Tall trees everywhere
I haven't been to Oregon since I was a kid, and I've never been to Eugene, which is where my brother currently lives and goes to school. My visit to him had two small objectives--the large one being to read and walk as much as I wanted--first, to spend some quality time with my male sibling, and second, to run the Eugene Half-Marathon, the finish line of which lies on legendary Hayward Field. My running, as devoted Freckle readers know, hasn't been going so well since I moved to New York, and aside from running the 2008 Nike Women's Half-Marathon with UMP, I've neither trained for nor completed any other events. That said, for whatever reason my running from Christmas to about mid-March had been wonderful; my training proceeded without a hitch, and I was running faster times than I had since college. Unfortunately, however, I fell a couple of times while descending on Mt. Washington, and my left leg, in particular, had felt funky (for lack of a better word) ever since. I suspended all training and all running, and stuck to swimming and cycling for the six weeks leading up to my trip. As a result, just getting to the starting line was going to be a big accomplishment for me, and my nervousness grew as my departure date drew near.
Both the trip to and the first days in Eugene took my mind mostly off of the run, however; from the moment the puddle-jumper touched down in Oregon, I reveled in an environment that made New York City feel a million miles away. Tree-covered buttes and mountains ringed the horizon, cyclists and runners dotted the roads, trails, and sidewalks, and on every block Douglas firs and redwoods stood guard over the Victorian houses, coffee-shops, and bookstores beneath them. My brother, mother, and I spent the days walking, reading, yelling at one another, and drinking ridiculously good lattes while an Oregon spring blossomed around us. Heavenly. And yet, running could never be that far from my mind. Aside from the 8,000 marathon runners milling around Eugene, the Oregon Relays commenced at Hayward Field two days before my event, and so The Emerald City seemed full of unusually swift and lean individuals. The starting line early Sunday morning only verified this impression--I've never done an athletic event with such fit looking runners! I suppose Track Town USA doesn't earn its title lightly.
As I had no idea what to expect on the course, either in terms of its quirks or my performance, I told my mother and brother to come to the finish line much later than I normally would have suggested. About two miles into the run, however, I realized I'd made a major miscalculation--I was flying. I was not only running much, much faster than I ever would have anticipated, but I also felt phenomenal, and I knew that I'd be able to maintain a quick pace for the next eleven miles. My ability to know my body well is continuously a happy surprise to me; there was no evidence, based on the previous month and a half, to suggest that I'd be able to run the time that seemed within my reach, and yet I just knew that I would. I turned my brain off and let my legs lead the way up through Amazon Park, down the Willamette River, and through the gates into Hayward Field. When I rounded the historic track and heard the finish line announcer call my name, my throat tightened--I was so grateful to be running well and running strong. As I told JSH in a bleary post-run email, it was one of the happiest running days of my life.
Hayward Field Finish Line
Fortunately, my mother never listens to me, and so she had not only arrived at Hayward Field much earlier than I had told her, but she also saw and photographed me as I finished. Even better, she patiently waited while I devoured a plate of pancakes--Krusteaz was a sponsor--and tried to form coherent sentences. A hot shower, a giant mug of tea, and one Sunday New York Times later and I was a very sleepy and content camper.
Leaving Eugene was tough--I don't get to see my brother as often as I would like given where we each currently live, and Eugene itself possesses a certain sensibility that New York City is unable to provide. In some ways, Eugene reminds me of Ithaca, plus a dash of Northern California. The resemblance between the two towns was brought to the fore one evening while I ate dinner at Market of Choice; as I imbibed a delicious and sales-tax-free soup and salad, I read The Eugene Weekly, which is uncannily similar to The Ithaca Times. I skipped immediately, of course, to the classifieds, in which I found the following gems, none of which I would find in an Upper West Side publication:
"Lost and Found: Clay sculpture from my porch. Medium sized, roots twisting around man's head, spiral base. Please return no questions asked. It's a part of my soul".
"Help Wanted: work-exchange Buddhist community. Includes room, vegetarian meals, living allowance. Seeking hardy experienced people, also for book bindery. Must have spiritual interest".
"Counseling: Urban shamanism. Awaken your personal power and magic. Find your path to health, happiness, and who you're meant to be".
"M for W: I love the outdoors, camping in the nude, nude beaches, motocross, swimming, and nude hiking".
Ah, Eugene--you shed light on a part of my soul that's too often kept dark. And with that, I hugged my brother goodbye, packed the car, and drove to California. Until next time, Beaver State.