The Magic of Track Town
Take a tour of Eugene's iconic track & field history
Hayward Field and I go way back.
I grew up in Eugene, so I was lucky enough to be one of the little kids running the 400m at the Oregon Track Club’s All-Comers Meets each July. When I was 14, I was cheering in the stands as an extra in the film Without Limits. As an undergrad at the University of Oregon, I jogged laps around the track between classes.
And yet although I’ve been in the stands more times than I could ever count, the magic of being inside Hayward Field still gets to me. I’ll never forget the way the crowd erupted at the 2008 Olympic Trials as the men of Oregon swept the 800m. I lost my voice cheering for Lauren Fleshman in 2012 as she overcame seemingly insurmountable odds after injury to reach the 5k finals. And at last year’s Prefontaine Classic, I stood just a few feet away from Justin Gatlin’s starting blocks, watching him prepare right before he went on to win the 200m.
But what I really appreciate about Eugene is that the magic feeling of Hayward extends even beyond its gates. There’s a rich history here that starts with Steve Prefontaine, the University of Oregon and Nike and extends to trails and paths, road runs and the community. Here are a few spots that should be on anyone’s list when visiting Track Town, USA. And don’t be surprised if you pass a world-class Olympic athlete while you’re biking the river path – I passed Andrew Wheating walking his dog just the other day.
Prefontaine, the University of Oregon and Nike history
- Visit Pre’s Rock, the site of the tragic accident that killed the legendary runner Steve Prefontaine in 1975. (Note: parking is limited at this site and you should use caution when walking on the narrow road.)
- Go for a run or walk on Pre’s Trail, which winds through Alton Baker Park and past Autzen Stadium. Pre was inspired to create this trail before his death; his former coach and Nike co-founder Bill Bowerman and the community later fulfilled his dream by completing Eugene’s first soft chip trail.
- Visit the Eugene Nike Store and neighboring Eugene Running Company; both have collections of Track Town memorabilia on display.
Trails, Parks and River Paths
- Run one of Eugene’s popular running trails. The Ridgeline Trail also makes a great hike and connects to great stops like Spencer Butte and Cascades Raptor Center.
- Bike, run or stroll the 12-mile Ruth Bascom Riverbank Path. The route connects several parks and scenic stops, including the Delta Ponds and Island Park.
- Take a look at Eugene from the top of Spencer and Skinner Butte. Every year on the 4th of July, Eugene hosts a 10k road race between the pair of buttes that frame our skyline. You can easily drive to the top of Skinner Butte, but you’ll need to take the short but steep trek up to get the best view of Eugene from atop Spencer Butte.
Eat + Drink
- Walk up the street from Hayward Field for an ice cream cone at Prince Puckler’s; I take my kids in between races at all-comers meets. For dinner, Beppe & Gianni’s Trattoria is right across the street and I can’t recommend their housemade ravioli enough.
- Grab your morning coffee and a pastry at Noisette Pastry Kitchen downtown and take a walk to Kesey Square, a brick plaza featuring a statue of famous author Ken Kesey. Also highly recommended in this area: Red Wagon Creamery for a classic sundae with a not-quite-classic flavor like sweet corn & honey.
- No trip to Eugene is complete without a trip to The Whiteaker neighborhood. Sample the ever-changing menu of tacos and margaritas at Tacovore, or head to Izakaya Meiji, a whiskey bar and tapas-style Japanese restaurant all in one. Try the bourbon & ginger (my favorite drink in all of Eugene), then head next door to Sam Bond’s Garage for live music after dinner. And don’t miss the trio of Eugene Ale Trail stops in this neighborhood: Ninkasi, Hop Valley and Oakshire.