Off and Running
The UO gives traditional campus tours a run for their money with a popular jogging tour that offers prospective students a true taste of Track Town, USA.
In six years running around Eugene, I’ve slogged up hills, dodged bicycles, endured rain showers, and covered just about every trail inside city limits. I’ve been through my paces in this town, but today’s challenge is something new: I have 3.7 miles to convince Connor Byeman to become a Duck.
It’s 8:30 a.m. on a brisk September morning, and I’m about to join Connor and a small tour group on one of the UO’s bimonthly guided jogs around campus. The UO Ambassador Program created this first-of-its-kind college tour last fall, giving prospective students and their families a chance to experience Eugene’s celebrated running culture firsthand. Today, there are four of us, and after a quick history lesson from our guides Frank and Gustavo, we set out at a gentle clip, crossing Franklin Street and working our way toward Alton Baker Park.
Officially, recruiting Connor to Eugene is nowhere in my job description (I’m just the writer tagging along), but I’m already liking this kid. A fellow East Coast transplant, Connor is a fleet-footed distance runner and an otherworldly student (he laments that he narrowly missed a perfect score on the ACT)—and yet he’s not the type who’s too cool to be impressed. When I tell him about UO track star Edward Cheserek running a 5,000-meter race in 13 minutes, 18 seconds, he lets his jaw drop. “That’s a faster pace than my best mile time!” he says. “I don’t want to even imagine how hard that is.”
As we loop around the North Bank Path, and then Pre’s Trail, I’m doing my darnedest to sell Connor on the UO. But perhaps the best sales pitch is coming from the Willamette River, rushing beside us, and the autumn breeze, swirling around us, and the wood-chip trail, stretching indefinitely out ahead of us, just as it will for students this fall, lending an escape from the buzz and bustle across the river.
Connor has yet to reach the tour’s main attraction—a victory lap around the Hayward Field track—but I sense he is already falling in love with this sanctuary. Shortly after the trail passes Autzen Stadium, he tips his hand. “I could definitely see myself coming here,” he says.
Mission accomplished, I think to myself. With a mile to spare.
Ben DeJarnette, BA ’13, MA ’15, is a regular contributor to OQ.