From the Mountains to the Beach
Hood to Coast is the self-proclaimed “mother of all relays”. And honestly, I’d agree. The race started back in 1982 with the idea of running from the mountains to the beach – and while the actual format has been tweaked over the years, that core idea remains the same.
Starting at Mt Hood, Oregon, teams of 12 make the 199-ish mile (this “ish” becomes important later in the piece) trek to the small resort town of Seaside, occasionally jumping into the Pacific Ocean at the end. Each runner has an assigned leg and runs three times, covering 14–19 miles in total. Depending on the pace of your team, each runner has 5–8 hours between legs and spends 20–30 hours in the team van.
Notably, in a world of unsanctioned relays, this is most definitely a sanctioned race, with the course and segments clearly marked, official exchange zones and specific rules. Start times are staggered, with faster teams starting later in the day so that all teams arrive at the finish in roughly the same window of time.
In short, you eat a lot of PB&J, sleep very little and have a lot of fun.
This race is legendary – you’ve had groups of professionals from Nike and adidas line up (that the race is centred on Portland, OR, has absolutely been the reason for this). The men’s division course record is held by Nike’s team Mambu Baddu with an average of 4:51 per mile or 3:01 per kilometre … Ekiden champs Toyo University have flown over from Japan to take a shot at this record, only to fall short after getting lost. The women’s course record is from 1996 and is right around 5:40 per mile or 3:31 per kilometre. (This is also probably the right space to note that course records are measured as average paces because the race distance varies each year due to construction, road closures and other variables.)
And while the elite side has always been major, the community side has exploded as well. Annually there are 1,000 teams that regularly raise more than $500,000 for the Providence Cancer Institute.
All this is to say that the race is special. Once you graduate from university, racing becomes a mostly solo endeavor. You can train with friends or run for a team. On race day, you may end up running with the same five people year over year. But at Hood to Coast it’s a team event. Each of the 12 runners is equally important; you need each other out there. Your drivers are vital. There’s something magical about getting out of the van for the third time – in the middle of the night, legs jelly – and ripping for the 11 other individuals out there with you. It’s for more than yourself, and it can ignite a spark in anyone going through a rut in their relationship with the sport.
The vibes of the team are just as important to the experience as any sort of fitness.
In short, I think everyone should experience a Hood to Coast. And that’s kinda why we’re here – to shine a light on these lesser-known running moments. The goal is to create connections, to inspire people globally to find a local relay, to organise one themselves or maybe even fly to HTC.
And yes, we’ve talked about Hood to Coast before here at Tempo. But that piece focused on chasing a time. That’s part of what’s happening in 2023, but it’s not the only thing. For 2023, we’re following three squads, from two crews, that have taken different paths to the start line. We’ll have speed, competition and vibes.
Follow the Tempo IG account over the next few days as we bring you updates and behind-the-scenes content from the mother of all relays. With that, let’s meet the players:
The Lostboys Track Club is a group of individuals spread across the globe but connected via their shared passion for chasing massive dreams while having fun. And they – okay, that should be “we” – are going to win the co-ed division of HTC 2023 (I’m the cofounder, so I might be biased). Remember how I said earlier that the “ish” would come back into play? Well, in 2021 the Lostboys set the current co-ed course record, averaging a 5:40 pace over 197 miles. As I already mentioned, because the course varies in length annually because of road closures and such, average pace is what determines the course record. Who knew? (We didn’t. Not two years ago, at least.)
This year, we think we can go faster. We’ve stuck with our philosophy of bringing new people into the mix every year, and on paper we’re ready to run fast. But we’ve done this a few times and know that it’s impossible to predict how things will play out until we get out there.
The dream is alive, the vibes are high, and we’re ready to stay lost – but hopefully not get lost.
Mill City Running
Mill City Running is a running store out of Minneapolis, Minnesota, that is on a mission to make running inclusive for all, no matter your abilities or pace or your running or walking background. Which sounds like there are some synergies between them and Hood to Coast.
And they’re taking that even further by bringing two teams to Hood to Coast this year. One team has the goal of winning the co-ed division and setting the course record; the other team has the goal of having the most fun on the course. This blend – 24 individuals who range from people who just started running in the last six months to individuals who have qualified for the Olympic trials in the marathon – perfectly embodies the vibes of this event.
For those tapped in, you’ll know that Mill City have set the course record at the Speed Project previously. So yeah, you could say that they know how to go fast in the relay format.
For the fun squad, the goal is exactly what it sounds like: have more fun than anyone else out there on the course. They’re still going to be out there pushing their bodies, but the focus is on soaking in the experience and embracing those shared moments together.
And that’s what is so special about an event like Hood to Coast - you get a range of abilities, a range of vibes, a range of goals. Races within the race, a bunch of different whys, all sharing the same roads.
The races kick off on Friday, August 25. Tune in.