last night, on the eve of our latest snowstorm, i went to see the one time theatrical release of the "hood to coast" documentary in white plains. i watched it with emmy and bill, in a remarkably empty theatre - most folks it seemed, wisely heeded the warnings of oncoming snow. in stark contrast to the packed theatre for the "spirit of the marathon" screening a few years ago (at the same theatre, coincidentally) - there may have been a total of 12 people, including us, in the audience. despite the tiny crowd, the film was worth going to see.
i hadn't heard of this film before last week. i hadn't even heard of the hood to coast relay for that matter. but it's a good bet that i'll be in the audience for any movie about running, or running-related adventures. the hood to coast relay, as i quickly learned, is billed as the "mother" of all relays - 1000 twelve person relay teams (12,000 runners), covering the 197 miles from mt. hood to the oregon coast. a race with that many participants, that kicks off on a mountain, and end at the shores of the pacific ocean is impressive - in and of itself.
the documentary followed four teams as they undertook the 2008 edition of the relay. the team selection process yielded "dead jocks in a box," "heart n' sole," "r. bowe," and "thunder and liakaning." the mix included a masters team of formerly competitive runners, a team of co-workers that had a training plan focused on beer and incredibly low mileage, a heart attack survivor from the 2007 relay, and the family and friends of a runner who died at the tragically young age of 30 - and left behind a very pregnant wife.
the back story of each team was laid out against the preparations for the relay. the progress of the each team, and how it coped with its individual issues, was interwoven with the actual race. the filmmakers used panoramic helicopter shots to capture the breathtaking vistas, pre- and post-race interviews, handheld footage of the runners on the course (or in the vans), and animations to clarify various race logistics, to put together the story. each team added to the overall impact of the film.
the relay itself consists of 36 legs of various distances and difficulty. each team member is expected to run 3 legs. kathy ryan, 67 at the time, had a near fatal heart attack as she started her 3rd leg of the 2007 edition. we see her as she discussed her race plans with her doctor. he immediately said, as he looked at the first leg of the race (which, we are told, is considered one of the most physically grueling of the relay) "i don't know what you're smoking, but you absolutely can't run this one!" and, without this being a spoiler, who should we see lined up to run the first leg for her team - none other than kathy ryan!
"dead jocks in a box" were animated by a slightly different objective - they want to finish among the top six teams in their age group to get a guaranteed spot in the 2009 edition. that would insure one of their teammates, who had run all the hood to coast relays since the first one in 1982 (when only 8 teams participated), gets to continue his streak. only one other runner has run in every hood to coast - and he was on a different team. these guys run hard, and don't want the aging process to slow them down (too much).
my favorite team, "thunder and laikaning" provided the comic relief - and proved that the relay isn't just for the "typical" runner. and, within that team, rachel larson and her hilarious approach to the race was my favorite runner on the screen! team r. bowe tugged at the heartstrings because the memory of ryan bowe's untimely death was still fresh. the team consisted of his family and friends. the relay (which ryan had participated in and was on a team to run again) was their way to honor his memory.
i don't know if "hood to coast" will find its way into theatres again - but when it's released on dvd, put it on your netflix queue! better yet, put together a viewing party with your running buddies. this is a film that should be watched in the company of fellow runners :D