SEASIDE — After two years of cloud cover and windy woes, Seaside welcomed 19,000 runners and walkers from the 36th annual Hood to Coast Relay with a clear and sunny day.
Runners came from all 50 states and 43 countries Saturday to compete in the race that spans from Timberline Lodge to Seaside’s Promenade, covering 199 miles and raising $700,000 for Providence hospitals, Chief Operating Officer Dan Floyd said.
After the race, thousands celebrated on the beach with beer, pop-up food stands and musical performances from Radical Revolution and the Brian O’Dell Band until the sun set over the horizon.
While Hood to Coast is known for featuring world-class athletes capable of Olympic-style race times, a chunk of the money raised for cancer research comes from groups like “You walkin’ to me?” — one of the 400 race walking teams who participate in the Portland To Coast Walk Relay portion of the event.
“There aren’t a lot of race walkers out there, so it’s a pretty tight-knit community,” team captain Marek Ziegien said.
The Portland-based team, donning bright yellow shirts with an illustration of the movie “Taxi Driver,” are all co-workers who have been competing in this event for the past five years.
The team likes to keep it light, rotating team names with other walking puns like “Walks on Walks Off” and “Sasqu-walks.”
But the walking itself is anything but casual.
“We’re a part of a race walking network. There’s a real technique to it,” team member David Howitz said. The team competes in other events where there are strict guidelines for race walking form. And thinking of race walking as a slow sport is a misconception, they said. Currently, the record for fastest walking time for a mile is 5 minutes and 31 seconds.
The technique comes down to how the arm swings, how the hip drops and making sure to roll the foot forward. But that challenge of balancing physical and the mental components is what makes race walking more fun than running to some, team member Michelle Chuaprasert said.
“If you think you’re just going to walk faster, it’s not going to work. It’s not intuitive,” she said.
But for some race walking teams, like the “Christopher Walkins” from Sherwood, competing in Portland to Coast is a way to connect as friends out of the routine of their everyday lives.
“Why do we race walk? Because we don’t run,” team member Jenni Kelley laughed. “Because someone on your friend’s team cancels, and you do it for the first time and then you get hooked.”
For this team, race walking isn’t about form and just doing something physical, team member Michelle Coxcy said.
“It’s about doing something for ourselves,” Coxcy said. “It’s not easy, but it’s something we can do together that’s fun.”