The Eugene Marathon was started in 2007. Eugene is known as being “Track Town USA” and is the hometown of the University of Oregon. Being about a 2 ½ hour drive from Bend, Melissa and I thought it would be a fun race to do in the spring. Melissa was going to do the half marathon and I wanted to run the full. The race is held in early May which meant that our training needed to start in the middle of winter. This is not a big deal for me since I like running in the snow. Melissa on the other hand was not a big fan.
The race in 2010 was going to be my third stand alone marathon. In the previous two marathons I had to deal with some injuries during training and was not able to train fully. For Eugene I was able to get in a full training and was ready for the race. Melissa and I drove over a day early to pick up our race packets and wander around Eugene. Both of us had never really stopped in Eugene, just driven through. We picked up our race stuff at the expo and checked into our hotel. The rest of the afternoon we went to a couple of shops around town and got some Italian food from a local restaurant. We headed back to our hotel early as we needed our sleep. Our hotel was just off the freeway but we were able to get a decent night’s sleep.
Race morning always comes early and this one did as well. We woke up before sunrise, showered, ate a quick breakfast, and were out the door to the race. Due to the lack of parking around the start/finish line we parked in the parking garage near the race expo and took the shuttle to the start line. Race morning was partly cloudy with temperatures in the low 50’s. It would get a bit warmer during the second half of the race but overall it was great weather for a run. The start for the Half and Full Marathons are at the same time and are on the same course. This meant that there was about 7000 at the starting line. I chose to line up farther back with Melissa even though I was hoping for a fast time. The gun went off and we said our good lucks.
The Eugene Marathon course is fairly flat; it has roughly 400 feet of ascent and descent. The only major hill is around mile 4 ½. The course travels the first 7 miles in the neighborhoods of Eugene. From there it goes through Amazon Park and back into the neighborhoods by the starting line. Just past mile 10 the half marathon and marathon courses split ways and the Marathon course heads into Springfield. The course runs Business 126 into Springfield and then weaves its way through some neighborhoods. Once it reaches Continental Boulevard the course heads west back to Eugene. Back into Eugene at mile 15 the course goes near Autzen Stadium and then follows the river path for the rest of the race. It goes out to mile 21 and back to the finish. As a bonus, 2010 was the first year that the race was finishing in historic Hayward Field. With the flatter course, lower elevation, and solid training, I was expecting to have a good race, aiming for something around 3 ½ hours.
The first two miles of the race were the slowest I would run all day. The course over those first couple miles was really crowded. Slowly but surely I made my way through the pack. By mile 3 and the start of the hill I was working my way up nicely. Since I had started near the 4 hour pacing group, I had now made my way up to the 3:40 pacing group. The course was a little wider in this section as well which made for easier running. I continued to keep a solid pace until reaching Amazon Park. Here the course got really narrow and crowded. I had to run little sprints through the grass to pass large groups of people. Since I was feeling good and had just passed the 3:30 group I just kept the pace I was at. Up to this point I had been doing a good job hydrating myself and taking in nutrition. Passing by the finishing line at mile 10 there were already some half marathon finishers, amazing. The Springfield portion of the course was definitely the toughest. There was not as much crowd support or as much to look at. I was also starting to feel the effects of the faster pace. My pace had crept up a little bit but I was feeling good. I passed the ½ marathon timing mat in a personal best 1:38:03.
Heading back into Eugene I could feel the air warming up. As compared to Bend, I could really feel the humidity from the grass near the trail. Around mile 17 I started to catch up to the 3:20 pace group. Unlike some of the earlier groups, the catch and pass took a bit longer but I finally made it at mile 18 ½. At mile 19 I started to get some slight cramping in my legs. It turns out I was not doing as well as I thought at my nutrition. For the next 4 miles I was able to shorten my stride a little bit and slowed up my pace by 15 seconds per mile. Unfortunately that meant the 3:20 pace group passed me back at mile 22. I kept my spirits up though and kept pushing on. I was now just trying to survive to the finish as I was starting to bonk. Mile 23 to 25 ½ seemed to take forever. My pace was slowing to a pace similar to my first two miles and the distance could not pass by fast enough. The last half a mile I started to pick up the pace again knowing the finish was right there. I was at a near sprint when I entered into Hayward Field and finished at 3:20:22. By personal best by almost 50 minutes.
As soon as I got across the finish line it hit me, I was spent. I staggered over to get my timing chip off and Mylar blanket on. I went and picked up some food and started looking for Melissa. She had finished her Half Marathon a bit slower than she had hoped; turns out her allergies really affected her race. As soon as I found her we wandered over to an open piece of grass so I could lie down. The next 20 minutes or so I spent writhing in pain. My legs were cramping up so much that it was all I could do to make it bearable. Some water, potato chips, and banana later I was back on my feet but just barely. We had to head over to catch the shuttle back to our car. I still was not doing so hot, I felt like an old man hunched over and walking gingerly to the bus. I had to do the same on the way to the car and Melissa had to drive us back to our motel. A couple of snacks and a shower later I was starting to feel normal again. We checked out of our hotel and stopped at a Burger King for lunch. By this point I was able to drive again wile Melissa napped on our drive home.
Overall the Eugene Marathon was a fun and well organized race. With only 400 or so elevation gain and loss it is a fast but fair course. On this occasion the weather was perfect but can be hit or miss in May. I think with any race of this size, it is important to line up in the correct spot at the start to give you the best opportunity for a fast race. I was fortunate to have been able to find my way through the mayhem and gave it everything I had to the finish. My race proved that with a full training regiment I might have a chance at qualifying for Boston, which will be my goal for next time. I would fully recommend the Eugene Marathon. “Track Town USA” knows how to put on a running race. As always, your mileage may vary.
- Inov-8 F-Lite 220 Shoes – No blisters and comfortable all the way. Really like these shoes.