miles), providing an event for people of all ages.
Running a marathon isn’t something one decides to do the day before the event. It takes training and perseverance, hence the numerous proverbs regarding marathons. Anthony Steingrobe, 19 with a time goal of 4:30:30, and Kirstin Coleman, 39 with a time goal of 5 to 5:30, both ran the full marathon today. They have been working tirelessly for the last year in dropping body weight to something they can be proud of and have spent the last 18 weeks for Steingrobe and 6 months for Coleman training for todays event.
“[I run for] fitness and to keep my weight off. And I’ve become addicted to it,” says Coleman. “[I hope to achieve] the [sense of] accomplishment and to be one of those people who can say, ‘I’ve run a full marathon,’ because not a lot of people can say that.”
“I want to prove to myself that I can do it. High school finished pretty rough for me and life went pretty downhill after graduation so I want to prove to myself that I can do it,” Steingrobe says. “Just the fact of knowing that if I put in the time, effort, and dedication, that I can do something I previously thought was impossible [is what I’m looking for].”
Some runners aren’t just running for themselves, though. “I’m running with my daughter,” says Jeff Vandewege, 50 with a time goal of 2:30 to 2:45. “She’s a senior. She’s graduating this year. We thought it would be fun just to run it before she graduates so here I am.” All he was looking forward to was “finishing, feeling strong, and having a good time.” That’s not to say he wasn’t taking it seriously. Vandewege followed a two month training plan of slowing building up his runs and doing long runs on the weekends.
Christine Olson, 55 with a time goal of 3:50, was looking to use today’s marathon to show her kids that if they put their minds to something, that they can accomplish anything. She trains with a group in Portland year round and has altered her diet, like most runners, to a healthy eating style. Olson loves everything there is to love about running. She trained all winter and was excited to run in Eugene, specifically. “Eugene is a running town,” says Olsen. “I’ve always wanted to run the Eugene Marathon, so here I am!”
At the end of the day, goals were met, lessons were learned, and a good time was had by all. Coleman made the race with a time of 5:40. “It was good,” she says. “I’m excited that I was able to finish and that I was able to get in before six hours.” She has another run in three weeks, but says she probably won’t do a full marathon for a while.
Steingrobe also states that he wants to wait until he gets out of college to try again, focusing on lacrosse and rugby in the coming years instead. However, he finished with a time of 4:44. “My original goal when I first planned it was 4 and a half hours.” Steingrobe says. “Right at mile 20 I turn around and there’s the four and a half mile balloon coming up right on me, …, After 23 miles I think I pulled something in my hamstring. So the last three miles were pretty slow. It hurt, but overall it was pretty good.”
Olson ended with a Boston Marathon qualifying time of 3:55, also a personal record which makes her pleased with her accomplishment. Some day she would like to run the New York Marathon. She is using todays experience to learn and to motivate herself to work even harder and to achieve her goals.
Vandewege made one of his best times at 2:01:45. “Best part was running with my daughter,” he says. “She did amazing! Her first long run ever. She ran the whole way and got a good time as well. Doesn’t get much better! Praise God!”
In all, each runner had his or her own goal, training plan, purpose, and outcome. The atmosphere of the Eugene Marathon is an amazing mix of anxiety, excitement, and purpose. Every year more runners join. The first marathon in 2007 started with 5,000 participants. This year it has grown to over 8,000. Every year, more will join and each with their own personal stories to share.