When I read A. Lynn Ash’s account about the challenges she confronted as the first woman jogger in the Running Capital of Eugene, my thoughts turned inward to the start of my collegiate running career in southern Missouri.
Lynn’s daring-do account of finding running shoes and then launching her running adventure on the streets of Eugene in the mid-1960s appears in “Eugeneana: Memoir of an Oregon Hometown,” just published.
Lynn revisits what she calls her “post-World War II growing up years in Eugene”and like most people who love a place and its people laments changes that she fears threaten and diminish the city’s charms.
She talks about the people and places important to her during her growing-up years and while attending the University of Oregon. After her professional career ended in California, she turned to her love of hiking and camping, which she writes about in two books. Meanwhile, she returned to Eugene.
For those of us who have known places like Tiny’s Tavern, Baldwin’s Market, the Pioneer Pageant, Webfeet, Don Essig and that North Eugene High School was built on a former filbert grove, the book refreshes and enhances memories of by-gone years.
Lynn says she can’t prove it but contends that she became the first woman jogger in Eugene during the 1960s when men were running all over the place.
“I decided I would try it,” she writes, “but at night under the cover of darkness, of course.” She found a pair of shoes in the closet, crept down the back stairs to the sidewalk and began her stealthful jogging under partial cloak of darkness illuminated by street lights.
That soon changed. She shopped for shoes and found a pair of size 7 Tigers, which she slipped on her feet and found them to be “the softest, cushiest shoes imaginable.”
She pushed onward despite occasional catcalls and other obstacles and fondly recalls hearing a young man who trotted beside her say, “You’re doing great. You’ve got a good stride.” Turns out the guy was former beloved track star Steve Prefontaine.
Lynn’s account reminded me that I should have been more determined to challenge what I presumed would be the reaction of small town residents when I began training for track in 1946.
My family lived several miles from the college campus. So, I picked what I presumed were the only places I could train: rough rural roads filled with rocks and potholes.
I should have been more daring, more like Lynn Ash, and do something no one else had ever done in that community: Run on the streets.