When friends spend more than 24 hours in a van together, they usually get to know each other pretty well.
That will likely be the case for most teams in the 12th annual Cascade Lakes Relay, which is set for Friday and Saturday.
"You get close really quick," says Bend's Devin Harrigan, of team Run Like You Stole Something. "You see them struggling and having fun at the same time. Everyone on our team knows exactly what they're getting into. It's fun to see people you haven't seen in a while. Suffering and struggling a little bit together brings people closer."
Most entries in the 216-mile, 36-leg Cascade Lakes Relay include 12 runners, each running three legs, which range from 2 to 11 miles. The annual race takes runners from Diamond Lake Resort in eastern Douglas County east toward Silver Lake, then north and west past La Pine and up the Cascade Lakes Highway before turning back east toward Bend along Century Drive. The finish is located in Bend's Riverbend Park, where some 3,000 runners will celebrate throughout Saturday.
Team Run Like You Stole Something is competing in the Ultra division, which features teams with just two to six members. The team – which is racing together for the 10th time – will have six members, meaning each runner will be responsible for about double the miles of a runner on a 12-member team, or about 36 miles.
"Our goal is to win, but it's our first Ultra, and there's a lot of good runners out there who are younger and faster," Harrigan said.
Teams cover the 216 miles by rotating through the 36 legs. When a runner completes an assigned leg, he or she is inactive until the rest of the team has run their assigned legs, according to the race guide. The relay has 35 exchange points, at set locations where one runner passes a wristband to the next runner. The exchange points are staffed by race officials, who record team numbers and times.
All teams, regardless of size, must average less than 10 minutes, 30 seconds per mile to reach the finish line in Bend before nightfall on Saturday, according to the race guide.
The course includes a variety of terrain, from the rural agricultural land of the Oregon Outback, to the mountains along the Cascade Lakes Highway, and then finally into Bend. Twelve-member teams use two vans to transport runners to checkpoints, while Ultra teams use one van.
"The whole course is so varied," says Bend's Amanda Gow, another longtime member of Run Like You Stole Something. "It's so fun to bring together different friends who have now all become really close. It feels like a little family. I love the team aspect of it. You'll suffer more when you know that people are counting on you. My favorite section is always the nighttime section. There's something really incredible about running through the middle of nowhere at 2 o'clock in the morning."
Other divisions include Elite (anticipated time under 7:30-mile pace), Masters (all age 40 and over), Solo Runner, and High School Challenge (19 and younger).
Teams are encouraged to show their spirit by decorating their vans, wearing silly costumes and cheering all runners along the route.
Gow says her team has become tight over the years of racing together.
"Just throughout the years we became really good friends," she says, "and it all started at Cascade Lakes Relay."
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