Get Ready to ‘Run TrackTown’
1/29/2014 12:00 AM
By Curtis Anderson / TrackTown USA
EUGENE, Ore. - The Eugene Marathon is undergoing a makeover this year.
The date was changed from spring to summer to anchor a week-long celebration of running in TrackTown USA.
Prize money was boosted to attract and support more elite U.S. athletes targeting 2016 Olympic Trials Marathon qualifying standards.
And finally, the July 27 race was paired with the 2014 IAAF World Junior Championships, starting just hours before the final day of competition of that prestigious meet in an ongoing effort to bridge the gap between runners and track and field fans.
What hasn’t changed is the flat, fast and scenic 26.2-mile course which travels through 12 parks, parallels the Willamette River for nine miles, and ends with an inspirational 200-meter stretch on the track in front of family and friends at historic Hayward Field.
It’s all part of the festival known as Run TrackTown.
“One of our fundamental goals is to bridge the gap between people who run and people who are track and field fans,” said Eugene Marathon race director Richard Maher.
“There are more people who participate in running in this country than any other sport, yet track and field is still somewhat of a niche sport. That’s the challenge we’ve been facing for a long time.”
In an effort to chip away at that disconnect, the Run TrackTown concept was developed to bring those two groups together with the hope that the thousands of runners participating in the Eugene Marathon, Half Marathon and 5K will become track fans once they’re able to witness the passion and excitement of a meet at Hayward Field.
“We’re trying to be innovative by tying an emerging major marathon into elite track and field competition,” Maher said. “That’s the model we’re going to carry forward.”
CHASING OLYMPIC QUALIFYING STANDARDS
One of the common threads among successful marathons around the world is a strong field of elite runners.
With that in mind, this year’s Eugene Marathon sweetened the pot for the top three finishers in the men’s and women’s races. Cash bonuses will also be earned by American runners that hit the “A” or “B” qualifying standards for the 2016 U.S. Olympic Trials Marathon.
“The goal is to qualify as many athletes for the Olympic Trials marathon as possible,” said Ian Dobson, elite athlete coordinator for the Eugene Marathon. “We want to provide a platform for raising the bar on American marathoning by providing support for a level of athlete that is often neglected.”
Here’s the prize money structure for the 2014 Eugene Marathon:
For both men and women, first place is worth $3,000, second place $2,000 and third place $1,000. In addition, $3,000 will be given to Olympic Trials Marathon “A” qualifiers, and $1,500 for “B” qualifiers.
So, what are the times to beat?
For the men, the “A” standard is 2 hours, 15 minutes; the “B” is 2:18:00. For the women, the “A” is 2:37:00, and the “B” is 2:43:00.
“The concept of Olympic Trials qualification resonates in TrackTown,” Dobson said. “We’ve had the last two U.S. Olympic Track and Field Trials, and we’re having the next one in 2016. I think it’s something the community can appreciate and get on board with.”
In the past, the Eugene Marathon was not a destination for elite U.S. runners – the course records are 2:18:38 by Matt Hooley in 2009, and 2:44.14 by Katie Blackett in 2011.
But maybe it should be due to the fast nature of the course.
According to the 2013 annual marathon report by RunningUSA, Eugene had the second-fasted median time (4:00:15) for all U.S. marathons with more than 1,000 finishers in 2012.
This year’s race is designed to create more depth in the marathon by catering to a large group of U.S. runners who are still developing as they chase the Olympic dream.
And now, with increased prize money, additional athlete support in terms of travel and housing, expert pacing through 30K, and a demonstrated fast course with potentially ideal conditions, the Eugene Marathon is well positioned to raise its profile.
“What we really want to do is ensure that everyone who comes and runs well is rewarded,” Maher said
GET READY TO RUN TRACKTOWN
Team Run Eugene’s Craig Leon, who won the 2010 Eugene Marathon in his debut at that distance, was ranked 10th in the U.S. in the marathon last year by Track & Field News magazine.
He was the third American to cross the finish line, and placed 10th overall, at the 2013 Boston Marathon before setting his PR of 2:13:52 at the Chicago Marathon six months later.
Besides serving on the Eugene Marathon advisory board (see chart), he jumped at the opportunity to pace this year’s race through 30 kilometers, which is a little over 18 miles.
He understands the significance of reaching the qualifying standards for the 2016 Olympic Trials Marathon. According to USA Track & Field, the qualifying window opened on August 1, 2013. Those who hit the “A” standard will have their travel expenses taken care of by USA Track & Field.
“This gives me a chance to help out some friends in the running community who are looking for that ‘A’ standard,” said Leon, who is training for the 2014 Boston Marathon this April.
“I can certainly empathize with them. I know how important it is to have somebody to run with in a marathon, so hopefully, I can be helpful through 18 miles or so.”
Leon is also excited about the Run TrackTown festival in which the Eugene Marathon and all of its ancillary events – 1K kids’ run, 5K community run, all-comers’ meet, health and fitness expo at Matthew Knight Arena and pasta feed at Hayward Field – are seamlessly merged with the final days of competition at the 2014 IAAF World Junior Championships.
“Here’s a chance to try something different,” Leon said. “ to showcase all sorts of runners, from youth to elite, and expose them to the track and field meet. It’s an idea that really crosses over all the different sectors of running, both competitive and recreational.
“I’m excited. They’ve created this week-long celebration of running, and it’s one of the things that I’ve come to appreciate about TrackTown USA.”
2014 Eugene Marathon Advisory Board
Joan Benoit-Samuelson: 1984 Olympic Marathon gold medalist
Amby Burfoot: 1968 Boston Marathon champion; former editor-in-chief of Runner’s World
Dr. Jack Daniels: World-renowned exercise scientist
Josh Gordon: Founder and senior practitioner, Sports Conflict Institute
Ryan Hall: Fastest U.S. marathoner (2:04:58, Boston, 2011)
Deena Kastor: U.S. marathon record-holder (2:19:36, London, 2006)
Craig Leon: Industry Outreach Coordinator, Warsaw Sports Marketing Center, University of Oregon; PR of 2:13:52 in marathon
Cathie Twomey Bellamy: Eugene Running Club coach; founding member of Athletics West
Mary Wittenberg: President and CEO of New York Road Runners