Running strong

April 30, 2018

Pinning on their race numbers and lacing up their running shoes, a sea of people hit the brisk Sunday morning air — and run they did.

Participating in the 12th annual Eugene Marathon, nearly 4,000 participants ran 26.2 or 13.1 miles through the streets and paths of Eugene and Springfield on Sunday, according to marathon charity and event organizer Justin Hanes.

“We have so many people who come from so many different places for this marathon, and they really bring culture and a new community to Eugene,” he said. “And I’ve seen that this year more than ever.”

The expected rain held off as the groups of runners took off down Agate Street for the start of the race at 7 a.m.

Making their way through portions of south Eugene and around the University of Oregon, the race divided for marathoners and half-marathoners at the Knickerbocker Footbridge.

Half-marathoners curved back toward the UO campus to finish, while full marathon participants headed east into Springfield, then west toward the Valley River Center area before turning around at the Owosso Bridge and running to the finish line at Hayward Field.

“I’ve done a few half-marathons and one full marathon, and that was perfect for me,” Hanes said. “Now it’s great to get to be here and work all year to organize this milestone event.”

As runners blazed by the 8-mile mark, Dick Maxwell was one of a handful of University of Oregon Alumni Association volunteers passing out Gatorade and cheering on runners.

Having volunteered at the marathon for all 12 years, Maxwell said, “We’ve got it down like a well-oiled machine,” as he demonstrated his perfected cup-to-runner technique.

“I have total admiration for these people, it’s amazing to watch this ... but running this far, they must be idiots,” he laughed.

Not long after, runners were making their way to the finish line at the historic Hayward Field.

Coming in just over an hour after the race begin, Eric Finan claimed his spot as the half-marathon winner for the second year in a row.

“I feel great,” he said with a smile, recalling his winning race time of 65 minutes and 47 seconds.

Finan, 28, said he spent a number of years running competitively, and just missed the mark to qualify for the 2016 Olympics before deciding to step back from running for a while.

Now running again, Finan said it’s the community element that brought the life back into the sport.

“I’ve really found a new sense of joy in running, just being here in this community where people are just everyday people that run together and enjoy it,” he said. “I admire all of these people and am having so much fun being a part of this community of runners in Eugene.”

Justin Gallegos, a University of Oregon club runner with cerebral palsy, completed the half marathon in just over two hours, receiving thundering applause from the crowd of supporters.

Teklu Deneke was the first full marathon winner, crossing through the finish line in two hours, 22 minutes and 12 seconds, and Kate Landau was the first female finisher, completing the race with a smile in two hours and 35 minutes.

“Everyone from the runners, to the walkers to the supporters, the Eugene Marathon is a place for everyone,” Hanes said. “We want to be a race that really lets people experience the magic of Track Town USA.”

Follow Morgan on Twitter @morgan_theophil . Email morgan.theophil@registerguard.com .