There are many quicker ways to get from Applegate Lake to Gold Beach, but for more than 40 teams of runners, a relay race lasting up to 36 hours offers just the right pace.
Next weekend, starting Friday, June 21, runners on six- and 12-person teams will traverse 211 miles of backroads and trails that cut through five counties from the Applegate to the Pacific Ocean. Each runner will tackle three or more legs that average six miles apiece, darkness not withstanding.
The Wild Rogue Relay begins at 6 a.m. Friday, June 21, at Seattle Bar, Applegate Lake, and finishes in Gold Beach at the Curry County Fairgrounds at 6 p.m. Saturday, June 22.
The cost is $110 per person ($66.66 for high school, college or military team runners; $116 for ultra team runners).
Registration closes at noon Saturday, June 15. To register or for more information, see www.thewildroguerelay.com.
"I first ran Hood to Coast about 17 years ago," recalls race director Jim Brendle, referring to the country's most renowned relay race, which travels from Mount Hood to Seaside. "Later I was looking to expand my job skills, so I started the Smoky Mountain Relay in North Carolina where I grew up."
After working out the kinks of that race for four years, the Central Point resident decided to apply his skills to creating a similar race in Southern Oregon. The result is the new Wild Rogue Relay, a rolling course with 19,822 feet of climbing and 21,809 feet of descent that cuts through the Coast Range, crosses the Rogue River and runs next to the beach for several legs before finishing at the Curry County Fairgrounds.
"This race is of average difficulty compared to any relay that has any kind of terrain," says Brendle. "But the Wild Rogue Relay is a race anyone can run."
The logistics of picking up and dropping off runners at the correct locations on gravel roads at night will be a challenge.
"We're using two SUVs; we're cramming into these tiny vehicles — we don't have a (dedicated) driver, so we're driving ourselves," says Jenna Graven, of Medford, who is the team leader for Virgin Runners, a group of 20-something women who have little or no experience racing.
"We don't have room for sleeping pads, so we'll just try to lie down on the floor, be creative. Some of my friends wanted to get motivated to run and get in shape for the summer, so I decided to organize an all-girls team," she explains.
As for a race where each woman will run not once but three times in a span of 36 hours, Graven says, "We might have jumped in over our heads, but we're excited about it. We signed up a couple of months ago, and we've been training together."
As of Thursday, 41 teams and 450 people had registered for the race, with a mix of newbies and seasoned runners. Members of the six-person "ultra teams" will each run twice as far as runners on the 12-person teams. Competitors on the smaller teams can run their segments consecutively, or in any order they want, as long as each person runs six segments.
Teams from Arcata, Calif., Crescent City, Brookings, Gold Beach and Portland have entered. Friends from as far away as Indiana and Ohio have been pulled in to compete on local teams. A group of University of Oregon Ducks fans formed a team, which prompted a group of Oregon State University Beavers supporters to form their own.
Judging by the team names, competitors are planning to have fun. Names range from the clever — Slaughterhouse Twelve, Fellowship of the Run, Traumatized by Turtlenecks, Coastbusters, Runners Gone Wild — to the visceral — Toenails are for Sissies, Butt-Sweat & Tears.
With 36 relay legs and as many transition zones, a huge number of volunteers are needed. To help ease the burden, each team must supply two volunteers who are not competing. For teams traveling longer distances, there's a "rent-a-volunteer" program.
"One-hundred percent of the money that people pay to rent volunteers goes straight to the Jackson County Special Olympics," says Brendle. "It's going to be somewhere around $2,000 to $5,000."
Brendle still needs several dozen volunteers to reach his goal of 110. Anyone interested in helping can respond on the Wild Rogue Relay Facebook page or email email@example.com.
Brendle has worked hard to create a festive atmosphere for this new race and has garnered the support of 18 business sponsors, headed by Lithia Nissan. In addition to food, beer and music at the finish line, expect to see costumes.
"Leg No. 14 and No. 36 — the final leg — are costume legs," says Brendle. "People can wear whatever they want to wear, and whoever has the best costume wins a free entry into next year's race."
With an entry fee of $110 per person, it pays to dress up.
"Our final runner will be wearing something fantastic," laughs Graven. "But it's a secret for now."
Daniel Newberry is a freelance writer living in the Applegate Valley. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org