A tall, shirtless, bearded man stood holding a rainbow-pooping unicorn flag in the crook of his arm, while he adjusted his skirt and tights. Orange sun crept up the side of Mount Hood behind him while a PA announcer sent off another wave of runners in the Hood To Coast relay.
The man called himself ‘Jesus Tarzan,’ but his significant other told me his name was Billy Hagee. Their team, 12 Hotties and a Squatty Potty, were scheduled to begin the 199-mile race down the mountain all the way to Seaside, Oregon, around 7 a.m.
They were among thousands participating in the Hood To Coast and Portland To Coast relays.
Hagee said he and his teammates had run other relay races, but never Hood To Coast, touted by organizers as the all-caps “MOTHER OF ALL RELAYS” on their website.
The 12 Hotties (and thousands of co-competitors) were about to spend about 24 hours switching between running and sitting in a sweaty van.
“Suffering builds strong bonds,” Hagee said.
Teams at least suffered in gorgeous weather this year.
Once the sun came over the mountain, the temperature quickly climbed out of the 40s — tremendous conditions for distance running.
Several veteran runners said they were thankful to see sunny skies after nightmares of years past. Runners powered through a wicked storm in 2015 and sizzling Portland heat in 2016.
For Ric Wilson, who was running in his second Hood To Coast, the worst part this year was waiting.
“There’s an anxiety that sets in until you start running,” he said.
Wilson’s team, Hood to GOATS, was waiting at Exchange 6 at Sandy High School. His teammate Damian Rodriguez was even more anxious. He only started running in May.
“I just don’t know what my body’s going to feel like,” he said. “Ask me after we finish.”
The race ended on a bright, sunny and warm beach in Seaside. (Rodriguez, Wilson and Hood to GOATS crossed successfully.)
Joy and relief showed on their faces and those of most runners who crossed the finish line Saturday.
But Hood To Coast was just the first half of a colossal celebration for one team in particular, the aptly named Red Dress Express.
Each member of their two teams dressed in bright red dresses, bodysuits, robes and leotards.
“This one was my college formal dress. It’s 25 years old,” said the Express’s leader, ‘Head Queen.’ “I wore this one because I left from Portland and I wanted to make a statement.”
Every Express runner had to pack a few red outfits to account for weather and sweat, but they also had a prior engagement to attend after Saturday’s finish — a wedding.
Two team members who gave their names as ‘Necrotizing Hashiitis’ and ‘Snatch Snatcher’ were getting married later that day. Attendees would be dressed in red, of course.
“I really need a nap and a shower,” said ‘Hashiitis,’ the groom-to-be. “But I loved it. Every second of it.”