RRW: University Of Oregon’s Running Tours Show Beauty, History of Track Town USA
By Chris Lotsbom, @ChrisLotsbom
(c) 2015 Race Results Weekly, all rights reserved
June 1, 2015
Students at the University of Oregon are in the final stretch of the spring term, working hard to prepare for final exams and end-of-year papers. Some students are ready to walk on stage and accept their diplomas, while a number of student-athletes are in the thick of post-season competition. The track and field team earned 45 entries (counting both individual qualifiers and relays) into this month’s NCAA Championships, while the women’s softball team seeks a national title of their own.
For students Tyde Kaneshiro and Hayden Fancher, last weekend wasn’t all about prepping for exams or soaking in the last few weeks of the school year. Lacing up their Nike shoes and heading outside, the pair prepped for a casual run through the area — with a twist. The two human physiology majors are student-ambassadors for the University, share a love of running, and frequently guide free running tours around the University of Oregon campus.
Kaneshiro, a native of Hawaii, and Fancher, from California, are part of a group of students who lead running tours at the University, guiding prospective students, track and field fans, and other visitors through a journey detailing running history in the area. The first of its kind in the nation, the running tour is a chance for the school to connect with its Track Town USA heritage, while showing off places to run and relax off campus.
Of course, the University of Oregon and the sport of track and field have long been synonymous in American history. The sport has direct ties to Eugene, with Olympic Trials being hosted there, and the University producing numerous American record-holders, dozens of Olympians and countless All-Americans.
Most notably are the impacts that key figures like coaches Bill Hayward, Bill Bowerman, and Bill Dellinger had on the sport, along with pupil and former student-athlete Phil Knight. Bowerman helped establish the running boom in America, while also innovating the running shoe industry in America, working with Knight to establish the global sportswear company Nike.
The running ties and connections to the University of Oregon campus are endless, from athletes like Alberto Salazar, Steve Prefontaine, and Galen Rupp, to sport stalwarts like Bowerman and Vin Lananna.
According to Molly Blancett, Media Relations Manager for University of Oregon Advancement, the Oregon running tour began last fall as a way of “highlighting what a great place the UO/Eugene is for a running enthusiast and [to] discuss our rich history and tradition around the sport.”
“Our aim is to show off great places off campus as well,” Blancett wrote in an e-mail to Race Results Weekly.
University of Oregon alum, two-time Olympian, and current Oregon Track Club Elite member Andrew Wheating led the first tour last fall. Since then, the tours have steadily grown in popularity.
Running 3.7 miles on trails and bike paths surrounding the University of Oregon campus, ambassadors lead visitors on a journey through history. Beginning on campus at the Ford Alumni Center, tours start off with a quick note on coaches Hayward and Bowerman, and the early days of the Oregon track and field program. On display in the Ford Alumni Center is a classic waffle iron depicting the one Bowerman famously used to create the first rubber-souled running shoes.
From there, the tour crosses the Willamette River, circles Alton Baker Park (the largest park in Eugene, where numerous road races are held), and then runs on the ever popular and historic Pre’s Trail, a wood-chip route that is frequented by many top athletes in the area. Making stops every couple of minutes, tour guides keep a running dialogue on the history of track in Eugene, and it’s connections to the area. They also speak highly of the places and routes to run in Eugene, with over 250 miles of trails and paths to explore.
For track and field aficionados who love the sport’s history, some of the stories are familiar — such as the rise and tragic death of Prefontaine, how Nike developed from Blue Ribbon Sports to the behemoth it is today, and how Bowerman’s early jogging classes at the University started a revolution in the sport.
Yet even the most well-versed track fans could learn a thing or two from the tidbits, factoids, and stories told that don’t often appear in running books or documentaries on the area.
For example, did you know that the University of Oregon ‘O’ sports logo is believed to be a representation of both Hayward Field and Autzen Stadium, the latter of which is the University’s football stadium? The outside of the ‘O’ logo is shaped to replicate the dimensions of the football stadium, while the inside of the ‘O’ is the clear shape of a running track meant to be Hayward Field.
That was just one of the interesting factoids shared during the tour. (This reporter doesn’t want to spoil some of the other fun stories out of consideration for those thinking of taking the tour).
Both guides Kaneshiro and Fancher spoke about the area’s beauty, what’s best about being a student at the University, and how all walks of life come together to support Duck student athletes on the football field, track, and in other realms.
After stopping briefly at Autzen Stadium, the tour continues on Pre’s Trail, heads back to the center of Campus, and loops by Hayward Field. Traditionally, the tour ends with a victory lap on Hayward Field’s hallowed track. This particular tour was not able to round the oval due to the Prefontaine Classic set-up going on, but still got a chance to experience the “Cathedral of American Running.” For any runner or fan of the sport, whether casual or dedicated, the chance to run at Hayward Field is one not to pass up.
Offered at 8:30 a.m. the first and third Fridays of each month, excluding campus closures and federal holidays, the University of Oregon running tours are a great opportunity to learn about the area’s quaint surroundings and lengthy sporting history. Run at an easy pace –and willing to accommodate to runners of all abilities– the tour provides a one-of-a-kind look at Track Town USA.
For more information on University of Oregon Running Tours, visit