It was exhilarating to run on the path once favored by legendary University of Oregon track-and-field star Steve Prefontaine. Pre’s Trail—named for the distance-runner who competed in the 1972 Olympics—has bark-chipped loops ranging from one mile to 10,000 meters; bucolic trails that begin at Eugene’s Alton Baker Park and wind through Douglas fir; and big-leaf maple alongside the Willamette River.
I was a bit intimidated to run my slow eight miles surrounded by elite athletes in the city nicknamed Tracktown U.S.A. The energy in the area was palpable as employees at hotels, eateries and shops prepared to welcome 2,000 track-and-field athletes from 200 nations who will compete in mid-July at the World Athletics Championships.
The events take place at Hayward Field. More than a century old, the facility got a spectacular facelift in 2020. The new open-air stadium—with nearly 20,000 seats—boasts unobstructed sight lines, comfortable seating and superb acoustics. I explored the space after my run, marveling at the elegantly curved roof and the views of green hillsides all around.
Later, I checked out the interactive historic exhibits in the 4,000-square-foot Hayward Hall, located at the base of the ten-story torch-shaped steel tower which depicts five University track and field icons. I learned more about the University’s athletes and track and field coaches, including Nike co-founder Bill Bowerman.
All that running and exploring made me hungry, so I headed over to Lane County Farmers Market—open downtown on Tuesdays and Saturdays—to pick up a basket of strawberries, an orange cardamom pinwheel from Creswell Bakery’s booth and a rajas quesadilla on a homemade tortilla from Delicias Tiki Tiki. I stopped for iced coffee at Italian-themed Perugino and then, finally sated, headed over to 5th Street Public Market.
The Market and the newly constructed 5th Street Market Alley offer a thrilling array of boutiques. Athletes can pick up new gear at the Nike Store and Title Nine or across High Street at Run Hub where staff can hook you up with community runs and other events. I browsed for Oregon-themed gifts including a stuffed Sasquatch toy at Made in Oregon and beer-scented candles at Sassy Kitchen and Gifts. I simply had to sample the cocoa bomb whiskey at Heritage Distilling Company and the local Pinot Noir from Pfeiffer Winery’s downtown tasting room.
I opted for a room at The Gordon Hotel, a year-old boutique hotel on the west end of the Alley. Immediately, I was entranced by the lobby ceiling composed of hundreds of illuminated mason jars, and the Art Bar full of paints and markers so guests can exercise their creativity. The works of local artists decorate every hall and room in the hotel; my room featured colorful paintings by Eugene artist Robert Canaga, along with a stunning view of Skinner’s Butte and an incredibly comfortable bed.
My legs felt the effects of my morning run, so I was happy to head one floor up to Carlita’s, The Gordon’s rooftop bar that specializes in tacos with a Pacific Northwest flair. After a superb margarita and housemade lime tortilla chips with roasted tomato salsa, I headed downstairs to Gordon Tavern for roasted cumin-dusted cauliflower, bucatini pasta with sautéed shrimp and seasonal veggies. Handel’s Ice Cream had just closed for the evening, so I resolved to return for a scoop of caramel latte another day.
The next morning, I grabbed coffee and toast with Oregon berry jam from Magpie Coffeeshop in the Alley and looked up a self-guided tour of Eugene’s 20X21 Mural Project—a citywide public art program that commissioned twenty-two murals from artists all over the world. I headed over to study Afghan artist Shamsia Hassani’s mural of a woman playing a keytar, then finished my walk at nearby Tsunami Books. On display inside the door, I discovered the owner’s recommendation: Bowerman and the Men of Oregon: The Story of Oregon’s Legendary Coach and Nike’s Cofounder.