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It’s been three years since the Eugene Marathon and Half Marathon held a live race.
It’s been even longer since the finish line was inside Hayward Field.
Both are back this weekend as the longtime local road race returns Sunday morning to the streets of Eugene and Springfield.
The traditional finish line had to be moved to Autzen Stadium in 2019 due to the construction of the new Hayward Field. The race was canceled in 2020 due to COVID-19, then went virtual in 2021 as the pandemic continued.
“On some days I can’t believe it’s been four years,” race director Ian Dobson said. “And on some days it feels like it’s been forever, like it’s hard to remember it almost.”
Hard to remember, maybe, but hardly forgotten.
Registration for the 15th Eugene Marathon and Half Marathon and Saturday morning’s Eugene 5K and Kid’s 1K Duck Dash — which both start outside Hayward Field and end on the track and the finish line — has reached record-setting numbers.
According to Dobson, approximately 9,700 have signed up for one of the four races. Broken down, they expect 4,000 for the half marathon, 3,200 for the marathon, 1,500 for the 5K and 1,000 for the Duck Dash.
The race has essentially reached capacity.
"Actually, we don’t even know what it is because we’ve never had to explore that," Dobson said with a laugh. “We’re limiting registration because we want to make sure we can do a great job for the people that are registered, not because we can’t fit more people on the roads.”
The marathon’s previous best year was 2013 when it had 8,561 registered participants.
“We’re really, really excited about that,” Dobson said. “I think some of it is genuine enthusiasm for the event, and a lot of it is also people who are, ‘It’s time to get back to doing stuff.’ ”
The 26.2-mile marathon and 13.1-mile half marathon courses will closely resemble what they were in 2018 with only a few minor changes.
The most obvious is where the marathon and half-marathon participants split off from each other. That point is now on the south side of the Willamette River's Knickerbocker Bridge instead of the north side.
That change eventually redirects marathon runners through downtown Springfield and keeps them off Centennial Boulevard.
“Which I think is a gift to everyone,” Dobson said. “Traffic control, law enforcement, runners, everybody.”
The Eugene Marathon and Half Marathon has always been largely a community event, though professionals and other runners with larger goals have also participated in the race. This year is no different.
There are 80 “elite” runners entered in both races, a designation given to men who have recorded marathon times of 2 hours, 25 minutes or 1:08:00 for the half marathon, and women who have times of at least 2:53:00 or 1:20:00, respectively, since May 1, 2019.
The 2024 U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials qualifying window opened in January and hitting the standard of 2:18:00 for the men and 2:37:00 for the women is certainly on the agenda for many.
For the rest of the runners, the race weekend marks the long-awaited return to road racing. Dobson said at least one-quarter of the registrations have been rolled over from people who initially signed up in 2020 or 2021.
“I think there’s a real excitement to be back to something familiar," Dobson said. “It just feels good.”
Eugene Marathon and Half Marathon
Start: 7 a.m. Sunday at 17th Avenue and Agate Street
Finish: Inside Hayward Field(04/30/2022) Views: 794 ⚡AMP
Consistently ranked in the top 15 races most likely to qualify for Boston by Marathon Guide, the Eugene Marathon is a beautiful, fast, USATF certified race with amazing amenities and an unrivaled finishinside Historic Hayward Field. The Eugene Half Marathon starts alongside full marathon participants in front of historic Hayward Field home of five Olympic trials, ten NCAA championships and...more...