Hood to Coast is the largest relay race in the world, and it’s no small feat. Every year, 12,600 runners in teams of 12 hit the starting line at the base of Mount Hood, located 50 miles outside of Portland. Teams cover 198 miles of road from the mountain through the city and over the coast range all the way to the finish line on the beach in Seaside, Oregon. You can’t really know what to expect in an adventure of this kind, but in order to survive it, you’ll want to know how to prepare.
What to expect:
First and foremost, Hood to Coast is a roaming cavalcade of runners. Picture the scene at the start of a big city marathon and imagine it traveling as a moving caravan for 200 miles, where it stops and immediately starts celebrating with beer. Along the way, you’re likely to see vans decorated as if they do, indeed, belong to a circus, and runners in an assortment of attire from serious gear to silly costumes. You can expect to run three legs that are each between 3.52 to 8.09 miles over about 30 hours, while sleeping between zero and four hours, showering little if at all, eating whatever you can put down between runs and standing in line for the port-o-potty at least ten times over the race course. You can most assuredly expect to cross the finish line exhausted and happy.
What to pack:
The Official Hood to Coast website has a great suggested packing list. If you’re into lists, print it out and follow it systematically to be the most prepared person in your van. If you’re not the list type, pack the essentials: three separate running outfits (see below for specifics); two pairs of running shoes; food and water (see below for specifics), a sleeping bag, a plastic bag to throw your dirty/wet clothes in and toiletries.
What to wear:
Hood to Coast officials put it this way: “Expect a warm first leg, a 15 degree cooler second, and a 40-45 degree leg three.” Those are three diverse climates, all packed into one event, so dress accordingly. You’ll want to wear what you’re comfortable running in, but you’ll need to prepare to run three times, in three separate outfits. Seasoned Hood to Coast veterans will pre-pack each outfit. For the hot run, think a sweat-wicking T-shirt and shorts; for the cooler leg, think tights and a T-shirt and for the coldest run of the race, think layers, gloves and a hat to keep you from getting chilled. Don’t forget socks that you’ve run in before (so you know they won’t enable blisters to pop up), as well as clean, dry undergarments for each run.
What to eat:
One of the classic mistakes of the first-time Hood to Coast runner is eating the wrong thing. If you eat something that’s too tough to digest, you’ll run the risk of creating an unhappy gut, which can be hard to remedy during the course of this event.Eat what you’re used to and do not try anything new on race weekend. Snacking on things that are easy for your body to digest is your best bet for avoiding the stomach-upset trap. For many people, this means Clif bars, crackers, electrolyte-replacement drinks and the like. Know that when the race is all said and done, you can feast on whatever post-race treat you love the most.
What to do two nights before the start:
Sleep as much as possible. If you can sleep in and head into work late, do it. You will not sleep well the night before because you’ll be full of excitement or nerves, so the most sleep you can get two nights before, the better. Also, be sure to load up on good food and to hydrate as much as possible during this pre-race period.
What to do when you get to the starting line:
Forget about your day job and throw your daily responsibilities to the wind. Focus on the task at hand: running and having fun. When you start, you’ll feel like it’s going to take forever to get to the finish, but it will go quickly and before you know it, you’ll be hobbling down the stairs at your office on Monday, talking about how much fun you had and how you can’t wait for next year. Enjoy the ride, take in the scenery and appreciate that you’re alive and well enough to run a wild relay race in one of the most beautiful parts of the world.