Thursday, January 13, 2011

"Hood to Coast" Review

Monday night I had the opportunity to see the documentary about the world's largest relay running event - Hood to Coast!  This annual event held in August has 1000 12 person teams (12,000 runners) running 197 miles from Mt. Hood, elevation 6000 ft, to the coastal town of Seaside, elevation 0 ft, in Oregon.  It brought back a rush of emotions and excitement from my experience participating in a relay in May 2010.  I was a bad blogger and never did a recap of the race but you can see some of my teammates recaps here, here and here.

It was February 2010 and I was holed up in my law school library studying for the bar when I saw Aron post on facebook that they were looking for additional teammates for their relay team.  I spent the next hour researching relays and trying to see what I could possibly be getting myself into.  Desperately in need of a new challenge and something fun to look forward to to help get me through the bar, I messaged her and said to count me in if they still needed people.  I had no idea what to expect besides traveling 197 miles with a group of awesome people I had only met a handful of times but I knew it would be an fun.

And the adventure begins . . .
Hood to Coast, as most relays, consists of 36 legs varying in distances from 3 - 8 miles.  Runners each run 3 legs for a total of 14 - 20 miles.  Each leg is designated easy, medium, hard, or very hard depending on the distance and terrain.  The film covers the history and growth of the event while documenting four teams and their epic 36 hour, 199 mile journey.  The teams chosen really showcase the variety of participants from the "Dead Jocks in a Box," the seasoned veterans who know every inch of every leg to "Thunder and Laikaning," the novice runners who, some before H2C, had barely run 3 miles and whose training plan involved more beer than running.  Additionally, there was "Heart n' Sole," a team of women including a seasoned marathoner who collapsed on her third leg of the 2007 race from a heart attack and comes back to run after triple bypass surgery and R. Bowe, a team running in memory of a runner husband, brother, son, father and best friend who died unexpectedly from a genetic heart condition who was supposed to be running with them. 

Finishing Leg 1 strong
Their stories were all unique - they all approached the race with different philosophies, had different backgrounds and brought different experiences to the table.  However, their stories were more alike than different - stories of teamwork, camaraderie, and pushing yourself to limits you didn't know you were capable of.  That is what 30 hours in a van, with five other people, traveling 197 miles will do you.  You bond quickly in that tiny space, amongst stinky, sweaty clothes, navigating routes at 3:00 in the morning.

One of my favorite parts of the movie was where Rachael, a member of "Thunder and Laikaning" finishes running a very difficult uphill, 6 mile leg, in the middle of the night on a gravel trail where dirt and rocks are being spewed all around her from the passing vans and when she finishes the leg all she can do is rave about how much fun it was and how awesome and experience it was.  This is the essence of running events like this - why we run marathons and push our bodies farther than they can go - for that very moment.

Another one of my favorite quotes from the movie was where a member of "Dead Jocks" says by the end of the race you are racing with your mind because your body is long gone.  After being awake for more than 24 hours, having run 3 legs and 17 miles (one of my teammates and I doubled up for our night runs), and not really having anything substantial to eat in over 12 hours I have no idea how I completed my final leg because my body was shot at that point but I did, and like Rachael said "it was awesome."

I saw the movie with half of my relay teammates and as people filed into the theater we were talking about whether we thought they were runners or not.  On the surface the documentary was a story about runners and running, but underneath that was so much more and I can guarantee that even a non-runner would walk away from this movie feeling inspired and ready to tackle whatever challenge was important to them in their life.

I am so lucky to have gotten to participate in an experience like this.  From cheering on other runners, to making countless "That's What She Said" jokes (that was our team name), to spending 30 hours with the best teammates I could have asked for I have memories that will last a lifetime.

The opening scene depicts a women running in the dark, you hear her feet pounding on the dirt and the sound of her rhythmic breathing.  You see the headlamps of others dancing like fireflies in the background.  It instantly brought me back to my 1:00 am leg where I had no idea where I was and would only intermittently hear the sounds of other foot steps in the distance.  Or at 2:30 am when Katie and I were running through downtown Sausalito that was so quiet it sent chills up your spine.  Or crossing the Golden Gate Bridge at 3:30 in the morning and seeing the San Francisco skyline illuminated in the distance thinking of everyone who was fast asleep.

If you ever have the opportunity to participate in an event like this I highly recommend it.  I think Hood to Coast shows you don't have to be a veteran runner to successfully complete a race like this - as long as you can handle traveling in a van for 30 hours without very little sleep, laughing constantly, eating an obscene amount of chocolate cookies, cheering on your fellow teammates and oh yeah, do a little running, I promise you will have the time of your life. 

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  1. I love this! I had SO much fun doing the relay and glad you were on the team! It was also great seeing the movie with you as well :) I am thinking we need to do another ;)

  2. I loved this post!! Me and some runner friends were planning to go see it Tuesday but we had a snow storm and everything was closed! We are waiting (with our fingers crossed) to see if they reschedule. I get goose bumps reading things like this (I'm weird like that). :) I would love to do something like this some day! Thanks for sharing your experience!


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