Every year since 1982, runners have been piling into vans and taking turns running 197 miles from Timberline Lodge on Mount Hood to Seaside, Oregon. The relay race involves staying up all night, taking brief naps (if you get any sleep at all!) on the ground or in a van, and being crammed in that van with 6 other people and their belongings. Sleep deprived and sore, participants must navigate all types of roads to meet their runner at exchange points and send out the next team member. The race has grown to 1,050 teams with each team having 12 runners, some who have travelled from all over the world to participate. Each member chooses a “leg” between 1-12, each varying by distance and difficulty. Van 1 starts at Timberline Lodge and runners 1-6 complete their first legs. At the end of leg 6, runner 7 from van 2 is tagged in and van 1 drives ahead to the end of leg 12 and rests until van 2 arrives. This back and forth happens three times until runner 12 crosses the finish line on the coast of Seaside.
The logistics of Hood to Coast are mind boggling and most runners are pushed to their limits as they pound the pavement on open highways and breath the dust of gravel country roads. It sounds completely insane and some (including my other half) wonder why the heck anyone would PAY to put themselves through such torture.
It’s hard to explain the answer to that question except by saying…Hood to Coast is some SERIOUS FUN! I love the physical challenge of running on various terrain and various times throughout the day and night. I love the camaraderie that is so quickly built between team members who are in this crazy thing together, all with the goal of taking care of each other and getting to that finish line. The last two years I have done Hood to Coast, I have been on teams where I have only known 1 or 2 people before race day, and by the end of those two days together in a van, I have made 5 incredible friends. I love the kindness I encounter from the other teams we see along the way. Even the elite runners who are flying past me in the middle of the night offer encouragement and congratulations. I also love seeing Oregon in a way I normally wouldn’t. Driving to the coast is one thing, running various points along the way is another. People get really into making the race fun and some of the team names crack me up. A few of my favorites from this year include:
- Scrambled Legs and Achin’
- At Your Cervix (I think this was a group of ladies from a gynecology office. They also had some really cute team shirts.)
- Run? I Thought You Said Rum!
- The Agony of Da Feet (This won the award for the best team name)
This year I ran leg 9, which means I completed legs 9, 21 and 33. Here is what Portland Running Company has to say about Leg 9:
“Teams would be advised to put their strongest runner on this leg of Hood to Coast. Leg Nine’s runner encounters a scene from the Great Dustbowl in his or her second stage, and the third stage is eight miles long, which is, well, just plain long. Stamina, fortitude, and confidence are essential for this runner.”
Me? The strongest runner? Last year I struggled to finish my Hood to Coast legs. I hobbled around the house for days after it was over. I have spent the last year doing p90x, p90x2, and running lots of miles and it paid off in a huge way. Despite having a tough set of legs, I felt amazing the entire race this year. My calves weren’t cramping, my IT bands weren’t tight, and I didn’t have to push my mind beyond its limits. I felt so strong going into my last leg of the race and finished feeling over the moon! I may not have the abs I want, nor the fastest half marathon time, but I have made huge progress in my strength and stamina over the last year. Don’t forget to use varied ways of testing your fitness and progress. I have found it very important to measure success in many different areas. It is encouraging to see growth and change and its important to not get hung up on one or two ways of measuring progress.
If you have been thinking about running a relay race, I would recommend you give one a try! It’s a hectic, exhausting and completely exhilarating experience! See you at Hood to Coast 2015 🙂