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Runners passing through Mist along Highway 202 in the 2007 Hood to Coast run.

The OfficeMax Hood to Coast Relay is a unique long-distance relay race held in the U.S. state of Oregon, annually in late August, traditionally on the Friday and Saturday of the weekend before the Labor Day weekend. It is one of the longest major relays in North America and the largest in the world in terms of total participation (12,000 in Hood To Coast Relay, 17,400 total participants, including Portland To Coast Walk Relay and High School Challenge Relay). The course runs 197 miles (317 km) from Timberline Lodge on the slopes of Mount Hood, the tallest peak in Oregon, through the Portland metropolitan area, and over the Oregon Coast Range to the beach town of Seaside on the Oregon Coast.

Walkers and high school teams may choose to compete in the Portland to Coast Walk or Portland to Coast High School Challenge respectively, both of which are held in conjunction with the main relay and start in downtown Portland instead of Mount Hood.

Contents

History

The relay was started by Portland architect Bob Foote, who was then president of Oregon Road Runners Club. The first relay in 1982 drew eight teams that ran from Timberline to Kiwanda Beach near Pacific City, Oregon. The relay grew rapidly to over 400 teams by 1986. In 1989, the finish area was moved to Seaside where it remains today. Since then, the race has become extremely popular, attracting teams of elite and recreational runners alike.[1]

Like many businesses, The Hood To Coast Relay is a for-profit business. While the American Cancer Society has been a longtime sponsor, it had not been prominently promoted in race literature until Foote himself was diagnosed and successfully treated for melanoma in 2005. The race then began to take on a more aggressive approach to fundraising, and in 2009 alone, over $360,000 was raised for the American Cancer Society. In 2006, Foote's daughter, Felicia Hubber, was brought on board the family business to manage the majority of race logistics. She currently serves as Race Director.[2]

Teams

Open to all interested competitors, but limited to 1,000 twelve-person teams, Hood to Coast has filled its limit on opening day for the past twelve years. Teams each year are chosen by lottery from the entries postmarked on the opening day of registration, typically in the fall of the previous year. The Portland to Coast Walk and High School Challenge are limited to 400 and 50 teams respectively; entries are accepted on a first-come-first-served basis until all spaces are filled.[3]

Because of the long lag time between registration and race day, team rosters can and do change for various reasons, and as a result registered teams often find themselves looking for replacement runners. Conversely, as race day approaches, individual runners interested in doing the relay try to join a registered team needing a replacement runner.[4][5]

Course

The 197 mile (317 km) Hood to Coast course consists of 36 legs, of which each team member must run at least three in rotation. The legs vary in length from 3.52 miles (5.66 km) to 7.79 miles (12.53 km), and the terrain for each leg can vary from level terrain to steep uphills and/or downhills. Consequently, a runner may total between 13.61 miles (21.90 km) and 19.68 miles (31.67 km). Teams in Hood to Coast must complete the course within a 31 hour time limit (an average team pace of 9 minutes 30 seconds per mile).

2007 Portland to Coast traffic at night on Highway 202 near Mist.

Start times on Friday are staggered between 6:30 a.m. and 6:45 p.m. in waves of approximatley 20 teams every 15 minutes.[6] Teams are computer seeded based on self-reported 10K times for each team member's submitted roster. Thus the flow of teams through the 36 exchange points and finish line are even, with all teams finishing the race by the closing time of 9 p.m. on Saturday.[7]

The course starts at Timberline Lodge at the 6,000-foot (1,800 m) level of Mount Hood, and proceeds down Timberline Road to Government Camp. This first leg drops 2,000 feet (610 m) in elevation over about 6 miles (9.7 km); the next two legs from Government Camp to Rhododendron have a combined elevation drop of 2,300 feet (700 m) over about 10 miles (16 km).

Runners proceed west along U.S. Route 26 to the towns of Sandy and Gresham, where the route proceeds along the Springwater Corridor to the Sellwood neighborhood in southeast Portland. The route then proceeds north through city streets and crosses the Hawthorne Bridge west into downtown Portland.

After crossing the Hawthorne Bridge, runners proceed north along Naito Parkway in downtown Portland along the west bank of the Willamette River and onto U.S. Route 30 to St. Helens. From there onward, the route passes through hilly rural and sometimes unpaved backroads through the communities of Mist and Birkenfeld on the way to the finish line in Seaside.

The Portland to Coast Walk Relay and the High School Challenge Relay follow the last 24 legs (127 miles) of the course, starting from the Hawthorne Bridge in downtown Portland. Each participant in these relays walk or run at least two legs in rotation.

Logistics and atmosphere

Each twelve-person team is allowed two vehicles no larger than a standard-sized van. While the vans generally follow the race course in support of their runners, certain narrower portions of the course require one van to make a detour to alleviate traffic congestion. Teams usually give themselves funny or original names and decorate their vehicles according to a theme. Race organizers announce the winners for best team name, best van design, best team outfit, and outstanding volunteer, (as voted by teams) at the PTC Awards Ceremony, Saturday evening, and on the HTC website.[8]

Teams are expected to provide their own provisions, including food and water, and to ensure their own safety; there are no promised aid stations or police protection on the course,[9] nor is there prize money for the winners. [10] However, local schools and churches along the route provide sleeping areas, food, and showers at nominal cost to participants as fundraisers. Teams compete in divisions based on gender (men, women, and mixed) age (based on the age of the youngest participant) or corporate sponsor.

All teams that include at least one member living within a 90-mile (140 km) radius of Portland are required to provide three volunteers to ensure adequate personnel at turns and exchanges along the course race.

References

External links

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