Thursday, July 10, 2008

Eugene Marathon

The moment I heard about the Eugene Marathon, I knew I had to run it. After all, Eugene is pretty much the Mecca of running and this year, host to the Olympic Trials for Track and Field. In their second year, Eugene has become a welcome addition to Oregon’s marathon options.
Friday night I left Las Vegas with my friend and 2007 LVTC Iron Camel Winner, Phil Weiland, on one of the last flights going out of McCarran-1150pm, arriving Eugene at 2am!-a little late, however at least we'd have all day Saturday.Only small problem with an arrival that late, in a city the size of Eugene is that all of the car rentals are closed. We had to take a cab to the hotel-which actually proved to be one of the most informative cab rides I'd ever taken. In the space of a 20 minute ride, our driver, a long time Eugene resident filled us in on all the history and "goings on" in town. Hot topics for the weekend were Barak Obama's visit a few weeks earlier, the Saturday Market, the oldest open air craft market in the US (a claim they could have made 15 years ago!) and of course, the marathoners--are they crazy or what?We arrived at our hotel--actually a motel, rather on the dreary side-however inexpensive and close to the finish line, checked in and I met my roommate for the weekend, Lois from the 50 States Club. Poor girl, I felt bad waking her up at 3am!Next morning, after the hotel’s complimentary continental breakfast- we were off to the race expo at the host hotel, the Hilton. After picking up our numbers and a bit of shopping and sampling, we walked a few blocks over to the Saturday Market.If you are ever in Eugene, this is a must, after all who doesn't enjoy live music, fresh food from the Farmers Market and the chance to shop for some very unique items?Eugene is a very "green" city-probably due to the fact that it’s a big college town and most people engage in some sort of outdoor sport or activity; in fact the marathon pace car was a hybrid Prius! Recycling bins abound and you could see from the farmer's market and selection of restaurants in town, the residents are very health conscious and completely sold on the organic life style.A visit to the market is something like a trip in time back to the sixties. Except for the ever present cell phones, the atmosphere, music-everything from an impromptu violin solo to a “hippy” with a sitar and a barber shop quartet, also well as the attire of the locals (teens or seniors) would bring to mind the days around Woodstock.
The band on center stage played anti-war songs, young girls wore long peasant skirts with strings of dandelions as necklaces and outside of Jamaica, I have never seen so many guys with dreadlocks.I don't think anyone had ever seen or used a lip gloss or an eye shadow and Miss Clairol would make a killing-no bleach blondes in this crowd!Everyone seemed very happy and friendly, so maybe there is something to this simple life thing??? We spent an hour or so shopping and listening to music until my friend Mark Ornstein, from Las Vegas and the 50 States Club came to meet us and we headed off to a great grocery store something like Whole Foods for provisions.Next we went back to the hotel to watch the Kentucky Derby on television. As I had just run the Kentucky Derby Marathon and had visited Churchill Downs a few days before, I was very excited to see the race.Well, that turned into a disaster and practically ruined the rest of the weekend for me, when Eight Belles, the runner up horse, broke both of her ankles and had to be euthanized at the end of the race, right there on the track.As many of you know, I'm an "animal person", in fact, I've even been a vegetarian since I was 14, so as you can imagine, it was very upsetting to me. I haven't even watched horse racing since Barbaro, because of the danger to the horses.Anyway, I had to try to put my sadness aside and go back to the Hilton, the marathon host hotel, for the 50 States Club Reunion Meeting. This was a special day for me; although I finished my 50 States last January, I had never formally received my trophy. Unless you can make it to one of the quarterly meetings, they just mail it to you.This was my chance to actually have it presented to me by the club's president, Tom Adair. This was the first marathon Tom has been able to travel to and run since he fell and fractured his pelvis on a glacier while running the Antarctica Marathon in March. He's fine now as according to him, the fractured bones were not any "really important" bones!About 50 club members attended the meeting, there were probably about 100, who ran the marathon.
After the meeting, we met more 50 State Club members and talked so long after the meeting that we missed the pasta dinner and ended up eating in the hotel restaurant. Pasta with veggies and a salad: my usual pre-marathon meal. It was fine.I got back to the my "motel" later than I planned and of course, as usual, went to bed too late....that is after downing a bottle of water to "hydrate" for the race and waking up every hour to use the bathroom.We were up at 4:45am, marathon morning. Lois had decided to walk to the start with a couple of the guys; Mark, Phil and I opted to drive to the finish and take the shuttle over to the start-maybe a mile or 2 away at the University of Oregon's, Hayward Field, which beginning June 27th, will be the scene of the Olympic Track and Field trials. Everything went very smoothly, even when we got to the starting line- the baggage check was easy to find and port-a-potty lines were not that bad. Of course, I wasn't at the start to get a good spot to line up; however I did find a break in the corral fence to sneak in-along with about 100 others!
The race begins in front of Hayward Field, travels around Amazon Park and the University of Oregon, then crosses the Willamette River 3 times, makes a loop through Alton Baker Park East and into neighboring Springfield. The return to Eugene follows along bike paths and at least 10 miles of very scenic trails along the river while taking you in and out of 6 parks! The finish line is at East Gate Tower in front of Autzen Stadium.I was very happy with the course, not many hills, beautiful scenery, a sprinkling of spectators and plenty of runners -but not too many!-around me to pace off. My only issue was with the temperature. I had expected it would be chilly in the morning, the race begins at 7am, however by mile 20 I was still wearing my throw away shirt! I should have planned to just wear a long sleeve shirt to begin with. I was not really comfortable with the brisk temps and cloudy skies--actually this is known as perfect marathon weather...I only wished I had an extra shirt or jacket on for it!Mark and Phil were not too happy with the course at all. Mark hates to run on concrete, and sure enough, most of the bike trails are concrete. At mile 16 he decided it wasn't his day and dropped out. This was really bad luck for him as he only needed this race-Oregon and Montana, to complete his 50 States 2nd time finish. Actually, in looking through my photos from the weekend I noticed Mark was wearing the race shirt on Saturday. Could he have fallen victim to "the curse of wearing the shirt before the race"?Unfortunately for Phil, he took a couple of wrong turns, lost the pack of runners he was following and added another hour and a half to his time getting back on course. Finally we met at the finish line. Mark drove us back to our hotel and quickly left to drive back for his flight out of Portland an hour away.
Phil and I spent the rest of the afternoon resting and relaxing with Lois. She had had run a good race and was very pleased with the marathon. At marathon number 280, she’s become an expert.We left for our flight back to LV from Eugene at about 6pm---enough time for a stop for a gelato at a downtown cafe.I definitely recommend this race for next year. See for details.
AND check out for more info on the Saturday Market.

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