Posted by: Brad Nixon | August 14, 2017

Hayward Field Homage. And Did Those Feet?

There are many lifetimes’ worth of “pilgrimages” one can make as one travels. One can tour the scenes of famous battles throughout history, or the sites of illustrious meetings and historic speeches. Visiting the birthplaces of illustrious or notorious people is popular, as are the former homes or gravesites of the famous (or infamous). A bit more macabre, perhaps, you can seek out the places where eminent people died, including the house in Winchester, Hampshire, UK, where Jane Austen breathed her last, then walk to the cathedral, where she’s buried.

Winchester Cathedral Brad Nixon 5629LR2PS (507x640)

(You don’t need an admiration for Ms. Austen’s work to justify a visit to Winchester and its stunning cathedral.)

For fans of every category of literature or film, there are the real-life settings in which stories took place or iconic scenes were filmed, from Hemingway’s Paris to “Hobbiton” in New Zealand.

Whatever your interest in some category of human endeavor, the possibilities to make an homage can overwhelm you and consume a great deal of time. But who could pass without stopping the courthouse in Lincoln, New Mexico where Billy the Kid was taken into custody (and escaped!)?

Lincoln NM courthouse bullet holes Marcy Vincent (534x640)

That’s me in 2001, standing next to holes in the wall purportedly made by bullets from Billy’s gun. Believe what you will.

You can view the house in Savannah, Georgia that was the setting of Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil or regard with somber mien “the grassy knoll” at Dealey Plaza in Dallas, Texas.

Dealey Plaza Brad Nixon 2331 (640x475)

Some sports fans make a practice of visiting stadiums where their favorite players have trod the turf. If you’re my buddy, veteran sports columnist, Joe, you get the assignment to cover the 2004 Olympics and go to Olympia, itself, the site of the original Olympics, as he described (with photos) for Under Western Skies at this link.

If you’re a runner you probably know that Eugene, Oregon, is known as “Track Town, USA.” Since the 1920s, the University of Oregon has been a highly successful competitor in track and field (“athletics” in the UK).

Built in 1919 as the school’s football stadium, Hayward Field is now Oregon’s track and field venue. It has a glorious past, and is one of the meccas of track and field.

Hayward Field Brad Nixon 7500 (640x480)

“Hayward” was Bill Hayward, Oregon’s track coach for 44 years, 1904 – 1947. His runners claimed 5 world records, 6 American records and included 9 Olympians.

Hayward was succeeded by Bill Bowerman, who coached Oregon from 1948 – 1972, built on Hayward’s success and turned Oregon into a track powerhouse, with more records than I have space to mention, and whose teams included 33 Olympians.

One of those Olympians, Steve Prefontaine, attended Oregon from 1970-73, and once held every American record between 2,000 and 10,000 meters. Here’s Pre on the first turn at Hayward.

steve-prefontaine-oregon4 - Copy (514x640)

Hayward Field’s identity as a track and field center continues. Before and since Pre ran that oval, innumerable outstanding athletes have competed at Hayward, including in the annual Prefontaine Classic, which each May features many of the world’s top track and field performers.

The Counselor, a lifelong runner, and I — a longtime runner, thanks to her — paid our respects to Hayward on our trip to Oregon this summer.

Hayward Field Brad Nixon 7567 (640x471)

It was a treat to see that storied place. It would be even better had we been able to set foot on the track. Perhaps we’ll return some April to run in the Eugene Marathon-Half Marathon, which finishes on the track itself.

Any recollection of Pre is tinged bittersweet. Born the same year I was, he died in a car accident in 1975, at age 24. Had he achieved all he would ever do, or were there faster times, more records, an Olympic gold medal in his future? It’s impossible to answer that question, just as we’ll never know what music Mozart might have created had he lived beyond age 35. All we can do is keep running.

You may not get to run at Hayward, but just across the Willamette River you can run on Pre’s Trail, a 4-mile course through a portion of the extensive system of parks and trails that lace through the city. It was a facility Eugene lacked in Pre’s day, and he envisioned something like it. Now it’s there.

Pre's Trail Eugene Marcy Vincent (640x480)

Just keep running.

What’s a favorite historical or significant site you’ve visited on your travels? Leave a comment.

I wrote previously about a visit to Prefontaine’s home town, Coos Bay, Oregon, here.

© Brad Nixon 2017. Some photos © Marcy Vincent 2017, used by kind permission. I cannot determine ownership of the photo of Steve Prefontaine. Assume that it is not to be used for any commercial purpose.

 


Responses

  1. When I was in Ottawa two years ago, I saw in one of the major city squares a bronze statue dedicated to Canadian marathon runner Terry Fox. Although he was disabled and dying from cancer, he completed his quest to run across the entire country before finally succumbing in his early 20s.

    Like


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