The MOTHER of All Relays
- 30th Anniversary
- August 26-27, 2011
- Largest Relay in the World!
- Incredible Adventure with Unbeatable Scenery
- From majestic Mt. Hood to beautiful Pacific Ocean in Seaside
It was early morning dark when I left the house. As I drove east to Mt. Hood there was a line of pink along the foothills and the blush of pink above. I drove through the towns heading up to the mountain: Sandy, Welches, Zigzag, Rhododendron. The sky was slashed a few times with lightning and a light rain fell.
Somewhere along the empty highway I saw the first runner, reflective tape glowing as he moved along on the shoulder of the highway. Then another, then another. Soon I began to see road crews out setting up orange traffic cones for the crowd to come. Vans of runners drove past me, honking their horns and cheering for the runners on the road.
This year the organizers allowed 250 additional teams to run bringing it to 1250 teams of 12 each, mixed male and female, 15,000 individuals participating. Each team is given a start time based on their calculations of running time. The first twenty teams left Timberline Lodge at 3:30 AM, then the next wave at 3:45, then Emily’s team along with 19 other teams started at 4 AM and so on through the morning and afternoon. The elite teams of runners (Nike, Adidas, etc) will start in the afternoon and during the night will likely pass the other competitors.
Each team has 2 vans with 6 runners each, so there are vans going up the mountain to start at their appointed time, and vans coming down from dropping one runner off to drop off the next one at the hand-off site. The vans leap frog over each other so as to give more rest time to the runners. The race is scheduled to take about 30 hours and by alternating their 2 vans the team members actually get a little sleep time—sitting up in a crowded-- and possibly smelly--vehicle, of course.
I drove and drove through the little towns and passing runners. I went by landmarks familiar from other races and began to worry that I had missed the check point for Emily’s lap. I was looking for the Rhododendron Mt. Hood General Store and imagining buying a cup of coffee to enjoy as I waited. But I became increasingly anxious that I had missed it, so I did a U-turn and pulled into a wide shoulder to call my darling husband who would know if I had gone too far or not far enough. I sat in my car with the windows rolled down because of condensation. As my husband answered the phone, a runner called to me “Hi, Mom!” and I looked in amazement as my daughter ran right by me. “It’s YOU!!”, I said in shock and delight, and she and the runner behind her laughed. Of course I didn’t have my camera ready for such a perfect opportunity and I couldn’t ask her to stop in the middle of her race.
After I gathered my wits I pulled out slowly and went down the road with my passenger side window open, hoping to get a shot of her as I passed. These are the great results:
I drove down the road looking for the hand-off point. I passed runners and vans parked on the shoulder to wave their runners on. I drove past a couple intersections where volunteers in reflective vests were directing traffic. I drove slowly, looking for the end of the leg. I eventually decided I must have missed it somehow. This leg was 7.2 miles and it seemed to be forever. But finally, ahead of me was a weigh station filled with tightly parked vans and crowded with runners wearing everything from spandex to tutus.
A van pulled in with a row of pink flamingoes on its roof. Another van of dentists was titled the “Molar Express”. People were having fun, cheerily chatting in small groups and watching for their team member to come in. Their next runner would be getting ready, stripping off the sweat suit and tying back the hair. The energy was palpable in the early morning air.
I stood watching the runners come in. They pulled off their wrist bands and snapped it around their team mate’s wrist as he/she took off. Everyone clapped for everyone: the personal effort is laudable. Some come in lightly, bouncing on their toes. Some come in with awkward strides, twisting shoulders side to side. One man was quite heavy with a pot belly: I wondered how he could run 7.2 miles. Gray-haired or teen, thin or chubby, conditioned or not: this is Everyman’s race.
As runners come in, people crowd in front and want to see who it is. Some have clipboards and are checking their watches and keeping track of their schedule. Volunteers have to keep the crowd from encroaching onto the runners’ path.
There she is!! I see her and recognize her from quite a distance. I take a picture while no one’s in my way. Too far away. I try to take another but the camera is still in review mode. I snap again and get her exiting right out of the frame. She’s still running, running strong. Right past me.
I came home with thoughts of a morning nap enticing me, but for the runners, the race goes on. Emily’s next leg is during rush hour in Scappoose, and after that at 3 AM tomorrow in Jewel, near the coast. The race ends in Seaside where the beach is crowded with runners and sightseers watching to see the last runners come in and stretching out on the sand before they get back into their vans for the drive home.
COURSE & LEG MAPS