KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — The Knoxville Track Club is preparing for a relay race known as the mother of all relays.
The Hood To Coast Relay in Oregon is the largest running and walking relay race in the world, according to its website. The race draws participants from over 40 countries and all 50 states. The event takes teams of eight to 12 members nearly 200 miles from the top of Mount Hood to the beaches of the Pacific Ocean.
The Knoxville Track Club has sent five teams to the race in the past and in 2011 their team took home the overall title. WATE spoke with two of the runners going to compete this year; Ethan Coffey, a three-time winner of the Covenant Health Knoxville Marathon, and Stewart Ellington, a two-time winner of the marathon. Both men have also run the Hood To Coast relay with the track team in years past.
“The race is absolutely wild. It’s kind of a concert mixed in with the run in terms of what it’s like. There’s 1200 teams, people peak for this. They look forward to this more than any other event in the year and it’s just absolute chaos,” said Ellington.
“It’s split up into 36 legs and there’s 12 runners and each runner runs three times. And so the first three runners run down the mountain and then after that it’s pretty much just rolling. [The race] goes through Portland at about 50 or 60 miles and then ends in Seaside, Oregon on the beach. There’s a big beach party afterwards. So it’s about 1200 teams, so it’s really crowded, a lot of people to run with and just a lot of fun,” said Coffey.
This year, the track club’s 12-person team is aiming for the Masters title as most of the people who ran on the previous teams are now in their 40s.
“We’ve gone to this race in years past. We finished third (2012), we finished second (2010). We’ve won overall one year and this is the first year, we’re taking a Masters team back there where we’re taking over 40 runners and we’re trying to take the team title home for that,” said Ellington.
Ellington and Coffey both shared their excitement about aiming for the Masters title. The Masters category includes runners who are 40 years old and about.
“We’ve all been competitive for a long time. It’s fun because I’ve been running with these guys for a long time. It’s great to see everyone still at it. And then also there’s some guys on the team that I’ve really never run with before. I’ve just seen them around the races, so it’s going to be fun to get to know them over the course of 20 hours or so,” said Coffey.
“It just says something about longevity. The fact that we’re still out there and we’re still pushing it after so many years,” said Coffey. “The guys have all been out there running since we were teenagers and to still be able to get out there and race and against other masters teams from around the country, I think it’s it’s going to be a lot of fun.”
The Knoxville Track Club flies out for the race on August 24 with the race starting on Aug. 25 and finishing on Aug. 26. The team is excited to race and thankful for the support from Knoxvillians cheering them on.
“We just really appreciate everyone’s local support and Knoxville Track Club support, everyone’s been fabulous to us,” said Ellington.
“We love seeing everyone out there and having the support of the community,” said Coffey.