Can Oregon be the fittest state in the U.S. by 2021?

Legendary coach has a mission to get America moving

TrackTown USA President and U.S. Olympic coach Vin Lananna has a mission – to make Oregon the fittest state in the country by 2021 because this is when Eugene will host IAAF’s crown jewel of track and field – the World Championships. This is also be the first time the U.S. is home to the event.

Such a small city winning to hose the competition was a big dare, Lananna says. “Now I want to prove that we can set the model for exercising and put a challenge out to the rest of the country.”

Lananna is offering free training series every Sunday to runners and walkers in Eugene. It’s a unique opportunity to learn key fitness techniques. The organizers of TrackTown Fitness say the series has been tremendously successful – averaging 135 participants each week, with a total of more than 500 individuals taking part in at least one session since the launch in September.

Every Sunday at 8 a.m. – no exceptions – people show up at Hayward Field at the University of Oregon, one of the most famous historic track and field stadiums in the world and the host of the 2016 Olympic Team Trials for Track and Field. “This is an iconic venue. Big meets happen there and people come to watch,” Lananna says. “Now I try to get people to participate and relate to the field.” So in 2021 when people come to watch the World Championships, they will see the best athletes in the world do what they’ve already been doing for five years. There will be no strangers.

Based on concepts first taught by UO track and field coach and Nike co-founder Bill Bowerman (he invented the waffle sole on his wife’s waffle iron) more than 50 years ago, TrackTown Fitness is a course designed to teach the fundamentals of how to run or walk for better health. People are generally very active but not everybody has access. “They don’t have someone to tell them what to do, how to train. You can’t just run and jog,” Lananna says. “I decided to give back to the community.”

The objective is to create role models for younger generations who know how to take care of their body. “Kids seeing their parents work out will hopefully make them want to do it too,” Lananna adds. “I hope we can get the whole country moving.”

The goal doesn’t seem unreachable because Oregon is already one of the most fitness-friendly state in the country. Two cities – Corvallis and Bend – are in the Top 5, according to a new research.

Waking up so early in the morning to go run sounds a bit discouraging. “It’s been really fun to see how much they get out of it,” Lananna says. “Once they get there, it’s phenomenal.”

TrackTown Fitness is on a winter break. Classes will resume on January 31 with the goal of preparing every runner and walker for one of the Eugene Marathon races, whether it’s the 5K, the half marathon or full marathon. A 26.2 mile race is scheduled for May 1. “We hope to get between 750 and 1,000 first-time runners by then,” Lananna says.

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