Eugene Marathon 2018

Posted: May 6, 2018 in Race Reports, Travel
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eugene marathon

A week after my fourth marathon and I’m still soaking in the whole experience.

I want to dedicate this post to the amazing people in my running world who gave me the motivation, encouragement and accountability that helped me achieve my goal at the 2018 Eugene Marathon. First of all, my partner and biggest fan, whose support and on-course photography are top-notch. He survived the ‘marathon widower’ training period without complaint. Secondly, to the team at Forerunners Van (too many to name, but Allie, Ciara, Laurel and Andrea…you are my crew!). Finally, training under the watchful eye of Coach Tony – thanks to you and Mile2Marathon for pushing me further than I thought I could ever go.

Now, on to the race – the phenomenal Eugene Marathon!

Last year, I trained for the BMO Vancouver Marathon (click to read the 2017 race report) and wanted so badly to crack the 4-hour mark. We trained hard, but the day came and went with that goal just out of reach. Disappointing, but I gamely signed up within a few days for the 2018 BMO Marathon. However, as the training year progressed, the thought of trying something a bit different bubbled up. And with a bit of rubber arm twisting by Allie, I registered for the 2018 Eugene Marathon.

Coaching / Race Prep

During a December long run, Andrea raved to me about Coach Tony and his one-on-one coaching through Mile2Marathon. I always viewed that group as a bunch of speedsters (they are) and had never considered personal coaching. But with a bit of encouragement and two thumbs up from Andrea, I took the plunge.

In short, Coach Tony built a training plan that took me through four months of intense preparation. He worked around my wacky schedule (including my 30k Around the Bay Race) and kept me accountable for the most training I’ve ever done in my life. I started attending the hardcore Mile2Maraton track workouts – they were both intimidating and invigorating, and ultimately gave me the push I think I needed.

When we finally reached marathon week, I met with Tony for a race prep discussion. He covered the race plan, hydration and nutrition, and race gear. After realizing that I’d run over 1000 kilometres on my current shoes, he threw me a curveball and encouraged me to buy a new (identical) pair for the race. But, you should never do anything new on race day? Never mind! After a test run – with one old shoe on my left foot, and a new shoe on the right – I knew that this was a necessary purchase. No regrets!

eugene marathon

Travel to Eugene

Our little gang – Ciara, Allie and myself – had originally planned to drive to Eugene, which is just over two hours south of Portland. But after considering the relative cost, the distance and the potential pain of driving 10 hours after a marathon…we flew to Portland instead. We even saw Mt. Saint Helen’s from the air!

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The drive from Portland to Eugene was uneventful. Friday was our travel day, so we had plenty of time to relax that afternoon and evening – with some of the best Thai food Eugene has to offer! (PRO TIP: Make a reservation!)

Eugene Marathon Expo

Eugene is known as Track Town USA (click the link to learn more!). It’s the birthplace of Nike and hosts multiple track events every year. The University of Oregon’s Hayward Field – where the marathon starts and finishes – is one of the world’s best known track and field stadiums. The enthusiasm for running was evident all over town!

After a morning shakeout run followed by an amazing brunch at the vegetarian Morning Glory Cafe (highly recommended!), our little gang headed to the Eugene Marathon Expo. Package pickup was quick and we browsed the vendors briefly before heading out for a driving tour of the first half of the marathon course.

eugene marathon

That afternoon, while the girls went shopping (Oregon = no tax = bathing suits?), I spent time at Starbucks studying the course map and planning my strategy. What pace would I run? When would I ramp up my efforts? How often would I take gels? Fortunately, Tony had set out a pretty clear plan – it was just up to me to execute.

eugene marathon

That evening, we gathered with the whole Forerunners crew for dinner at Mazzi’s (thanks to Walter for the recommendation). We were all Eugene newbies, and it was great to carb-load together! In addition to our group of three, Judy, Carol, Robyn and Ray were running (and Robyn’s mom and boyfriend came along to cheer her for her first-ever marathon!)

eugene marathon

Pre-Race

Although rain had been predicted in the days leading up to the race, I checked my weather app as soon as the alarm went off at 4:45am. NO RAIN! Celebration!! Our hotel provided a nice breakfast – oatmeal for me! – and we were ready to go.

eugene marathon

Shuttle buses took folks from the hotel to the start. We checked our gear at the stadium and walked a couple of blocks to the start line. (PRO TIP: the lineups for the toilets are huge at the stadium…go to the start line!) I did a few warmups, and got ready to race.

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On the Course

I had broken out the Eugene Marathon course into three segments: the first half; the middle (21-34 km); and the final stretch. Tony and I agreed that I’d keep the pace easy for the half marathon, pick things up a bit until a predetermined point, and then ramp up the effort through to the finish. Here’s how it went:

Because we had sussed out most of the route for the first half, I knew what to expect. We left Hayward Field, weaved among some residential neighbourhoods, and then completed a long out-and-back along Amazon Drive, which went slightly uphill to the turnaround. There is a greenspace/creek in the middle of the road so the scenery was pleasant. I held my pace pretty constant, and hydrated on schedule. I saw a woman running barefoot. Nutty.

Around 14k there was an unexpected hill (we hadn’t driven this bit), but it was nothing compared to BMO’s Camosun hill. Challenging but not insurmountable. (Best sign: It’s a hill. Get over it.)

We looped back past Hayward Field and then crossed a bridge over the Willamette River.

eugene marathon

I would like to mention that Andrea had given me some very specific advice:

Have a great race on Sunday. Concentrate on each Km … stick to your time, be consistent. Don’t waste time talking to people or smiling at people during the race. You can make friends later… it’s a race not a fun run.

And you know what? I followed that advice. Didn’t smile, didn’t high five. Thanked only the volunteers at the aid stations. Kept focused throughout.

At this point the half marathoners turned left and we marathoners continued to the right towards the town of Springfield. And the first half was complete.

I picked up my pace as we headed for the long, straight stretch along Centennial Blvd.

My favourite moment: a cop was stopping traffic, and some woman yelled from her car about waiting. He answered: “It’s a race. It happens every year. You can wait.” I thanked him.

We made a tight turn at Autzen Stadium – the U of O football stadium pictured below – until we were running alongside the Willamette River.

eugene marathon

I had decided that my ‘up the effort’ would start as I crossed the Owasso Bridge at the 34 kilometre turnaround point. Tony had warned me that while my pace might not increase, it would be at this point that I owned the race. And only 8 kilometres to go!

All along the course the supporters and aid station volunteers were amazing. So much enthusiasm! And with my name on my bib, I’ve never heard people cheer for ‘Bradley’ so much! That truly kept me motivated.

It was tough. I was hurting. But unlike last year’s BMO, where I pretty much fell apart after 30k, I had the strength to keep moving. Although my pace dropped a bit, I was able to keep it steady. At 23 miles, with 5k to go, I rewarded myself by looking at my time. “I’ve done 5k hungover before, I can do this.” I knew I could make it.

In the final kilometre, we veered away from the river and back towards Hayward Field. I could hear the cheers. And then, finally, we entered the stadium for a half lap of the track. I couldn’t see anything but the finish line and pushed harder than I’ve ever pushed to cross that finish line. Here is my ‘face of pain’:

eugene marathon

Post-Race

It was a bit of a blur, those first steps across the finish line. I knew I had done it – I had broken four hours. I leaned on a barrier to catch my breath, wondering if I might throw up. A woman wrapped in a blanket asked me if I was OK. I nodded and she said: “I can’t walk, so I’m just standing here.”

I snapped my medal photo and proved to myself that I had run a sub-4.

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And then, for the first time in all of the 100+ races I’ve run, the tears welled up. I started crying.

Not ugly crying or body-wracking sobs…just tears of joy and relief.

I came around the corner, chugged some chocolate milk, and found my peeps. Hugged these two amazing women furiously. Ciara? She did a 12-minute PB. Allie? She f*&king qualified for Boston! SO PROUD OF THEM!

eugene marathon 

Everything after was just…after. Changed our clothes, cleaned up and checked out of the hotel, joined Ray for brunch, and finally drove back to Portland. Enjoyed a well-earned beer. And home again. Mission accomplished!

Final Results

Chip time: 3:55:45
Average pace: 5:33 min/km
Overall place: 704/1495
Place in age category: 57/99

Click here for complete race results


Quick Recap – Eugene Marathon

Social Media: The Eugene Marathon folks know how to do things right. Incredibly informative website, just enough pre-race email updates and active social media. And they pay attention, too – responding and ‘liking’ when mentioned. A+ job

Social channels:  Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

Packet Pickup: The Expo was a decent size – big enough to be interesting, but not so big that you end up wasting a lot of time. We got bibs right away, no waiting required. T-shirts were waiting at the end. I tried mine on, but it was too small – they quickly upsized me.

T-Shirt/Swag: The Eugene Marathon Nike t-shirt is probably one of my favourites. Great fit, fun and classy design. I’m going to cherish this one! The medal is brilliant – chunky and beautiful, with the route map engraved on the reverse. Brilliant.

Course: One of the flattest courses I’ve run. The two ‘hills’ are in the first half. Although there is a subtle uphill grade for much of the final 6km, it’s not significant. You just need to fight through it. Although running that half track at the very end is challenging, hearing the roar of the crowd is inspiring and pushes you to the finish.

Post-Race: We were exhausted, so we didn’t stick around for long. I know there was a beer tent, but I had no appetite for alcohol. I did grab a freshly made grilled cheese sandwich. That was amazing. All in all…what you need at a finish festival.

Would I Run It Again? Yes, yes and yes! The travel distance is the only barrier, but all things being equal I would return to run for the flat course, the scenery, the encouragement all along the race route – and the enthusiasm of a track town! Well-organized, some of the most enthusiastic volunteers I’ve ever encountered, one of my favourite races ever!

eugene marathon

Comments
  1. Emily says:

    Yay, congratulations again! I love reading race reports but my favourite are the ones where long-time-goals are achieved. Props to you for your training but also for executing the strategy/mental part so well- sometimes that’s the hardest part!

  2. Justin Hanes says:

    Thank you so much for participating in the 2018 Eugene Marathon! On behalf of the entire staff, we’re so happy that your experience was positive. And to be completely honest, we are SO happy that the rain held off, too. We hope to see you in 2019!


    Justin Hanes
    Eugene Marathon Event Coordinator

  3. Bryan Balmer says:

    Hi Bradley – I’m a fellow Vancouver runner, and I enjoy your blog very much. Congratulations on your Eugene marathon …which is a distance I have not yet tackled (just signed up for 2019 BMO full, after completing my first half this year!).

    I felt compelled to offer an alternative perspective on your remark “Didn’t smile, didn’t high five.” I just finished reading Alex Hutchinson’s book Endure. He outlines research that has demonstrated that endurance capacity increases when athletes are exposed to positive stimuli. This can be as simple as seeing pictures of smiles, but also included charitable acts (or even thinking about charitable acts!). I would encourage you to check out Alex’s book, but also consider integrating some level of human interaction into your future runs. I recognize that we all have personal preferences, and that too much of a good thing could become distracting. Although I have no way to demonstrate this, I believe my stamina benefited during the BMO Half by making eye contact and saying multiple thank-you’s with perhaps over a hundred volunteers and supporters along the course.

    • bjcjapan says:

      Thanks for visiting my blog and commenting, Bryan! I’m excited for you in tackling your first full in 2019! Very exciting!
      It’s really interesting you mention “Endure” – one of my running friends actually suggested reading it during our longer run on Saturday. The fact is that I generally do a LOT of smiling and high fiving – lots of engagement with the crowd – during my races. But I felt the need to really focus on this race, and I believe it was the right choice. I made sure to thank the volunteers at the water stops, the police stopping traffic…and, when I knew I might throw up if I said another word, waving at folks calling my name. Let’s see what happens at Scotia Half!

  4. Bain says:

    Hooray! I’m glad you loved it.

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