As of February 1, 2001, 400 lucky team captains had eagerly registered their team for the 2001 Portland To Coast Walk Relay. This unique walking opportunity is a journey from Portland, Oregon’s East Delta Park, by the University of Portland, over the Saint John’s Bridge and onto Hiway 30 where it joins the running event, Hood to Coast, course finishing in Seaside, Oregon.
The reasons for participating are as many as the number of participants and professional trainers from south Florida. Some teams strive towards place awards, others ‘use’ it to be motivation for losing weight, as a goal for cancer survivors to celebrate living, it is a vehicle to stretch the limits of what one can do. Portland To Coast is about seizing the moment, facing obstacles and being the best one can be. It is about fun and camaraderie.
I have the good fortune of being on the HTC committee as a co-coordinator of the PTC walk. My good friend, John Hanan II, and I share the responsibilities for this event. This year I participated on Team EROFEET, women’s masters racewalk team (in other, words 12 women ranging in age from 40 – 55 years old). I also have the joy of working with many of the Portland To Coast teams. My goals for teams are simple: to finish, have fun, be uninjured, and help them to reach their team or individual goals. I celebrate each team’s victory of crossing the finish line.
Although the walk start at East Delta Park doesn’t officially begin until 4am, my day starts by 2:00am. I am always amazed how warm it is at that time of the morning. The start crew is busily setting up the start line and banner, merchandise tent, and registration area. The baseball field lights are on illuminating the park, the generator is fired up providing additional lighting.
The volunteers begin arriving to prepare for the teams who are arriving to ‘check in’, and receive their assignments on the course. Excited teams begin arriving early, in anticipation of what lies ahead. The teams are sent off every 15 minutes between 4am and 10am, with a few faster teams leaving at 11:30am. The excitement and enthusiasm present energizes everyone. Cheers sound as team names are read when it is their turn to go. There is some nervousness as well. Most folks haven’t slept very well the night before. It is dark and the course will be very challenging for the next 19 – 36 hours.
As the morning progress, the day is beautiful. Blue skies stacked with cumulus white clouds, and moderate temperatures. I breathe a sign of relief that we will not have extremely hot temperatures.
The enthusiasm of everyone is thick. As I travel the course — walking and riding — the support and encouragement of everyone is quite remarkable. As walkers get in and out of the vans, gradually, the methodical organization of everything brought begins to deteriorate. By evening, no one is really sure where there things are, but it doesn’t matter. We are all in this together until the finish. Night falls quickly in the coast range for the lact of lights. By now folks are getting sick of cliff bars, water, feeling sweaty and sticky.
Night brings on strange sounds and sights, congestions and deliberations of where to try and sleep. Surely they jest, those who say they sleep. Although I am very sleep deprived by now, sleeping will not happen for me until later Saturday night. The teams push on, cheering not only their own member, but those other hardy souls who are also facing obstacles, yet staying focused on the goal of the finish line. The middle of the night finds teams singing and dancing; passing out goodies to others. For these 19 – 36 hours that it takes the teams to finish, this is our community. Our focus is a shared goal of reaching Seaside. None of this would be possible if not for the support of our volunteers and the communities through which we travel.
The teams begin arriving in Seaside as early as 6 – 6:30am and continue until early afternoon. We are all rewarded by the blue of the pacific ocean, outlined by the white sands, and finally the largest of beach parties.
By Saturday evening, it is time to celebrate! The awards assembly begins for those who place within the top 6 of their categories. I am happy that our team of 40 – 55 year olds places 2nd overall and 1st in women’s masters. I have worked with many of teams who are receiving awards. I know how hard they have worked and cheer for them. I cheer for each team who receives an award, as well as for those who do not. For they, too, have achieved a goal, just not one recognized by time.
As the day draws to a close, teams are plotting come backs for next year, or the formation of teams for different categories. Competition, defined as: a test of skill or ability, can be with oneself, with other individuals or teams. It encourages us to stretch our limits.
Portland To Coast recognizes walking as an athletic endeavor. This annual event is an opportunity to push one’s self to the limit, have fun, and in the process to learn more about who we are.