Going in, we knew it was going to be dangerous. The potential for signing up was a hazard. In truth, I think before the credits even started rolling, our mind had been made up, yet no one said anything.
After sitting through some awkward interviews, the lights dimmed and the soft footfalls of a runner piped in. A slight, middle-aged woman comes into view, slogging through some miles in the middle of the night. A narrow shaft of light guides her. She looks disheveled and strained. Out of the darkness, another figure comes upon her and overtakes her in a flash. Laughter went up and you could see the vigorous nodding of approving heads silhouetted against the screen. We could relate.
On Tuesday night, five of us got together, venturing out into the oncoming snow storm, to see the one-night event, Hood to Coast.
We met up beforehand for dinner and drinks, and, pulling off our coats, each revealed our “Got the Runs?” team shirts from the Ragnar Relay.
Though Ragnar was nearly four months in the rearview, it was an event that really solidified our group of running friends. I guess spending 32 hours in a van with five other sweaty, smelly people can do that for you…or, I suppose, the complete opposite if you've chosen poorly.
Aside from barefoot running and minimalist shoes, covering vast distances in two vans and on foot with 11 fellow runners seems to be the fad du jour in the running community. Like the marathon, everyone wants in…and everyone can be. From elite runners looking to crush the field, to mid-packer teams, to teams who are there simply to cover the distance and look good (or funny) doing it, these relay series have them all.
Hood to Coast followed four such teams 197 miles, from Mt. Hood to the Oregon coast. It was exceptional. The movie did an incredible job capturing the feeling that you’re part of something larger than yourself. I can remember running Ragnar and not only forging bonds with my fellow vanmates but with the other teams around us that we happened to keep bumping into at the exchange points. Knowing that there were others out there experiencing this odyssey. And to that point, the movie somehow felt the same. Here were a 100 or so people sitting in a theatre in Ballston, VA, watching the same movie as others gathered around the country for the same reason. It’s what made having this movie a one night event so brilliant. There was even a camaraderie between viewers.
As many loop members can (and have attested to), these relays leave you euphoric for days, even weeks, after you’ve crossed the finishline. Once the original delirium subsides from not sleeping for however many ours and the physical and emotional exhaustion melts away, you realize that you actually have to get back to real life. A little bit of that post-race hangover creeps in, at least for me, and you simply can’t wait to do it again.
It’s why when a friend asked if my wife and I wanted to do American Odyssey, we hardly hesitated to accept. And our only hesitation was mine because I’d be running Boston just two weeks prior. “Eh, I can just pick up one of the shorter legs,” I reasoned.
Where else can you find that it’s acceptable to eat a salami sandwich at 7:00 in the morning and not think twice about it, or wake up on a soccer field and not remember how you got there. While there are moments of snippiness, when you find yourselves somewhere on the back roads, maybe lost, maybe fighting sleep in the middle of the night, there are moments where you feel the team gelling: prepping supplies for the runner who just finished and getting food prepared for the one who’s about to take off, sharing "sticks" and becoming more familiar with your teammate, um, bodily functions than perhaps you ever thought you'd be….
Once the teams crossed the finish line and the lights came back on, we walked out together and formed a small circle before going our separate ways for the night.
“Hood to Coast, 2012?” Five nods.
“How could we not?”
Indeed. How could we not?