Race Recap – Eugene Half-Marathon

I’ll preface this recap with two things:

  1. I was given a race entry to the Eugene Half from the group I’m running with this year, Portland Women’s Run Club. They had a few bibs up for grabs and I was lucky enough to snag one.
  2. Eugene was, hands down, the BEST overall race experience I’ve ever had.

So, Eugene is about a two hour drive for us. Since the race started at 7 AM on Sunday morning, we decided to stay the night down there on Saturday (because I was not about to drive down at 4 AM the day of, AND they charged extra for day of packet pick-up). I nabbed a last minute hotel room at Valley River Inn, which was actually one of the preferred hotels, meaning there was a shuttle directly from the hotel to the start line on Sunday morning. Perfect! We were able to check in early when we arrived at 1, and then we immediately headed to the race expo held outside Hayward Field.Packet pick took about five seconds, the expo was, well, an expo (but look I found my name on this big wall of names!), and we were hungry. So we went in search of food, but not before I made Shayne do a loop around the outskirts of Hayward (the actual track was not open for the expo).I’ll save our Eugene eats and drinks and adventures for a subsequent post, but we had  a tasty lunch and spent the afternoon walking around downtown before heading back to the hotel to watch the Kentucky Derby. Shayne took a little nap, I kicked back for a bit, and eventually we went out for a little urban hike and dinner. Then it was time to set out Flat Marge.I ended up scrapping the hat and wearing sunglasses instead. The Portland Marathon shirt was to wear on the bus ride to the starting line. I snoozed once after my 5 AM alarm, then popped out of bed to use the bathroom and take my time getting ready. I grabbed my Larabar (as I didn’t have a toaster to make my regular avocado toast, I had to improvise) and my gear check bag and was on the bus by 6:10 AM.  I ditched my long sleeve a little too early, hit the port-potty line, and then headed to the start. The marathon and half-marathon start at the same time, so I found the 4:45 pace group and asked what they were planning to run, as the race goes 10 miles before the marathoners split off. Apparently, the slower pace groups were all utilizing a run/walk strategy, so the pacer told me she was planning to average 10:30 minute miles and then walk a minute at the end of each mile, as well as through each water station. I started with them, but was hoping to not walk (with the exception of water stations, because I’m not coordinated), so I didn’t plan on sticking with them for long. Shortly after 7, we were off! Even with the seeded corrals, I still spent the first mile or so bobbing and weaving around walkers. Though the streets were closed, there were still parked cars, so the first few streets were a little bit of a bottle neck. The first three miles wind through residential streets around University of Oregon, before heading south on Amazon Drive. I had driven this section of the course the day before and thought it was and out-and-back, however it turns out that the out was on one side of a thin park/trail system, and the back was on the other side, so we got some variety. I was cruising at 10:45-11:15 per mile, right on par with my training runs or even a titch faster, but I felt good. I was listening to one of my favorite podcasts, Ali on the Run Show, the weather was gorgeous, and it was a perfect running morning. I grabbed water at every water stop, which were positioned about two miles apart, because I knew I was a bit dehydrated. I started taking Margarita Shot Bloks at mile 4 and proceeded to eat one every two miles.

The kinda-out-and-back along Amazon Park lasted through Mile 7, before we hit the neighborhoods of central Eugene again. The only significant hill was at Mile 8.5, but thankfully there was a church group at the top that had turned it into “High-Five Hill” and were very peppy. I passed quite a few people on the hill, as I was sticking to my no-walking run. At Mile 9, you pass the finish line at Hayward, which is borderline painful because you can see the faster runners coming in to the finish, but the course immediately sends you out along the Willamette River for Miles 10-12.

The only other time I stopped was to quickly snap this shot on the first of two foot bridges we crossed.

We ran along a foot path through Alton Baker Park. At one point, we passed Pre’s Trail (where I silently paid homage to Steve Prefontaine).By Mile 12.5, we were crossing the river again and I was ready to be DONE. Thank you, U of O pep band, for being stationed in exactly the right spot. There were spectators the whole last half mile, and then it was time for a partial lap in Hayward! I look like I’m crying in this picture because I think I was. This was seriously the BEST finish line feeling ever. Did you guys watch the US Olympic Trials for track and field last year? Yeah, that was Hayward. This is the closest I will ever be to Olympic glory. Spectators fill the main grandstand to cheer on their loved ones. It helps that I was coming in about the same time as one of the top marathoners. There was lots of cheering. I pretended it was for me.Shayne got this shot of me coming down the final stretch. There’s a timing mat right at the entrance of the field, so the announcer did a great job of highlighting all the finishers.Just like that, I had a new PR by over two minutes – 2:27:07! I’m working on my own little Breaking2 project here…half-marathon edition. Though I know I could have had more focused training this spring, I feel like I’m in better shape than ever and I’ve seen gains in my speed and endurance.

Shayne met me on the other side of the finish chute and I hobbled off to the U of O Rec Center for a free shower. The locker room was the nicest I had ever been in. Plus I was one of the first people in the building, so a nice hot clean shower felt AMAZING.

So, how does the Eugene Marathon (and Half) stack up?

Pros: This race is incredibly well organized. Packet pick up was a breeze. But I think people mostly run this race because it’s EUGENE. It’s Track Town USA. Home of Pre, original birth place of Nike, etc etc. You really feel that in this race. Everyone is excited to be there. I was also impressed with the level of community support. Lots of people lined the streets outside their homes to cheer, and I saw some great posters (my favorite being “Did someone remember to wake Jean-Paul?!”). The fact that there is also a full marathon helps I’m sure. Speaking of, I WANT TO DO THE EUGENE FULL. I liked the scenery and the relatively flat course, and I think the second half is more of the same. The finish line is UNREAL. I heard that they are going to do some remodeling in Hayward so that they can host the IAAF World Championships in 2021, so I hope it doesn’t lose its magic.

Cons: I can only think of one – I don’t care for the race shirt. It’s a great quality Nike dri-fit, but I hate clingy women’s cut shirts, and this is the CLINGIEST, plus it’s white. I don’t own a single white sports bra and don’t feel like showing off every sports bra pattern I own, so I probably won’t be wearing it much. Literally everything else was amazing.

Eugene, I’ll be back FOR SURE!

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