In arriving back to London last week, I came home with new perspectives, bigger goals, and the sand of the Oregon coast still coating the inside of my trainers. I don’t really plan on removing it anytime soon, but when I do, the experiences and inspiration that I soaked up during Hood to Coast, won’t be leaving with it.
From South Africa, to China, Canada, France, Denmark, the UK, Germany, and America, our Volt Woman team was an assortment of global races and faces, each bound by the same thread, with an aim to elevate women’s running. An attempt to grow collectively, get people up, get them moving, in an effort to support women in sport and even out the playing field, dispersing the boundaries that often surround gender.
With this united feeling, it was our task to take our legs to Portland, run a 197 mile relay from Mount Hood to the coastal town of Seaside, and represent as best as we could. Hood to Coast consists of 2 vans, 12 team members, 3 legs each, and on average, around 24+ hours to complete. This year the race also consisted of, not one, but two, neon splattered Volt vans, an extra dose of screaming, and cow bells to boot.
On the way up to Mount Hood, we were able to take the advice and experiences from the week leading up to the relay. Moments where we revealed our secrets, our goals, why we ran, why we cared, why we were here. Cemented with these shared trusts were the humble words of advice, from young athletes such as Alexi Pappas and Jordan Hasay. Women with athletic prowess beyond the norm, but two ladies that enabled us to apply their successes to our own goals and inject some of that inspo into our legs.
We danced on the start line and then watched as our bleach blonde beacon, Clemence, began running down the mountain on the descent of our first leg. Our race had begun, we piled into our vans, and from then on in we spent 26 hours travelling down and up, and down and up, the hills of Highway 202, running in the peak of sunshine, along lonely roads in the darkness, and cheering wherever our voices, and our legs, would take us.
Encouragement flowed from the vans, to the wardens, and even into one special small-world moment of running side by side fellow Mancunian crew member, James Measom. We somehow found each other on a bitch of a hill and coaxed each other through the heat. Whether it was the tap on the back from a fellow runner, drenching people in water, or hearing the old faithful cowbell ding ding dinging from 50 meters away, an extra nudge was usually close by. These encouraging pushes spurred each of us in different ways, as our some of our girls jumped in to run extra miles to beat the traffic, ran their longest distances yet, or, in the heroic style of Miss Bauch, who fell down royally and still ran like Forest with bruised knees, and grit filled wounds. I think that moments like these are ones that can make you stronger both individually and collectively, you’re able to look at what can be achieved if you bounce off one another and dispel the temptation to give in to vulnerability.
It was with this attitude that I ran off one of the only negative parts of the weekend, which was probably taken a lot less lightly with a lack of sleep. A man had stopped and took to walking whilst we tried to get up one of the steepest points of a 3 mile gradient. On trying my best to get him moving again we finally succeeded. I hollered and went for a high 5, only for him to exclaim, flabbergasted, that he had just been over taken by a girl. A bit of light hearted banter, maybe, but for me that possibly unknowing insult powered me up that last uphill just that bit quicker, in the hope of giving him a little something to mull over.
On the final leg, our finish line was chest busted by a lady of three that have helped to ease this movement into an actual force. Someone who has offered many words of advice and support, and given many women subtle guidance in the right direction, Nanna. With sand beneath our feet, a few tears were shed, medals were given, donuts were eaten, and Turn Down For What was played for one last time. Our task was met, but not over.
From each of our countries, and all the way to Portland, our race was never about the 12 ladies in our team, but what we were representing. The racing term relay ordinarily means to relay a physical object from one person to another, in this case, a neon wristband. However, for each of us in this movement, the word relay is about the motivations, the words, and the actions passed from one to another, that will continue to fuel the power in our legs, as we show exactly what it is to run like girls, with strength and with courage, and from time to time, a big helping of glitter.