Posted by: David Stewart | August 27, 2012

Why Hood to Coast is back on my “Good” list

Marci running Hood to Coast leg 1
It’s 2:45AM in the middle of the Coast Range in Oregon, Marci wakes me up. She is concerned that our planned 3:30AM wakeup time could be too late and cause us to miss our team’s third shift of running. Since there is no mobile coverage out in the those hills and we don’t want to delay our team, I agree to get going. Then she asks me the fundamental question.

“Why do we do this?”

I actually had a reasonably intelligent answer for her, given only two hours of sleep and 15 miles of running.

Last year I promised I would never run Hood to Coast again, saying things like:

“No more H2C for me, unless we have some explanation of this.”

It was because the event organization had degraded so much our team’s experience was pretty awful. Not long after the fiasco of 2011, the race organizers came forth with an apology and a decree: fewer teams next year. So we lined up and signed up our team again and got into the 2012 edition of the race.

The difference was really dramatic. Gone were the completely insane traffic nightmares in the mountains (just the usual insanity).

I was also impressed with volunteers who enforced the rules strictly and which probably caused fewer jam-ups. For example, exchange 29 in the hills has a narrow road in and out of the van parking area which can only accomodate two vehicles side-by-side. One van parked in the road and started unloading its whole team, threatening to cause a chain-reaction backup all along the road and frustrating teams trying to meet their runners. When they refused to move, a volunteer threatened a 10 minute penalty, which got them going. Good going volunteer! [1]
Mt Hood at dawn

This year was my first to run leg 5 of 12. This meant I ran leg 5, leg 17 and leg 29. I was complaining on social media about this combination of legs being rated the hardest, but I shouldn’t have bothered.

For example, leg 29 had a monster hill climb, but all along the road there were waterfalls cascading down the hill. And at the top of the hill was a glorious sunrise. And in spite of my current issues with Plantar Faciitis, I was able to complete that leg within 2 seconds of predicted time. And our team overall came within 40 seconds of our predicted time! Pretty amazing over 199 miles.

Or was that more like 201 miles? My first leg ran into a first-time ever rerouting of the course onto a “backup” route because of a fire on our main route. It meant almost two extra miles for my already long 7 mile leg.

So will we sign up again? I guess it gets back to Marci’s question. Why do we do this? Here’s how I answered her at 2:45 in the morning:

“Well, there are a lot of things you can do in life which are crazy. I guess this is one you can do which is crazy and heroic.”

[1] Unfortunately our 2nd van had a bad experience with a penalty-weilding volunteer. They had bedded down in a sleeping area having been directed there by an earlier volunteer. Their nasty early wakeup call meant that they lost about two hours of badly needed sleep.



  1. Glad your H2C experience was good and redeeming this year. I have other friends who were not so lucky! Happy Running!

  2. Sounds like an interesting challenge. Loved the pics…the views are marvelous!

  3. Of course, with over 10,000 runners, there are bound to be some who have a tough time with the course or something that goes haywire. For example, one of the members of our team blew out his achilles and had a terrible finish to his race. But I have talked to a lot of experienced H2C runners who have commented that this year’s race was better.

  4. Okay, I swore that I’d never do it again because of the 2011 debacle, now you are making me rethink it.

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