It’s not every day that one has the opportunity to meet with an icon.
The Eugene Nike Running Club received such a treat when Alberto Salazar paid a visit Wednesday.
“Too many people showed up, so we’ll have to reschedule this,” joked Salazar as he began his talk.
At the Eugene Nike Store, Salazar gave tips to the approximately 15 runners at his talk. He also went on a run with them on the trails lining the Willamette River.
Salazar is a legendary marathon runner who is best known for winning three consecutive New York City Marathons from 1980 to 1982. He also won the Boston Marathon in 1982, which was the only Boston Marathon he competed in. He was on the 1980 and 1984 Olympic teams, and has spent the last 24 years promoting running with Nike as a part of the Nike Oregon Project, which trains Olympic-caliber athletes. In addition, Salazar has been a mentor and coach to 19-year-old University track and cross country star Galen Rupp.
“It’s especially fun for me to come back here,” said Salazar, who helped Oregon win the 1977 NCAA cross-country title and is a former co-owner of the Oregon Electric Station. “This is where Nike started. There’s a lot of history and heritage. It kind of brings me back to where we all started.”
“Keeping running going strong in this town is still very important for us. It’s my paycheck and also my hobby,” Salazar added.
Salazar offered running tips and fielded questions before going on a run with the club. He stressed that runners should seek to develop themselves as complete athletes because running can be debilitating. He demonstrated a few stretching techniques.
“You’re only going to be as flexible as your least flexible tendon,” he said.
He also spoke about how much running has changed since he was competing professionally because of the improvements in running shoe technology and sports medicine. Marathon runners are now able to train for 120 miles per week, an unheard of amount of training while Salazar was competing, he said. He then pointed to the increased level of training athletes do to run with correct form, which, he said, is necessary to compete professionally now.
“He’s always been a role model for me, so I definitely wanted to meet him,” said club member Erin Lynch, who ran her first marathon last year and ran competitively through high school and college. “He’s a legend among runners.”
“He kind of inspired me 20 years ago to start running with his Boston Marathon run,” said club member Stan Talbott. “He’s a great inspiration for the area.”
“He has the ability to mold runners. He’s taken nonathletes and made them into athletes,” said University student Jessica Brandes, who is a Nike Store employee studying Public Relations in the Journalism School.
Salazar now lives in Portland with his wife, Molly, and their three children. He was inducted into the National Long Distance Running Hall of Fame in 2000. He keeps busy with his job at Nike as well as his work with Rupp.
“I’m just glad to be a part of it,” said Nike Store manager Micah Hudson. “I feel like a little kid. I am excited to be running with one of the best runners in the world.”