The Eugene, Cascades & Coast region hosts all types of running events from 1K kids dashes to 200+ mile ultra events. From scenic roads to forested trails, this region delivers running events like no other.
The Eugene, Cascades and Coasts region has a long, famous and storied history of running. Before the ’60s in America, seeing someone jogging in public would be cause for concern. Jogging wasn’t a famous exercise routine and running wasn’t a well-known hobby. This all changed when Bill Bowerman began to organize his community runs, bringing people together and teaching them how to jog at a conversational pace. These community runs started in Eugene right on Hayward Field at the University of Oregon and have greatly influenced the running culture and community. Now, there are so many running events in the region that just about every week brings a new 5K, 10K or trail run.
Here are a handful of annual running events that embody that tradition of running and community.
The Eugene Marathon is the largest marathon in the Pacific Northwest and is a USATF-certified qualifier for the Boston Marathon. Every spring on the last Sunday of April, runners from around the world take part in this grand running tour of Eugene, Springfield and the Willamette River. These are some of the same streets and paths that the most famous and accomplished runners have trained on, and most recently competed on during the World Athletics Championships Oregon22 Marathon. Participants get the chance to finish their race in Hayward Field at the University of Oregon on the track and celebrate with their fellow runners in a street fair-like environment on the concourse. And while the marathon and half-marathon occur on a Sunday, the Saturday before hosts the 5K and the Kids Duck Dash. The Kids Duck Dash is a 1K loop within the University of Oregon campus, making the Eugene Marathon weekend fun for the whole family.
The Oregon Track Club (OTC) Butte to Butte race started back in 1973 with young runners trekking up Spencer’s Butte and on Willamette Street back before it was paved. Today, the race (which offers a 10K, 5K and a 4-mile Mayors Walk) attracts over 4,000 runners annually to run from Skinner’s Butte, past Amazon Park all the way to Spencer's Butte. The Butte to Butte race (AKA The People’s Race) is organized by the OTC as a fundraiser. The event helps to accomplish their mission to grow the legacy of Eugene’s historic track and field community by getting people involved with running either by watching, volunteering or participating. This beloved annual tradition takes place on the 4th of July, the perfect way to celebrate with the community.
Taking place just before Thanksgiving, the Run to Stay Warm has been a Eugene tradition for over a decade. The event takes place on the third Sunday in November and offers 13.1 miles, 10K and 5K distances all along the community’s beloved Ruth Bascome Riverbank Path System. This fun, fast and flat course offers a festival-like environment at the start/finish area. Better yet, this event is literally named “Run to Stay Warm” as it raises money for the Eugene Water & Electric Board (EWEB) Customer Care Program, a program that provides financial aid for qualifying low-income customers. And with a free Kid’s Run and great viewing on the Peter Defazio Bridge, the whole family can have a day of fun.
The Sandia Run is one of the longest-running road races in the Northwest. Dating back to 1975, the Sandia Run was started by the Junction City High School Cross Country team in cooperation with the Junction City Parks and Recreation Department. Today, the Scandia Run is owned by Valley South Athletic Club, a 501(c)(3) non-profit that endeavors to promote athletics and scholarships in the community. Proceeds from the event are used to support the track and cross-country programs of Junction City High School and Oakleaf Middle School. The event hosts a 10K, 5k, a non-timed 4-mile walk, a children’s run and even a team competition. The team competition is an extra layer of fun provided at no extra cost that allows the top five finishers in a race per team to have a combined team score. This race takes place during the Junction City Scandinavian Festival, a four-day long event in which each day is dedicated to honoring a Scandinavian Country (Denmark, Finland, Norway and Sweden).
The McKenzie River Trail Run is the oldest ultramarathon in Oregon, running annually since 1988. This scenic trail run takes participants past breathtaking waterfalls, Clear Lake, lava flows, old-growth forests, and even several log bridges. The McKenzie River sprouts from an underground lava tube located at the Tamolitch Pool, with a beautiful aqua-marine color to the water, making this one of the most beautiful trail runs in the country! Starting at Carmen Reservoir, trail runners will enjoy 31 miles (50k) of world-class trail running on a beautiful summer day just Northeast of Eugene.
The Storm the Castle Half Marathon is a unique and exciting race held in Blue River, Oregon in the Northeast corner of Lane County. Participants run 13.1 miles and 2,815 feet of total elevation on the King Castle and Castle Rock Trails. Their reward is the breathtaking scenery of the surrounding mountains and forests, including a great view of the Three Sisters Mountains. The route is a “lollipop loop” course, starting and ending at the Upper Mckenzie Community Center with food and drink provided by local brewer, Ninkasi Brewing Company. Aside from rewards given to those who run their hearts out to finish in a podium spot, participants can earn awards for Best Costume and “King/Queen of the Castle”, an award given to the first male/female to reach the peak, adding an exciting twist to an already fun trail run.
Hosted in Oakridge, a community with nearly 500 miles of densely forested trails, the Oakridge Triple Summit Challenge presents a dream opportunity for trail-running enthusiasts. The challenge includes three days, 40 miles and 8,500 feet of elevation in total, with the choice to complete in one, two or all three of the trail runs. The first race of the challenge starts right next to the Office Covered Bridge, leads up Buckhead Mountain and along the Alpine Trail. Participants will loop around at the top reaching an elevation of 2,900 feet and finish back where they started after 20K of racing. The second day takes participants up Dead Mountain where they run the “Devil’s Backbone” section, offering some amazing views on a daring challenge. Finally, the third day takes runners up Larison Rock from Greenwaters Park to the summit at an elevation of 3,558 feet. All three races are dog friendly as well, making this the perfect race series for you and your best furry friend.
Another trail race to take advantage of the vast network of trails in the Oakridge/Westfir area, the Westfir 30K/50K takes participants north well past Buckhead Mountain and along the famous ATCA (Upper-Alpine, Tire Mountain, Cloverpatch and Lower-Alpine trails) route, one that is among the best mountain bike routes in the entire state and country. Along the Alpine, Cloverpatch and Tire Mountain trails, athletes will traverse deep woods and be rewarded with open views of the Willamette National Forest. A challenging 50K with an intimidating 7,000 feet of elevation gain attracts only the most outgoing trail runners.
The Run Big Trail Series is a series of six races organized by Level 32 Racing that run all throughout the year. In the winter, they host the Bristow Trail Runs in Dexter (50K, 25K, 10 miles and five miles) and the Shotgun Trail Blast which hosts the same distances as the aforementioned race at the Shotgun Creek Recreation Area in Marcola. The Shotgun Trail Blast is held on a trail known as the best-kept single-track trail in Lane County. Participants will run through a beautiful canopy of trees along streams and over hills to incredible views. The Ridgeline Ramble is a trail-running classic that takes place at the end of May. It starts at the Blanton Trailhead, takes participants along the most scenic section of the Ridgeline Trail in South Eugene, and finishes at Frank Kinney Park with options for 20k and 10k distances.
After the summer, the races pick back up again to avoid the heat. In early September the Hardesty Hardcore offers 15 and 5.5-mile distances. This trail run takes place just west of Oakridge starting on the Hardesty Trailhead. The “Hardcore” start punishes racers by leading them to climb 3,300 feet in the first 4.5 miles and descends over the next four miles the same 3,300 feet, only to have them roll over hills for the last five and a half miles. The 14-mile event is so challenging in fact that it has a four-hour time limit.
The final two races include Autumn Trails Eugene (offering 3.5, 6, 10 and 16 mile distances) and the Frozen Trail Run Fest (Offering 50K, 25K, 15K and 5K distances). The Autumn Trails Eugene races start and finish near Frank Kinney Park, some go along the Rexius Trail and climb the Amazon Headwaters Trail to Fox Hollow and other distances traverse the Dillard Road connector trails and branch out to Blanton Heights near Spencer Butte. The last race of the Run Big Trail Series is the Frozen Trail Run Fest where runners can expect cold, wet and muddy conditions on top of steep elevations that make even the 5K a challenging run. The race takes place at Mt. Pisgah, with the 50K taking athletes four loops around and through to the summit, each loop gaining between 800 and 1,000 feet of elevation.
The Oregon Coast Trail Series takes advantage of Oregon’s famous coastline by organizing trail runs along the surf, capes and dunes of the Oregon coast, two of these races taking place within Lane County. All of these events offer a challenging 50K ultra distance option and shorter courses ranging from 10K-20 miles. The Cape Mountain’s 50K trail offers a gorgeous yet difficult course on 90% dirt singletrack and 10% dirt doubletrack and has the 25K loop course run twice, totaling 31.2 miles with 6,000 feet of elevation gain and loss. The course features miles of glorious old-growth coastal rainforest, some fun creek crossings and sweeping coastline views. This is truly a hidden gem trail network with high-quality flowing trails that get surprisingly low use. The Siuslaw Dunes race offers, again, another challenge where participants can choose to run a 50k, 20-mile or 12K race. Runners will tackle a coastal terrain, with ancient open sand dunes, more old-growth rainforests, stream fords and vast ocean beaches. Siuslaw Dunes races start at Honeyman State Park near Florence.
Another trail race starting and ending in Oakridge, the Oregon 200 (a 204-mile race to be exact) takes participants south to show off the best of both the Willamette and Umpqua National Forests. Unlike any other race, this is the first and only 200-mile race in Oregon. The ambitious out-and-back race has a staggering 26,200 feet of elevation gain and loss over the course of 200 miles that reaches as far south as Toketee Lake via the North Umpqua River Trail. The highest point of this trail run is near Cowhorn Mountain along the Windy Pass trail on the Timpanogas loop at 6,803 feet of elevation. Running through dense forests, over dams, along rivers, lakes and reaching high peaks makes for some of the most jaw-dropping scenery the Pacific Northwest is so famous for around the world. This big-time race allows for the option for runners to have a crew. Crews are allowed at the aid stations scattered throughout the course to support their runners as they complete their journey. As the runner progresses, the crew follows from one station to the next, of which there are 13 stations for the whole race.
Passion Leads to Expertise
With so much history and passion for running in the community, it should come as no surprise to see running stores and entrepreneurial endeavors. For example, Run Gum was founded by Olympian Nick Symmonds and is based in Eugene. Symmonds created a caffeine-energy gum for runners to boost their energy without needing to eat or drink their caffeine. In addition, two well-renowned running stores are thriving in Eugene. Both Run Hub Northwest and Eugene Running Company offer exceptional products and customer service for runners. They both continue the tradition of community runs and training sessions and offer a wide range of services to the local running community. And most recently, with the development of 5th Street Market downtown, came the addition of the large Nike by Eugene Store. The Nike retail store was designed by and for the local running community and aims to resemble a lab-like space where Nike tests and evolves new services, experiences and offerings.
A Runner’s Paradise
This region of Oregon is rich with miles and miles of natural trails and scenic roadways. Event planners love hosting events in the region and runners love to come run and explore all of the beauty that makes this a top destination for running events.