Having never run a relay race before, I didn’t know what to expect when we signed up to run Hood to Coast Pacific City, which is a one-day, 80-mile relay race across the Oregon countryside.
What is Hood to Coast Pacific City?
Hood to Coast Pacific City is a one-day relay race fielding 350 teams of up to six people, covering 80 miles from Bald Hill, a mountain near Portland, Oregon, to Pacific City on the coast, in one day.
The race is one of several one-day relay races put on by the organizers of the largest relay race in the WORLD, the ‘Mother of all Relays’, the Hood to Coast. [The Hood to Coast Mother of all Relays is a longer 200 mile relay race from Mt Hood, east of Portland, to the coast, which involves some 13,000 runners plus volunteers and supporters, not to mention more than 24 hours of running, for most people!]
Here’s a map of the route for our Hood to Coast Pacific City one-day relay:
The organizers’ website also includes details of each leg, including elevation profile, length and terrain / difficulty level, to help your team work out who is doing which leg.
How does an endurance relay race work?
The concept is simple, but requires a good amount of co-ordination:
- There are 12 legs of between 4 and 11 miles, with varying elevation profiles
- Each runner runs two legs, in order, for example, runner 1 runs the first and seventh leg, whereas runner 6 runs the sixth and final leg
- Each team arranges their own van or truck and drives themselves between relay exchange points, where runners hand over to the next person
- Start times are in waves, starting from 3.30am, based on your estimated finish time
- There are no aid stations for resupplying food and drinks, so you need to come prepared
- To hand over to the next runner, you pass them a baton in the form of a ‘slap-wrap’ bracelet (80’s kids, remember those from back in the day?!).
I was first struck by how passionate people are about running relay events. Our six-person team consisted of Alastair and myself, plus four awesome new friends, Inna, Liz, Kerri, and Jill. All of them had run several relays before and knew a bunch of other people at the Pacific City event – it seems these events are rather addictive and sociable!
After getting up at 2.45am to meet up with the team and get sorted ready for our 5am start, we were in a bit of a haze and in need of coffee. Fortunately, I was the sixth runner, which meant I had a few hours to go before I needed to run my first leg, and could work out the food, drink and porta-potty arrangements so I was ready to run when my turn came.
At 5am we waved our first runner, Jill, off into the early morning darkness. Complete with a headlamp and reflective vest, she disappeared into the woods with her wave of runners and we hopped back into our car to warm up and head to meet her at the exchange point.
The time in the car between exchanges allowed us to all get to know one another a little better as we drove around the Oregon countryside, through some nice wine country that I made a note to go back and visit sometime soon.
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Running Hood to Coast Pacific City
When my leg eventually came I was surprisingly nervous – being a trail runner I am not used to running long distances on roads or with many other people, so I was grateful that the pack (not that there was ever a large pack or runners as teams start in waves) had spread out considerably by the time I came to run some five hours into our race. Both my legs (6 & 12) were flattish with some downhill and moderate climbs, and I was grateful for this – uphill is not my forte and I didn’t envy Liz or Alastair, whose first legs were almost 100% uphill, and both of which were BOSSED by these strong uphill runners!
The infamous ’11th leg’
It seemed everyone’s second leg was a little tougher, especially Alastair’s, which was the infamous 11th leg. This one is on trail, straight up and back down a large hill, over 9.5 miles. When we chose our legs, he jumped in and volunteered for this one – being a trail and mountain-runner, this was definitely his ‘jam’ and he made light work of the leg, coming in more than 20 minutes quicker than anticipated. The organizers even give a medal to the runners who finish this leg, and I thought it a shame they didn’t go even further and award prizes for the fastest finishers for that leg, as he would have been up there in the rankings (#proudwife).
Finishing HTC Pacific City
The last leg along the coast to the finish was beautiful, if only with a little too much vehicular traffic whizzing past, sometimes too close for comfort. I kept myself distracted from the cars by admiring the raw beauty of the coast, including the huge ‘haystack rock’ that lies off Pacific City’s shore. The finish came up quickly, after a fun downhill, and I met the rest of the team at the finish line, where we crossed the line together in just under 12 hours.
Special shout out to our awesome team, particularly Kerri and Jill, who did all the driving, and Hood to Coast for inviting us to experience this unique event!
Watch our YouTube video at the top of this post for a full audio/visual explosion of the Hood To Coast Pacific City race-day vibes. Also, you can check out our Instagram stories from the day to get even more of a feel for the event.