On Saturday, Azalea Park marked the end of a grueling 218-mile journey over a day-and-a-half for 1,200 runners in the Wild Rogue Relay.
“I felt really accomplished,” said 15-year-old Everett Vanmaren, who ran the relay with his father, Tim. “Plus, I got free Dutch Bros.”
The Vanmarens, alongside approximately 1,200 other runners, began their journey at Applegate Lake Friday morning and traversed through the Rogue River and Siskiyou Mountains before coming down the Oregon Coast and Highway 101 to the finish line at Azalea Park.
A total of 85 teams, comprised of 12 runners each, competed in the relay. Each runner took turn running in three, six-mile legs of the relay over a 30-hour span. Each team was split into two vans carrying six runners each— the vans hopscotch each other during the relay, as one group rests and refuels while the other continues the race.
Runners found themselves running in the dark— an experience that Assistant Race Director Sydney Smedley, who partook in last year’s race, can attest to.
“The year I ran it, I ran from 2 a.m. to 3 a.m. in the pitch black, so you just feel like you’re in Star Wars,” Smedley said.
While the idea of running through the night with limited visibility might sound daunting to some, it wasn’t a problem for Vanmaren.
“It might just be me, but I run way better during the night,” said VanMaren, who started running competitively four years ago. “It’s colder so it helps me run, it’s not hot out, and we were up on the mountains. It was fun running downhill.”
Smedley explained that the organizers had initially intended for the finish line to be at Gold Beach, but those plans did not pan out. That’s when Brookings stepped in.
“They said ‘Hey, we’ll sponsor you if you come and bring the business to Brookings,’” Smedley said. “They saw the benefit of a 1,000 families and runners come.”
That move had undoubtedly paid dividends for the city, as a series of white vans could be spotted throughout the town Sunday.
“Tons of people love to stay and enjoy Brookings cause it’s so beautiful,” Smedley said. “It has a lot for them.”
Smedley’s company, Medford-based Sourwood Running, started off by organizing the Smoky Mountain Relay in North Carolina. According to Smedley, her father (and owner) Jim Brendle, was looking for an excuse to return to North Carolina often, as he grew up there. As the Smoky Mountain Relay grew, Brendle’s friends began nudging him to start a similar race in Oregon.
“It’s interesting,” Medley said. “(The Smoky Mountain Relay) has taken a longer time to grow, but this race here just skyrocketed. Everyone caught on to it really quickly and loved it.”
As for Vanmaren, the question of whether or not he’ll be back to take on the grueling course next year was an easy one to answer.
“Of course,” said Vanmaren. “I love running.”