Eugene and Nike and the University of Oregon all make one big stew of running history, and plenty of tourists would still visit the tiny town even if its football team wasn't worth a damn. With that in mind, UO has announced per its website that it will be offering running tours to showcase the campus and its legacy, including a jaunt on the famous Hayward Field.
The 3.7-mile tours, hosted through the admissions office on the first and third Fridays of the month, are ostensibly for prospective students. But that doesn't seem to be a requirement. Runs are conducted at a "comfortable pace"—around 10 minutes a mile—and involve frequent stops to point out various landmarks of running history. But the kicker is the tour's terminus, which allows any Joe Blow the chance to run a lap around the Hayward Field track, the same stadium in use since 1921.
Think of playing catch at Yankee Stadium or a game of HORSE in Chicago's United Center. Hayward has had gobs of notable moments. Steve Prefontaine raced there, including the evening of his death, and the Flying Finns roadtripped through. The venue has hosted numerous Olympic trials, the 2014 World Junior Championships, and the annual Prefontaine Classic. It may even host a full-blown World Championships as early at 2019. So yes, the track has significance to the running fan.
But despite its history, seldom does that same fan have an opportunity to actually touch the track. Eugene, thanks to Nike founder Bill Bowerman, is the epicenter of the running boom, and UO is tied inexorably with those long lines of treadmills at your local gym. Its roots are with the masses, and now, with Hayward Field opening its gates to normal people, we all have a chance to step on hallowed ground.