The Hood To Coast Relay is going virtual.
With the COVID-19 pandemic canceling the 2020 version of the world’s largest running and walking relay race, organizers are turning to the virtual world keep runners on the road.
“This virtual event is a way for us to connect to our audience, keep everyone engaged so that the 2021 event would be spectacular,” said Dan Floyd, the chief operating officer of the Hood To Coast.
And it also gives runners who were locked out of the HTC Relay, even before the pandemic, a chance to run in 2020.
“For 20 years now, we’ve booked out the race on the opening day of registration,” Floyd said. “Last October, we registered 20,000 people for the 2020 event. On that same day, we put another 40,000 people on a waiting list for a potential spot opening, or to improve their chances (of getting into the race) the following year. Those people represent all 50 states and over 40 countries.”
The Hood To Coast Relay is a 199-mile race completed by 12-member teams from Timberline Lodge on Mt. Hood to the beach at Seaside, Ore. There is also a 130-mile Portland To Coast Relay for walkers. Both events were slated to be held on Aug. 27-28 before being canceled.
Now, competitors will be given a window from Aug. 14-29 to complete their virtual relay race. Runners can run whenever they want within that window and from wherever they are in the world. Teams can consist of the traditional 12 runners, or as few as two runners with each covering about 100 miles over a two-week period.
“We want to keep it flexible to meet people’s needs,” Floyd said. “So if you want to run a leg that is 3 or 4 miles here in Portland and your teammate wants to run 10 or 12 miles in The Netherlands, we can put that combination together. As long as the total miles completed by the team is 199, you’ve completed the Hood To Coast.”
Once runners are registered for the virtual Hood To Coast, they will be given access to a special app that monitors the time and distance run by each team member.
“Then once I’m done with my leg, I just swipe and it shows I’ve completed my leg, then alerts the next runner on my team it’s time to complete their run,” Floyd said. “It doesn’t matter where you are or where you go. You just complete your miles, then swipe and it goes to the next person.”
And since there is a two-week window for completion, the next runner is not obligated to start running immediately after the previous runner’s leg is completed.
However, Floyd said there are some teams that intend to do just that.
In a normal Hood To Coast, each runner on a team completes three legs each ranging from four to seven miles in length. The entire race can take 20 to 30 hours to complete.
“We still have teams that we are hearing from that are still going to run it as close to normal,” Floyd said. “They are going to get together as a squad, run their legs in succession and live all those unpleasant parts of the Hood-to-Coast experience, like not sleeping or running at night.”
In fact, the Hood To Coast Virtual Festival will include contests in which teams can earn points for wearing costumes, decorating a team van or even for sleeping on the ground.
“It sounds crazy, but we will have a lot of people who will do that,” Floyd said. “Part of the Hood To Coast experience is that it can be miserable at times. When I ran it, I hated every minute of it, and I loved every minute of it.”
Floyd said every team that was registered for the 2020 Hood To Coast has been automatically registered for the 2021 event. Those registered runners also can participate in the virtual 2020 relay for free.
Runners who are not registered for the 2020 live event can enter the virtual event for a fee of $35 per runner. Registration remains open and can be completed at hoodtocoast.com.
Floyd said he expects 1,000 runners to participate in the virtual Hood To Coast with the overwhelming number of runners being those who were planning to compete in the live event in 2020.
“We’re not trying to make money off this event,” Floyd said. “It would be impossible to make money off an event like this. We’re just looking to keep people engaged. And it just reminds them that during a time like this, it’s important to keep running and keep walking.”
And don’t forget to swipe.