On Track in Eugene: for Athletics, Leisure Lovers Alike

For fans of Nike founder Phil Knight’s wildly popular Pacific Northwest-set autobiography Shoe Dog, the landscapes will be familiar: rolling verdant hills, soft paths to circumnavigate, lots of sky to ponder and the chance to listen to the inhalation and exhalation of one’s breath as the sun stretches up to gently illuminate the morning dew.

This is Eugene and as construction hurriedly — dare locals say it — races to the finish line at the University of Oregon’s iconic Hayward Field for the 2020 U.S. Olympic Team Trials for track and field, the rest of the city sprouts like the iconic green of the mighty U of O Ducks.

Downtown Eugene © Inn at The 5th

Downtown Eugene © Inn at The 5th

Infrastructure continues to pop up here in the form of the new Hotel Eugene (formerly a Hilton), and the now-under-construction Gordon Hotel, an expansion of the Inn at the Fifth retail and hotel complex. Built on the site of an original Nike store, there are touches for outdoorsy folks everywhere besides the sand, browns and amber hues that define “earth tones.” In the lobby, outlines of runners’ bodies are colorful shadows on the wall, and wood over the electric fireplaces in each of the spacious rooms is reclaimed from the original storefront. Then there’s the Nike/Pendleton blanket collaboration for extra snuggle-worthy nights designed to make you lust after these $300 indulgences so hard you buy one at the store adjacent to the lobby (there’s also a pretty neat lingerie store in the shopping area for added impact).

Inn at the 5th, Plaza © Inn at The 5th

Inn at the 5th, Plaza © Inn at The 5th

All in all, it’s a pretty neat one-stop shop ready to fill you and your shopping basket up.

Add in the Aveda products in the washrooms (the same carried in Gervais spa on the first floor adjacent to the lobby), and you’re golden.

It’s just an hour or so drive from Portland, or you can take an Amtrak or a puddle jumper and fly into Eugene’s small regional airport (EUG). The hotel’s complimentary black Mercedes sedan shuttle there and around town is definitely a juxtaposition next to the bright green and yellow John Deere tractor — remarkably fitting with both University colors and the landscape, which has rolling fields and myriad sheep dotting the grass just a few minutes outside the runways.

It’s a whole different picture once you settle into the Inn at the Fifth, where there are complimentary snacks in the lobby and a glass of free local beer or wine at check-in. Eugene’s unique position in the Willamette Valley gives it not only some spectacular outdoor scenery (including some lovely running and hiking trails not far from the hotel), but also some great water sources from which craft brewers can work their magic. While the Inn can coordinate all-day wine tours with picnics and a shuttle (particularly popular with the parents of U of O co-eds), it’s a bit easier to get around to the beer and cider spots via shorter Uber drive or by walking. Notables include Ninkasi, Claim 52 and WildCraft Cider Works. There’s no shortage of places to indulge with caloric intakes, either, and, this being a college town in a state with plenty of “green” dispensaries, munchies are easy to quell at Off the Waffle or Portland fave Voodoo Doughnut. More refined tastes will want to make room for a visit to Marche at the Inn, and farm-to-table fare like locally grown and roasted hazelnuts, and pillowy pork gnudi.

Ninkasi Beer Tasting © Inn at The 5th

Ninkasi Beer Tasting © Inn at The 5th

Work it all off the next day on the running or hiking path, or hit up the Run Hub store across the street for club camaraderie. You might even spot local native and former Olympian Ian Dobson, now one of the organizers of the Eugene Marathon. This is also where one of the world’s greatest track stars — Steve Prefontaine — called home. It’s only after a day or two here of rest, relaxation, and yes, even a jog, that it’s easy to understand why.