'Hood To Coast' Documentary Races All 197 Miles

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In the Pacific Northwest, there's a 197-mile, 30-hour relay race called the "Hood to Coast." Host Scott Simon talks with Christoph Baaden, director of the eponymous documentary, which details four teams' experience running the race.

SCOTT SIMON, host: In the Pacific Northwest, where a lot of people actually prefer to jog, run and race themselves, not just watch professionals do it, there's one race that gets particular attention: A 197-mile, 30-hour relay race called the Hood to Coast.

Christoph Baaden created a film detailing the experience of four teams running the race. The film is called "Hood to Coast." And in that film, Jim Ekberg, a 23-year veteran and one of the runners explains the race.


JIM EKBERG: You start up 6,000 feet on Mount Hood. You come down into the countryside. You run from the valley to the city. From the city, you run out into the wilderness. From the wilderness, you run up onto the top of the coast stream, then you run down through this tidal estuary and all the way to the beach.

SIMON: Well, Christoph Baaden, the filmmaker, joins us from Portland where today he's going to head up to Mount Hood and run his third Hood to Coast.

Thanks for being with us, Mr. Baaden.

CHRISTOPH BAADEN: Oh, thank you so much. It's such a pleasure.

SIMON: So how do you get so many people to run their hearts out for 30 minutes?


BAADEN: I think that's a little bit of a mystery we're trying to explore in the movie because there really isn't kind of prize money or different medals for people finishing this thing first. It's just for the love of I think of running, but more importantly of camaraderie, and just kind of being crazy and doing something truly extraordinary for yourself.

SIMON: It's billed as the world's largest relay race. And I'm told that this year there's going to be 1,700 teams of 12 people.


BAADEN: It's basically imagined like a giant ant line of runners stretching from Mt. Hood all the way to the Coast.

SIMON: And is that part of the appeal or do you sometimes all those people get in the way of someone who's really a runner?

BAADEN: One of the characters in the film described it best. He said this is Woodstock on wheels moving down the road for 200 miles. The running part of Hood to Coast, it's very tough. But that's something that's kind of easy to plan for, you just train a little bit. And, but the whole logistics part that's part where it gets fun and that whole camping aspect, you sleep in the fields, you know, port-a-potty situation. So it really is...


BAADEN: It is - think about it as a camping trip but it's, you know, 17,000 people doing it at the same time.

SIMON: But let me get this straight. There is some actual running involved.

BAADEN: There is, and it is actually very tough. I mean you run between, your leg is between four and eight miles and you run three times. And that doesn't sound much as a marathon but because you have to, you know, travel down the road in basically a cramped minivan, your muscles just have enough time to really cramp up and you're going to be hurting on your third leg. And every marathoner we talked to said this is a much tougher race than a marathon.

SIMON: I'm told that people can, some runners can get just a little bit put out with runners who aren't of a certain caliber and kind of get in the way of other racers.

BAADEN: There's a term called road kill and this is actually a kind of a fun term. It's basically if you pass another runner you accomplished a road kill. And some runners keep track and some people like than others don't. But it's all in good fun. And, you know, one of the things why the elites are so great to have on this race course, it's kind of a little bit of a badge of honor to be road killed by one of those elite runners.


SIMON: Christoph Baaden, who is director of "Hood to Coast," about the world's longest relay race. He's also going to be - I don't know - we don't say competitor do we? Participant.

BAADEN: Participant is the right word. Yup.

SIMON: In this weekend's race. Thanks so much for being with us.

BAADEN: Absolutely.


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