And they’re off – to Oregon, that is, for the annual Hood to Coast Relay. For Action Jackson racers Terry and Meredith Sullivan and Mark Bradshaw and Scotta Brady, the race is a once in a lifetime opportunity to be a part of a 31 year old staple in relay events. The race began in 1982 with 8 teams and has filled the team cap on the opening day of registration for the last 14 years straight. On January 11, 2011, the Hood To Coast Movie premiered in theaters across the country, documenting the story of four teams, their lives and their journeys to complete the race.
The race begins in four days (August 24) on Mt. Hood and finishes the next day in Seaside, Oregon, covering 200 miles. Terry Sullivan tells us how Action Jackson got involved and what they hope to get from this experience.
How did you learn about Hood to Coast?
I really can’t remember. I had heard about it several years ago, probably through a running magazine or a television show, but never considered actually running it until I saw the movie last year. It wasn’t until I saw it that I really contemplated actually trying to participate.
And so then how did the whole Jackson based Hood to Coast team come about?
Really by chance. Fleet Feet had a team (of 12) together but several of the runners had to drop out for various reasons. There just happened to be enough slots open for our team to join in and we jumped on the opportunity. Our team is called Southern Swift and we are lucky to be one of the only Mississippi teams participating in this year’s Hood to Coast. (Another team, called The Southern Discomfort, begins their relay ten minutes behind Southern Swift.)
So the movie pushed you all to begin relays long before H2C, right? What races & events have you done thus far?
Yes, the H2C movie really sparked my interest in running relays. I had always viewed running as a solitary sport up until that time and then seeing how fun it could be as a group opened up a whole new world for me. I formed a six person group last fall called Action Jackson to run the Ragnar Relay from Chattanooga to Nashville (196 miler) as an Ultra team. It was the most challenging thing any of us had done, but we were addicted to the challenge. Since then, we have run two more ultra relays: the Rouge Orleans (126.2 miler from Baton Rouge to New Orleans) and the Keys 100 (100 miler from Key Largo to Key West). This will be the fourth relay that we have done, but this time we will be joining another six runners.
This is a pretty big deal, right? How many compete and how lucky are you guys to be asked to participate? It’s the granddaddy of relays, yeah?
Yes. To my knowledge, we may be the only team from Mississippi running this year, although I don’t know that for sure. It is very hard to get into Hood to Coast. It is the Boston Marathon of relays, but there isn’t a qualifier, you just have to be lucky enough to get in. Honestly, I don’t know how we got it – I didn’t ask, I was just excited to be invited! In total, there will be 20,000 runners participating this year.
What is your biggest challenge in training for something like this? Are you ready?
Honestly, we haven’t really increased our training for this particular race. Most of us run hills on a regular basis in Fondren, so we feel we are prepared for the rugged western terrain. The total mileage we will face for this race is less than what we have done for our other races. Since we have an extra six runners, I think we are ready. Each person will run 3 legs for total of 13 to 20 miles. The main thing is to enjoy this experience as we all know we may never get an opportunity to run this race again.
What’s the big picture?
Really, I think the big picture here is to enjoy the moment. We have all put in a lot of miles over the last few years. We eat well and we take care of ourselves. We are all accomplished runners and this is an opportunity to appreciate being with another 20k people that have done the same thing.
What do you hope you – and the team – get out of this?
I hope we have a great experience, get to know some new people and enjoy a break from the Mississippi heat. This will be possibly a once in a lifetime race, so I hope we can all make the most of it and bring our enthusiasm back to Fondren. Also, they have great beer in Portland, so I hope to enjoy a few good micro-brews.
Something like this must be expensive?
Well, we have several business owners that are participating in the race. Mississippi Sports Medicine and Orthopedic Group is one of our sponsors, as is Fleet Feet Sports, liveRIGHTnowonline.com, and Butterfly Yoga.
I am not sure how to top this one, but we would love to do some overseas races next year. I hear there is a great race through the Amazon; you never know!