Track Town, USA, the American Mecca for the sport, ... the list of synonyms for Eugene, Oregon goes on and on, but one thing is for sure, Eugene is considered the capital of the running world, or at least in the United States.
Nestled in the Willamette Valley between the Pacific Ocean and Cascade Mountain Range, the Eugene-Springfield community boasts a population of approximately 250,000, and enjoys a favorable, mild climate that rarely sees snow or temperatures above 90 degrees.
Although the city rests at an elevation of 400 feet, high-altitude training above 4,000 feet is accessible 40 miles away, skiing at Willamette Pass (6,669) is 60 miles to the southeast. Lane County is the only county in the lower 48 that boasts both an ocean coast (60 miles to the west) and a glacier (nestled atop the Three Sisters to the east near Bend, Ore., and are all above 10,000 feet).
Visitors rave about how green the area is. The University of Oregon campus itself is filled with natural beauty, and trees, trails and grass fill the landscape.
Rumor has it that it rains a lot in Oregon, but its 51 inches of annual rainfall is similar to Atlanta, Charlotte, Nashville, and New York, and less than Miami, New Orleans and Philadelphia. Locals rarely worry about umbrellas and rain jackets in the summer, since the monthly rainfall during June, July, August and September is less than 1 1/2 inches per month (and July averages barely more than a half-inch). Summer temperatures are equally mild, and July's average high 81.7 degrees, and the average nightly low is 52.7 degrees.
It's been consistently honored by Runner's World as one of nation's top 10 running cities. Sports Illustrated on Campus recently ranked it fourth among college towns, and the city has also been tabbed on recent top-10 lists for Cosmopolitan, Money and Sunset magazines.
At the heart of Eugene is Hayward Field - host to 4 Olympic Trials, 10 NCAA Championships and 8 USA Championships - the most of any venue in recent history in each category.
The U.S. Olympic Trials will once again return to Track Town in 2012 (June 22-July 1). The event is often considered the best track and field meet in the world, and more event information is located at http://tracktown12.gotracktownusa.com.
Every year, the Prefontaine Classic - America's finest single-day meet - brings the world's best to Hayward Field and the meet is a IAAF Level 1 meet that ranks among the world's best. In the past, it's been held on the same weekend as the Oregon State High School Championships and NCAA Championships, creating a triple-header that track and field buffs have revered as the best eight days of track and field in USA.
The venue is the finest track-only venue in the nation, and it's knowledgeable, attentive and loud audience are hailed as arugably the finest anywhere in the world.
The American 'jogging' craze was born in Eugene in the 1960s when Oregon coach Bill Bowerman introduced the sport to the local masses after a trip to New Zealand. His Duck athletes served as personal instructors to local citizens, and the favor was returned in the 70s when the local masses flooded UO track and field meets - including the 1972, 1976 and 1980 Olympic Trials, making Hayward Field the epicenter for American track and field.
More than thirty years after his death, Steve Prefontaine still remains Oregon's favorite track son. A native of nearby coastal town Coos Bay, he won three collegiate national titles in cross country (1970, 71, 73), and four titles on the oval (5K/3-mile, 1970, 71, 72, 73). He also held every American record from the two-mile up through the 10K before he was tragically killed at the age of 25 in an auto accident on May 30, 1975. Just over a mile from the track to the east in Hendricks Park, a memorial at the crash site remains today and runners constantly visit and adorn Pre's Rock with race numbers and blue ribbons. His memory also lives on in two recent movies - Prefontaine and Without Limits - and the book Pre!
Visitors are equally impressed by the sport's featured place in daily life. European-style soft, wood-chip trail surfaces wind throughout town, including the Steve Prefontaine Trail (approximately 10K in length) next to the Willamette River in Alton Baker Park. Other concrete and asphalt trails offer miles of off-road recreation to walkers, roller-bladers and bicyclists (with more than 50,000 bicycles also calling Eugene home).