By Mitch Phillips
EUGENE, Oregon (Reuters) – When the world’s fastest runners marvel about “Tracktown magic” at the World Athletics Championships over the next two weeks it won’t be something in the Oregon air that is propelling them to new levels of performance but what is beneath their feet
Eugene’s Hayward Field has always been the centre of U.S. athletics and now, completely rebuilt, it boasts a track that has seen records tumbling since it was installed in 2021.
Jamaican Elaine Thompson-Herah ran her 10.54 seconds 100 metres there – second only to Florence Griffith-Joyner’s dubious 10.49 world record – while on the same August day Jakob Ingebrigtsen set a Diamond League mile record and Norah Jeruto ran the third-fastest ever women’s 3,000m steeplechase, showing that it was not just fast for sprinters.
American Sydney McLaughlin has a particular fondness for the site, breaking the women’s 400m hurdles world record there in June 2021 then doing it again at last month’s U.S. trials.
The track boasts a similar “energy return” design to that of the Tokyo Olympic stadium that also saw some staggering world records but the Eugene one was designed and installed by Beynon Sports, who have supplied the Hayward Field track since 1995.
Iannick Di Sanza, Beynon’s director of marketing, told Reuters the company had mastered a “twin component polyurethane” system that hits the sweet spot to satisfy short and long distances.
“The BSS 2000 showcases a high performance dual rubber force reduction layer, which really helps it be fast, but also forgiving and it really maximises the energy return,” he said in an interview on Thursday, adding he was not at all surprised to see the records falling from day one of the installation.
“It’s poured in different layers and we build it up from the ground up,” he said.
“It’s a very high end, specialised polyurethane type system that is renowned for being fast and forgiving and we’re certainly not giving up any speed to get that forgiveness.
“We’ve tuned the tracks and engineered them to the point where they offer that leading speed that everyone’s looking for, but also that they’re forgiving for those long distance events.”
The combination of “energy return” tracks and carbon-insoled spikes has seen a slew of massive world, regional and national records in the last few years.
Traditionalists say that makes historical comparisons difficult, but those eye-catching performances are gold dust for the sport as it battles for live audiences and TV ratings.
Di Sanza, for one, is certainly looking forward to more.
“I think it’s going be fantastic. We’re extremely excited about this event,” he said ahead of Friday’s opening day of action. “We think the track is going to do just fine and will be giving us some great results over the next two weeks.”
(Reporting by Mitch Phillips, editing by Ken Ferris)