|
|
|
MailTribune.com
  • 'Roadkill' relay

    Teams of runners in the Wild Rogue Relay are running on backroads from Applegate Lake to the Pacific Ocean this weekend
  • Sometime tonight, Bobbi St. Clair expects to run a six-mile leg along the Rogue River near Galice, with a headlamp glowing and flashing lights on her chest and back as required for all night runners in this year's Wild Rogue Relay.
    • email print
      Comment
  • Sometime tonight, Bobbi St. Clair expects to run a six-mile leg along the Rogue River near Galice, with a headlamp glowing and flashing lights on her chest and back as required for all night runners in this year's Wild Rogue Relay.
    But her gait will have a lot more lateral movement than the 31-year-old Grants Pass distance runner normally shows.
    That's what happens when you're running for two.
    "I haven't purposely changed how I run, but I do shuffle a lot now," says St. Clair, who is more than seven months pregnant with her first child. "But I've run through the whole pregnancy, and I guess I don't know any better than to do this.
    "Besides, no one's told me not to," she adds.
    This combination of competitiveness and nonchalance are common traits among the sea of athletes taking turns running legs in this 215-mile relay race from the shores of Applegate Lake to the Pacific Ocean.
    St. Clair will be on one of 71 12-person teams competing in the second annual event that began at dawn today and will end Saturday at Gold Beach.
    Teams of runners are making staggered starts all day from Applegate Lake's Seattle Bar, with one runner at a time footing it across backroads or trails while the remaining team members leapfrog forward in vans to await their turns.
    They take shifts running continuously for an average of 32 hours, maybe catching a few winks between their legs. Cowbell rings of support will be matched by light-hearted jeers from teammates and fellow competitors as runners log their miles in search of "roadkill."
    "The best part of this race is the camaraderie and trying to turn the group in front of you into roadkill," says Nicki Wright, St. Clair's mother, training partner and Wild Rogue Relay teammate. "If you pass somebody, they're called roadkill.
    "You end up friends or enemies," she says. "Yeah, we're kind of ornery, but everybody does it."
    The race is patterned after the more famous but much more congested relay from Mount Hood to the Oregon Coast, says Wild Rogue Relay organizer Jim Brendle.
    Those brave enough to tackle it will run alongside the Rogue, through the vineyards of the Applegate Valley and, eventually, across the sands of the Oregon Coast. They'll also chug uphill about 20,000 feet and descend another 22,000 feet until the last runner — normally in some silly costume — hits the finish line at the Curry County Fairgrounds, where food booths and dance bands await.
    Each runner will cover about 18 to 20 miles, and while the overall mileage is less than a marathon, the competition is as much about mettle as it is mental.
    "It's a different kind of hard," says St. Clair, who has run marathons and triathlons. "You don't really recover (between shifts). "You have to get up and your legs are tired."
    This year's Wild Rogue Relay attracted 870 participants, more than double the number in last year's inaugural race.
    One of the reasons for the growth is the difficulty of getting into the Hood-to-Coast Relay.
    "This race will grow, and it will be bringing in people from all over the United States," Brendle says. "We just have to manage it so it's fun year after year."
    Catherine Coleman of Los Angeles brought a team of runners from across the country after hearing about this relay from a sister in Portland.
    The women on her team range from their 30s to early 60s, all enjoying the challenge and uniqueness of the relay.
    "I started these as a new way to challenge myself," says Coleman, 60, who started running relays with her team in 2007. "Part of it is for the opportunity to run at night. There's no other time I can do it."
    Wright also enjoys the night running, which brings its own pitfalls.
    During last year's race, she ran a night leg in the Agness area along the lower Rogue, all the while worried less about getting her team another roadkill than becoming cougar bait herself.
    "You think you're hearing things and seeing things all the time," she says. "It's a little nerve-wracking. You feel safe, but it's still kind of creepy."
    Wright's and St. Clair's team is called "Toenails are for Sissies," referring to Wright's apparently regular practice of running her toenails right off.
    In last year's race, the team of six men and six women conquered the course in about 28 hours, thanks in part to an unencumbered St. Clair.
    "She's actually one of our faster runners when she's not pregnant," Wright says. "She's tough. She's still got it, but she is slowing down."
    St. Clair continues to run about 40 miles a week, and the Grants Pass High School track coach received the blessing from her doctor — who is also a relay contestant on another team — to take part in this weekend's race.
    She doesn't know how her body will adapt to the relay's grind.
    "I'm playing it by ear this weekend," St. Clair says. "I think it will be fun.
    "As long as I'm running, great," she says. "If I get uncomfortable, I walk. I'm not pushing it at all.
    St. Clair expects no sympathy.
    "Not from those in my van," St. Clair says.
    "No water for losers," Wright chimes in. "That's our motto."
    Reach reporter Mark Freeman at 541-776-4470 or mfreeman@mailtribune.com. Follow him at www.twitter.com/MTwriterFreeman.
Reader Reaction

      calendar