EUGENE, OR— The sounds of clanking cowbells and encouraging cheers filled the Hayward Stadium. Like the clouds on the decent Sunday afternoon, participants of the 2012 Eugene Marathon were rolling in. Amidst the flurry of colorful sports clothes, a woman sporting a bright orange tank top, adorned with numerous signatures and the words “I Have MS”, appeared on the horizon. As spectators cheered her on, the woman crossed the finish line with an exhausted but cheery smile.
Rhonda Zimlich, running for the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, had completed the full marathon in 4 hours and 51 minutes.
Zimlich joined 8,500 other participants in the 6th annual Eugene Marathon on Saturday at 7:00 am in the morning. The race, which consisted of a 26.2 mile full marathon and a 13.1 mile half marathon, started at the corner of 15th and Agate, outside the Hayward Stadium. All participants headed south towards Amazon Park, but split after looping around Hayward, with full marathon runners heading towards Springfield while half marathon runners headed for Alton Baker Park. Both groups finished the race with a final run around the Hayward Field track.
This year, the marathon introduced a new timing chip technology known as a ‘B-tag’. According to the marathon’s website, the B-tag, embedded in a runner’s bib, automatically records a runner’s timing as soon as they pass through a checkpoint. For the Eugene Marathon, the timings and locations were posted onto the Eugene Marathon website, so families and friends could check up on the progress of their loved ones.
Also new to the marathon this year was an affiliation with Crowdrise, an online fundraising website which allowed participants of the marathon to create their own fund-raising charities for the race.
Zimlich was one such participant. Having been diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis herself, she decided to dedicate her run to raise awareness, and funds, for MS research. By the time the race began, she had raised $1500.
“[The race] was the hardest thing I had to do in my life.” Zimlich said. “All the love and support I’ve received from everyone definitely kept me going.”
Like Zimlich, many other participants of the race were offering support in their own ways.
Ann Scholl, holding a sign that read ‘4:15’, completed the marathon in 4 hours and 28 minutes, with her team trailing close behind. Ann was one of Clif Bar’s Pace Team Leaders.
Pace team leaders ran the marathon at even intervals every mile, helping marathon runners who wanted to make sure they met their goal time keep at a good pace.
“Being a pace team leader is challenging because you don’t just look out for yourself, but about 15 other people.” Said Scholl, who has 20 marathons under her belt. “But it’s amazing what the support and encouragement you get from running as a team can do for a runner.”
Kay Porter, leader of the Spirited Walkers of Eugene, expresses the same sentiments.
“Running, or in this case, walking a marathon with a group provides a friendly, supportive environment.” She said.
Porter, an appointed member of the United States Olympic Committee Sports Psychology Registry and author of the book The Mental Athlete, believes that walking can be a therapeutic experience.
“Spiritual walking encourages people to walk to clear their minds and have a healthy lifestyle,” she said, “and also enjoy the scenery along the way.”
Earlier in the morning, Mike Wisniewski, from Corvallis, won the men’s division full marathon with a timing of 2 hours, 20 minutes and 41 seconds. Craig Leon, a local, won the half marathon in 1 hour, 5 minutes and 35 seconds. For the women’s division, Allison Howard, from San Francisco, won the full race in 2 hours, 53 minutes and 7 seconds, while Marci Kilmek, from Bend, won the half marathon in 1 hour, 17 minutes and 35 seconds.
Porter, who completed the race in 3 hours, 31 minutes and 45 seconds, believes that no matter what the timing, every runner should be proud of their accomplishment.
“It’s really more about the process than the result.” She said. Nevertheless, Porter finished the marathon within the 2:00 pm cutoff mark.
The loud cheers and noises from the crowd of spectators represented not only the spirit of support, but the sheer number of people who turned up for the event this year. Richard Maher, the marathon’s director, never expected this much of a turnout since he founded the race six years ago.
“Not in my wildest dreams did I think it would grow that fast and be as exciting,” said Maher in an interview for KVAL News. “People love to run in Eugene.”
Besides the marathon runners, however, members of the Eugene community found other ways to get involved and show their support. For the marching band fraternity Kappa Kappa Psi, they showed their support by entertaining participants, families and friends with music, blasting familiar, catchy tunes like Lady Gaga’s ‘Bad Romance’ from their instruments for almost the entire duration of the event.
“It’s a great way to show school spirit.” Said fraternity member Bree Mohr, a biology and french double major who plays percussion for the band. “There’s other ways to be involved in the race without actually having to run.”
Event coordinator Tate Kelley said that she was impressed with the huge turnout and the amount of support shown for the marathon.
“It’s amazing to see the community band together for such an event.” She said. “The support we’ve received this year really illustrates the spirit of Track Town.”