A little course guide for those who are running the Eugene Marathon this year.
The first 10 miles are all in neighborhoods around the University of Oregon and in south Eugene. They’re mostly on city streets, though mile eight is on bike paths through Amazon Park. All the hills on the course are in these first ten miles.
Just a few blocks after the start, there’s a noticeable incline to get up to Fairmount, then shortly after that, one coming down. After that, it’s a very gradual downhill through the first two miles. (Rounding the mile two corner onto Hilyard street, look across the road to see my old Middle School. Oh how I hated it.) Hilyard is pretty flat, as is the first mile of East Amazon. East and West Amazon run on either side of (you guessed it) Amazon Creek; the course takes East Amazon as far south as it goes, then connects over to the end of West Amazon via Center Way and Martin Street. Toward the south end, after milepost 4, you’ll start to notice a bit of a climb. Center Way is the steepest section of the whole course, with a 2% grade. This hill is new this year. Yeah, hills suck, but it also means you get to see the house I grew up in, 965 Martin Street. (The house is still there but the block looks a lot different now.)
Enjoy the downhill coming back north on West Amazon. You can see those poor suckers behind you still struggling their way south. Shake your fist at them! No, no, don’t do that. You can also see, on both sides of the creek, a bark dust trail. You probably wish your home town had more bark dust running paths, don’t you? (I know I do.)
Shortly before milepost seven, the course takes a dangerous jog to the left — watch the curb! — and goes onto the bike paths in Amazon park. Since it’s only mile seven and the bike path is a lot narrower than the streets, you might expect a little crowding here. But of course, by now everybody around you is probably running about the same pace as you are, so even though you’re all packed closer together, hopefully you’re not slowing down. It’s also around this point that you may start hearing half-marathoners talking about being more than halfway done or “almost there.” Please, try to remember that running a half marathon is a great accomplishment in its own right, and that by no means should you scornfully spit on these pansy-assed so-called “runners.”
The bike path stays flat through the park and past South Eugene High School. There will probably be a big crowd of cheering people around the High School; I guess the race officials designate it as a cheering zone or somesuch. Wave and smile.
The bike path ends near milepost eight, right by the High School. The course turns east back toward the starting area — and uphill. The last significant hill in the race is during this mile. It’s not a killer, but you’ll notice it. Once you’re over the crest, you might notice you’re back at the same corner where you were at mile one. This time you turn north on Agate, run past Hayward Field, and cross Franklin Boulevard. Just before you get to the river, you head east and reach milepost 10.
This part of the course takes you east on the Willamette into Springfield and west on the north bank into the delta ponds area. It’s mostly on bike path, with some road in Springfield. It’s all really flat, with an unnoticeable net downhill.
Last year, they had us run over the Autzen Footbridge (due north of Agate St) and then make a clockwise loop in Springfield. We then finished over the Autzen footbridge, too. It became a choke point. And the clockwise loop meant that the route crossed itself, which might have been a problem. This year, you’re running along the south bank over to the next footbridge to the east — the Knickerbocker Bridge — then crossing that and looping through Springfield in a counterclockwise manner.
The bike paths on the north side of the Willamette last until mile 12 or so, then you hit the mean streets of Springfield, making a loop of D, Pioneer Parkway, Centennial, and Rainbow. That gets you to mile 14, and after one more short bit on D Street, you’re back on the paths north of the Willamette. You skirt Pre’s Trail (another one of those bark dust running trails those Eugenians are so crazy about) and veer close to Autzen Stadium. Then it’s flat bike paths heading west, through Alton Baker Park, under the Ferry Street Bridge, out past Valley River Center (Eugene’s venerable mall) and along paths threading delicately between the Willamette River and the Delta Ponds wetlands. This portion out here among the ponds is probably the prettiest bit. What a shame it’s between miles 19 and 20, where we’re all starting to fall apart.
Miles 20-26.2 (a.k.a. “the second half of the race”)
One more mile north and you cross the last footbridge of the race, back to the south (or west, since the river’s turned from east-vest to north-south by this point) side of the Willamette. This bridge is called the “Owosso Bridge,” and you should be owosso happy to have only five miles left. (That pun took me two hours to write.) Last year they had a stupid little out and back on the bike path right before we crossed the bridge, but according to the maps, that’s gone now. Which is a good thing.
Heading back south and west into town along Copping street and bike paths, you might start hearing cheering spectators saying things like “almost there!” The nice thing about Eugene, though, is that it’s a town that understands running, so there aren’t too many people who shout moronic things like that with four miles left to go. And the ones that do shout things like that don’t seem to mind as much when you punch them in the stomach. I’m only kidding. Please don’t punch them in the stomach.
Scenic bike paths take you along the Willamette now all the way to mile 25.5 or so. They’re all really flat, except for a pair of annoying little rollers near 24.5, as you go under the Ferry Street Bridge and past EWEB. If we’re lucky, it won’t be a windy day, either. If you’re like me, you won’t recall much about this portion of the race anyway, aside from a vague impression of hazy pain.
The bike path will start taking some wild side-to-side turns (it’s the path, not you) as it approaches the Autzen footbridge, which we’ll turn away from, heading back down toward Agate Street and the finish. Round the corner onto 15th, sprint 500 more feet, and you’re done. Nothin’ to it.