There are races — and then there are races. The Hood to Coast Relay, Oregon’s premier distance running event, is most certainly the latter. Hood to Coast is the namesake for a nearly year-round series of relays, personal runs and “fun runs,” and it definitely takes its flagship role seriously. Spanning about 200 miles of beautiful terrain between the slopes of Mount Hood and the shores of the Pacific Ocean, it’s one of the longest and most challenging runs in North America.
Here’s a closer look at what you need to do — and what you can expect — if you want to run Hood to Coast next year.
What, When and Where
The Hood to Coast Relay typically features more than 10,000 runners, organized in teams of at least eight and as many as 12. The 2015 event saw more than 12,000 participants, a staggering number and one of the highest totals ever. To wit: The word is spreading.
Hood to Coast begins about 90 miles southeast of Portland, on the slopes of Mount Hood — hence the first part of the name. Specifically, the race departs from the Timberline Lodge, a storied facility that attracts non-running tourists in large numbers. Most years, it happens on the last full weekend in August.
Start and Finish Logistics
Given the sheer number of participants and space constraints at the Timberline Lodge, Hood to Coast start groups are heavily staggered. The first racers leave at 5 a.m. on Friday morning; the last don’t take off until 2:45 p.m. that same day. (For competitive runners, time begins when the first team member leaves, so everyone’s on an equal playing field and no one has to play catch-up.)
Teams are required to have at least two vehicles to ferry runners and supplies between hand-off points. However, only one team vehicle is allowed at the start point; congestion would be unmanageable otherwise. The second team vehicle reports to the sixth hand-off point.
Hood to Coast’s finish point is in the picturesque town of Seaside, Oregon, nearly due west of Portland. Once all the teams have arrived at the finish point, it’s time to celebrate! Music, games and general merrymaking last all through the afternoon and evening on the Saturday of the race. Just remember to use the park-and-ride lots, complete with shuttle buses provided by the race organizers. Traffic in Seaside is nightmarish for those in private cars.
Get Ready to Feel the Burn
Running an ultra-marathon isn’t for the faint of heart. Hood to Coast might be a relay-style race, but it still requires running for several hours straight. If you’re not up for that kind of punishing body abuse, it might not be the run for you—especially if you’re an athlete local living around the Portland area.
Then again, anyone who participates in an ultra-marathon earns bragging rights that can’t be revoked. The feeling of accomplishment you’ll experience as you see the Pacific Ocean roll slowly into view simply can’t be replicated. Neither can the camaraderie that develops between Hood to Coast participants.
With that in mind, there’s just one question left to answer: Are you up for running 200 miles with 12,000 of your new best friends next summer?