One of my favorite annual run events has become the Hood to Coast Relay, a 197 mile race from Mount Hood to Seaside, Oregon. Each team consists of 12 participants, with each person running three legs of approximately 4-7 miles. The legs consist of a variety of difficulty levels from extreme up hills and down hills, to fast, flat stretches. The race takes an average of 24 hours to finish, with many of the legs taking place in the middle of the night on shoulders of northwest highway, as the runners follow the path of light illuminated from their headlamps.
Each team has a team name and two vans with six people each. We were “Strangers in the Night.” I was in Van Two this year, which was an eclectic group filled with a lot of personality.
For many runners, this race is truly roughing it and is as close to camping as some will ever come (myself included). Runners curl up in vans and sleep on the ground between legs, teams subside on Clif Bars and Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwiches, and run through all weather related elements.
Like many races, Hood to Coast is also mentally challenging. People are running their hearts out on very little sleep. The lack of sleep, combined with the competition, can be taken out on the run, as just when the athlete starts to feel really stressed; it is usually time for them to run again.
Another unique aspect of the race is that it brings runners of all ages together. My van consisted of my little sister Kate, who is new to competitive running and really embraced her legs with incredible finishes, to Chris, known to me as the Colonel, who brought an incredible sense of diplomacy to everything throughout the race.
For me personally, this race meant a lot to me, not only because some of the most important people to me were involved, but also because it helped me re-find my competitive edge. This was technically my first race back since my stress fracture in the spring. Competing with the purpose of contributing to our team standing made me remember what I love most about running is race day, and putting my heart and soul into my race. It helped me really find the focus that will add the spark to the next couple of months of workouts before my fall marathon.
All in all, the greatest memories I will take away from the race are the people. Being able to do the thing I care about most -- run, with Kate, the Colonel, and my other mentors and friends is what I will remember in the coming years.