Historic Hayward Field, located on the University of Oregon campus in Eugene, Ore., bustled with excitement early Sunday morning. Sunday was the Eugene Marathon, and in “TrackTown, USA,” the energy level could not have been higher. Runners lit up the town with their excitement and enthusiasm, as they competed in the 26.2-mile race.
The male and female winners of the Eugene Marathon earn $500, King Estate Wine, and a one-year supply of Krusteaz pancakes. This year, the winner was Michael Wisniewski of Corvallis, Ore. Wisniewski finished in first place, with a time of 2:20:41. Following closely were Teshome Kokebe of Lynnwood, Wash. in second place and Aleksandar Tomas of Ann Arbor, Mich. in third. They finished with times of 2:24:16 and 2:24:37, respectively, a surprisingly close finish for such a long race. For the women, San Francisco’s Allison Howard finished in first place, with a time of 2:53:07.
“C’mon, this is Eugene: Tracktown, Hayward Field, Pre,” said Eugene Marathon Associate Director, and former 1500m U.S. champion Andy Downin. “It’s the running mecca of the world.”
The tagline for the increasingly popular event is “Running in the Footsteps of Legends,” and that’s exactly the experience the Eugene Marathon offers. The city of Eugene and the UO have a habit of producing great runners. The race begins on Agate Street, in front of Hayward Field, and ends on the track around Hayward Field. The rest of the course is laid out along the towns primarily flat bike and running paths that were first used by Oregon’s many running champions.
“It’s exciting to be where Pre once was,” said marathon spectator Sarah Harper.
The late Steve “Pre” Prefontaine wasn’t the only running prodigy Eugene offered the world. Like Pre, the legendary Olympian Alberto Salazar also attended the University of Oregon. Salazar went on to win the Boston Marathon once and the New York City Marathon three times. The legendary coach, Bill Bowerman earned fame by producing world-class athletes at the UO. During his career, he trained over 30 Olympic athletes and coached the Duck track and field team for 24 years. Bowerman was also the co-founder of Nike, along with Phil Knight. The running history in Eugene is unprecedented with any other city in the nation.
“The people of Eugene love the marathon. It’s what they’re all about,” said Downin.
Downin and his team launched the planning for the first Eugene Marathon on January 1, 2006. It took a year and a half to plan the first race. It finally took place in 2007 and the races have been happening every year since then.
This year officials registered 8,500 runners for all the races, including the half marathon and full marathon, as well as the 5k and the Kid’s Duck Dash.
According to Downin, improvements have been made each year, making registration and the organization easier.
“We also got rid of all the paper waste this year,” said Downin.
This year, the 5k and the Kid’s Duck Dash both finish on Hayward Field, whereas last year they didn’t.
Anna Bleier competed in the marathon and she says she loved crossing the line at Hayward, “Crossing the finish line at Hayward with the crowd cheering was very motivational.”
After the marathon, runners were able to relax on the field and around the UO training facilities. Live music was played, and free massages were provided to the runners. There were also booths and tents set up around the area, handing out goodies for the exhausted runners: coconut water, cans of Pepsi, cookies, and Krusteaz pancakes.
Overall the marathon was enjoyable, said UO student and Eugene Marathon participant Emily Smietana. “I’ve never done anything like this. I’m extremely dead and super sore,” said Smietana. “I won’t be running for a while, but I’m very proud of myself.”
The Eugene Marathon supports various charities, included in this list are the American Cancer Society, CASA of Lane County, Food for Lane County, the Science Factor, and numerous other charities, as well as local high school and youth clubs.
Many of the runners ran the marathon ran to support a charity or to raise money for a cause. Shanna Rosenberg is a 21-year-old junior at the University of Oregon. She ran the marathon with Team in Training, a sports training program that raises money for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society (LLS). Team in Training has raised over $380 million to support cancer research since 2008. Rosenberg chose to run the Eugene Marathon for Team in Training, because her mother is currently in remission from breast cancer.
“As I was finishing, I thought of my mother and people who have struggled with cancer,” said Rosenburg. “If I thought the marathon was hard, I can’t imagine what they are going through.”