: Jake Willard / TrackTown USA

Plan a Eugene Run-cation

Here’s where to run, refuel and rest in TrackTown, USA.
April 25, 2024

A city’s nickname doesn’t always tell you much about what to expect when you visit. But TrackTown, USA? Once you visit Eugene in the southern Willamette Valley, you’ll understand why so many runners of all ages and abilities make the journey here every year to experience its one-of-a-kind culture, history and outdoorsy energy. 

Pre's Trail

Run in the Footsteps of Pre and Other Track & Field Legends

It’s been nearly 50 years since University of Oregon distance running phenom Steve Prefontaine died in a tragic car crash, cutting short the prime of his life and career but his legacy has not faded, even decades later. 

Fans of his racing style and rebel attitude still run through Hendricks Park, just east of the UO campus, to visit Pre’s Rock, turning the site of his death into a living shrine adorned with race medals, running shoes and other treasured mementos.

Meanwhile, Pre’s Trail on the northern banks of the Willamette River endures as a hub for competitive and recreational runners alike, offering more than four miles of woodchip running trails on the banks of the Willamette River. 

To immerse yourself in the history of TrackTown while experiencing Hendricks Park and Pre’s Trail for yourself, try this nine-mile running route that will take you to a series of track and field landmarks along the way (labeled A-G on the map below). Or, download the Strides for Social Justice app and take a self-guided walking tour of Eugene’s Black history

A. Hayward Hall Museum. The iconic Hayward Field Tower that marks the northeast entrance to the stadium isn’t just for looks. It’s also home to a 4,000 square-foot interactive museum honoring the rich history of track and field at Hayward Field, new and old. 

B. Pre’s Rock. The scenic route to Pre’s Rock takes you through Hendricks Park and along Skyline Boulevard to the sharp turn where Steve Prefontaine lost control of his orange MGB, crashing into the rockface that has become a shrine to his legacy. 

C. Pre’s Trail. Down the hill and across the river from Pre’s Rock is a 4-mile network of woodchip running trails that’s beloved by beginners, pros and every type of runner in between. 

D. Oregon22 Heritage Trail Plaque: H.W. Kerrigan. Eugene hosts commemorative plaques for five of the 22 athletes featured on the Oregon22 Heritage Trail, including Oregon’s first Olympian, H.W. Kerrigan, who won the high jump at the 1906 Intercalated Games in Athens. His plaque is on display inside the Eugene, Cascades & Coast Visitor Center in downtown Eugene.

E. South Eugene High School track. This popular public track is where Bill McChesney competed for South Eugene before going on to set school records in the 5,000 and 10,000 meters at Oregon. 

F. University of Oregon campus. You might spot the next generation of Oregon track and field stars running around Oregon’s park-like campus, especially if you take a few laps around the serene Eugene Pioneer Cemetery.

G. Track Town Pizza. There’s no better place to end a Eugene running tour than Track Town Pizza, where you can admire a mural of four UO Olympians before heading inside to reward yourself for your efforts.

Hayward Field (Photo by Jake Willard / TrackTown USA)

Pack the Stands at Hayward Field

There’s not a bad seat in the house at the renovated Hayward Field and athletes often say the crowd’s energy and knowledge of the sport make it their favorite place in the world to compete.

This reputation is one reason why Hayward Field regularly hosts some of the biggest track and field competitions in the world, including the Prefontaine Classic in May, the NCAA Championships in June, the Collegiate Track & Field and Cross Country Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony in June and the 2024 U.S. Olympic Track & Field Trials in June.

To experience Hayward Field as an athlete (not just as a fan), be sure to plan your trip around the Eugene Marathon, usually held the last Sunday of April. The event features a marathon, half marathon and 5K, plus a 1K Kids Duck Dash. All four races end on the historic Hayward Field track. And if you’re not a runner? No problem. It’s almost as fun to be a spectator as it is to race yourself.

Marché (Photo by Joey Hamilton / ECC)

Eat, Drink and Sleep Running

The full TrackTown experience may start at Hayward Field, but it doesn’t have to end there, especially if you’ve worked up an appetite. President Barack Obama (then a candidate) famously stopped at Prince Pückler’s for a scoop of mint chip ice cream after making his hurdles debut at the 2008 Oregon Relays. For something a little heartier, try Off the Waffle for its off-the-wall sweet and savory waffle creations. 

Fuel up the day before your race with a pre-run pizzetta or pasta at Marché, then toast to a successful race with an aperol spritz at Beppe & Gianni’s. Finally, cap it off with a soak in the heated indoor pool at the pet-friendly, wellness-focused EVEN Hotel, or enjoy a complimentary glass of wine with your stay at The Gordon Hotel, an artsy boutique hotel in the center of everything Eugene has to offer.

About The

Ben DeJarnette
Ben DeJarnette is a Portland-based writer, runner, and double Duck who competed for the University of Oregon's cross country and track & field teams from 2009 to 2014. As a freelance journalist, he has contributed to High Country News, Men's Journal, Oregon Quarterly, InvestigateWest and others.

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