“Running in the footsteps of Legends” is the theme that rings throughout the Eugene Marathon. And that’s exactly what it feels like during some sections of the course. And “Mooooo” is the sound the rang throughout the trip as Dylan started to associate “Mooooo” with every time he spotted a cow. So as we drove up and down, we kept hearing “Mooooo” coming from the backseat and there would be Dylan looking out at a herd of cattle on the green hills of Oregon. Nicole and I had once driven up to Washington about 10 years ago and we remember the drive to be beautiful near Mt. Shasta and into Oregon. And again we were reminded how picturesque some parts of this country can be. I took Friday off work and we packed the car and drove to Eugene, leaving in the morning. On the way, we stumbled upon Castle Crags near Mt. Shasta and want to go back to the area in the summer and spend some time exploring. Friday night we made it into Eugene. We grabbed dinner at the Steelhead Brewing Company a couple blocks away then put Dylan to bed.
Saturday morning the CLIF team met at 6:45 for a quick run over to the University of Oregon and we ran around the track at Hayward Field. A few of us climbed the fence to test our 400 meter speed (no track scholarships here). But the experience was very cool. I manned the CLIF Pace Team booth from 9 AM to noon then Nicole, Dylan and I spent the afternoon exploring Eugene. Before needing to be back for the Pasta dinner, Nicole dropped me off in the rain near the Prefontaine Trail and I ran along the trail then ran back to the hotel for dinner. The Prefontaine Trail is almost 5 miles of a bark running trail in the Alton Baker Park. A local landscaping company donates the materials to maintain the trail. Some of the locals said it is not uncommon to be running on the trail and cross paths with one of the track stars from the University out on a run. There is so much running history in the town with Pre, Bowerman and Nike that while running on the trail it was easy to imagine some of the legends running the same routes.
Sunday morning we emerged from the hotel at 5:45 AM into the rain and headed over to the start line right in front of Hayward field at the University of Oregon. The number of people running in the 3:10 group surprised me and after the starting gun sounded and we were off, it appeared there would be a good pack of around 20-30 runners. I didn’t have the luxury of looking at my Garmin GPS watch for instant pace and had to go old school with just a normal stopwatch. First mile came in around 7:40 which was about right. Always prefer a slightly slower start to give people a chance to ease into the marathon and keep the heart rate low. The first 8 or so miles we meandered through the streets and neighborhoods of Eugene and it was a good time to talk with some of the other runners. Quite a few came down from Seattle and Vancouver. Everybody associated with the marathon, all the runners and volunteers, couldn’t have been nicer.
The middles miles we ran along the Willamette River and through Alton Baker Park but didn’t run on the Prefontaine Trail but instead stayed on the bike trail. Between miles 15 and 16, the course split with the half marathoners going left and the marathoners going right. But everybody was going left and there was no sign or marker to indicate the marathon course was suppose to go straight. All of the sudden, there’s a very unofficial looking guy on a bike who yelled out, “If you’re running the marathon, you should go that way!” We stopped. Some of the runners started swearing. Heartrates spiked. Some looked at me and asked, “Is that right? Which way!” I DIDN’T KNOW. We followed his advice, darted across the field and took the other path but in a few hundred yards we thought we made a mistake. There was not a single cone or marker and no other runners on this path. I asked if anyone knew the area and if we could reconnect by continuing and someone said to make a left turn up ahead. A minute or so later, we could see some volunteers along the path and the cones were back. Whew! Ended up we made the right decision. The course was just poorly, or rather not, marked along that section. I think we only lost about 30 seconds. Unfortunately, a lot of other runners followed the half marathon course.
We followed the river to the Owosso Bridge and crossed the river around mile 21. The rain had stopped and, like a novice, my nipples were bleeding. So I’m holding the 3:10 pacing ballons with one hand and pulling on my shirt with the other to minimize any contact with my body. At the same time I’m trying to keep the group motivated during the final 10K of the marathon, the point where the race really starts. And around this time the group started to thin. Dave Johnson, one of the ones I had been talking to throughout the race, started to drop back. Dan Reed grabbed onto my heels. John Ticer, a solid local of 50+ years, kept the rest of us moving along at a solid pace. I kept telling people just get to mile 25 and then the surge will carry them home. But there was no surge at mile 25 as the course twisted through an empty field, heading towards the University. Most of the group floated on ahead. And soon enough the home stretch appeared. Just after mile 26, we rounded the corner and could see the finish line. I turned around and there is Dave Johnson kicking hard to the finish. What a comeback! My official time: 3:09:02. We all shared some high fives at the finish line. The sun was breaking through. And chocolate milk and cookies at the finish! I watched Darris come in at 3:20 then headed back to the hotel to meet up with Nicole and Dylan. An hour later, we were in the car and driving back to home to California.