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Why I Run: Eugene And Olympic Trials Are A Storied Match


Jenna Prandini, left, and Ariana Washington, both Oregon Ducks, race in the women's 200-meters at U.S. Olympic Trials in Eugene, Oregon. Part of the meet's appeal to fans is the city's passion for running.

Jenna Prandini, left, and Ariana Washington, both Oregon Ducks, race in the women's 200-meters at U.S. Olympic Trials in Eugene, Oregon. Part of the meet's appeal to fans is the city's passion for running.

Charlie Riedel/AP

 When Devon Allen crossed the finish line in the 110-meter hurdles to earn a spot with Team USA in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Hayward Field let out the type of roar that vibrates your lungs when you inhale. That’s if you were lucky enough to take up any oxygen at all.

The 2016 U.S. Olympic Track And Field Trials have drawn more than 20,000 fans each of the 10 days of the meet.

A big reason for that kind of draw is the burning enthusiasm Eugene has for running.

The cheers for Allen — which lasted minutes on past the finish, past when he leapt into the stands, past the victory lap — seemed to be a collective utterance of how Eugene feels about track and field and running in particular.

What drives the city’s attachment to a sport that Vox so kindly reminded us used to be only for weirdos? We asked.


Why I Run

Renée and Joshua Gordon are married. Renée runs marathon. Joshua runs a variety of distances on the masters series with Bowerman Track Club.

Renée and Joshua Gordon are married. Renée runs marathon. Joshua runs a variety of distances on the masters series with Bowerman Track Club.

Bradley W. Parks/OPB

Joshua and Renée Gordon, husband and wife, Eugene

“[Running is] my cup of coffee. I get up in the morning and I go out with my dog. Sometimes Renée joins or she takes the dog and we run through the forest. I start every day with a forest run through Hendricks Park. It’s just spectacular. It’s meditative. It’s centering. I haven’t missed a day in 4 years and 2 1/2 months now.” — Joshua

“It’s kinda my medicine, so to speak. I’m a better wife. I’m a better employee. I’m better at everything when I have the opportunity to feed my soul through running first.” — Renée


Mike and May Schnackenberg are husband and wife. Mike competed in decathlon at the University of Oregon.

Mike and May Schnackenberg are husband and wife. Mike competed in decathlon at the University of Oregon.

Bradley W. Parks/OPB

Mike and May Schnackenberg, Portland

“To stay healthy and stay fit.” — May

“When I went to school here [at the University of Oregon], I ran track and field, but I didn’t like the long-distance running. But it just grows on you when you come down here. You can’t help but enjoy it. And then you learn what the benefits are. It helps clear your mind. You think good thoughts all day.” — Mike


Jack McClelland, left, and Ethan Walker are teammates on the track and field team at Nueva School in San Mateo, California. Both run middle- and long-distance.

Jack McClelland, left, and Ethan Walker are teammates on the track and field team at Nueva School in San Mateo, California. Both run middle- and long-distance.

Bradley W. Parks/OPB

Jack McClelland and Ethan Walker, San Francisco

“[Running] competitively, it’s a completely different world than non-competitive and I enjoy both of them. For non-competitive, I really enjoy the long runs on my own where I can go out for like an hour and see all these things and stop at my own pace. Competitively … it’s really nice to be improving and working at something every day. And you can see the improvement in your times if you work out for like a month and that’s really awesome. I really love our team. The people on our team are really awesome as well.” — McClelland

“Definitely the team spirit. We have very big pride in what we do. Our coach is just — he’s the greatest. He definitely pushes me to want to go back.” — Walker


Dustin Pearce owns Run Hub Northwest and moved to Eugene from St. Louis. He runs non-competitively.

Dustin Pearce owns Run Hub Northwest and moved to Eugene from St. Louis. He runs non-competitively.

Bradley W. Parks/OPB

Dustin Pearce, Eugene

“I think it really comes down to going back to my high school freshman scrawny self. [Running is] sort of how I gained my identity. I still get that same sense of place in the world or accomplishment from doing it. Now, in my life, it’s really where my social network is. Maybe I’m bad at making friends in other ways and saying, ‘Hey, you want to go for a run?’ is a really easy way to make friends.” — Pearce


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