Endurance enthusiasts rejoice as Hood to Coast returns
The return of the BMW Hood to Coast Relay to the running calendar comes as a huge boost for endurance enthusiasts raring to push their limits.
The 145.6-kilometer test, which runners are challenged to finish within 24 hours, will start on Saturday at Senado Field in the grasslands of Zhangjiakou, the city in Hebei province that will co-host the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics. The finish area is located in mountain terrain at Wanlong Paradise Resort.
This year's race marks the event's fifth anniversary in China since its debut in Zhangjiakou in 2017, when just 805 runners participated. A year later the field had grown to 1,280, with the relay becoming an annual treat for the nation's ever-growing legion of endurance enthusiasts. A second race has been staged in Hainan since 2019.
"Our relay welcomes all runners, and boasts the nation's top marathon and cross-country runners. Also we have running groups from many professions and universities. All running enthusiasts enjoy the feeling of running together with the professionals," said Li Lu, the general manager of event promoter Starz Sports Running Culture.
"The event has grown in influence and stature. Each year, runners from across the nation and even from abroad gather here in a celebration of our shared values－green living, fairness, charity, positive energy and teamwork."
Teams of five runners and one car take on the 24-hour challenge on a course that is divided into 16 sections. One team member is required to complete each section while the others travel by car and interchange at the end of every leg. The first 20 teams will start from midnight on Friday, with the remainder setting off at 20-minute intervals thereafter.
Despite being postponed in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Hood to Coast's Zhangjiakou race attracted over 2,000 runners from over 400 teams in September last year. In December, the Hainan edition also welcomed over 2,000 participants, evidence of the growing popularity of an event which was founded in 1982 and takes place in the US state of Oregon every August.
"For the past four years, our relay has attracted over 10,000 runners from 155 cities of eight countries. A total of 1,750 running groups have joined in our relay," Li said.
"News about the BMW Hood to Coast Relay has been viewed over 600 million times on Weibo, and viewership of the live broadcast of each race can reach about 7 million people.
"From our research, we have a clearer picture what our runners are like. They value team success over individual performance. They firmly focus on each of their targets and can bravely embrace the challenges. They can accept both victories and defeats. And they're trying to use their own experience to positively influence more people."
To mark the event's fifth anniversary, the theme of this weekend's race is "Hi FIVE", an acronym for friends, inspiration, victory and embracing.
"Hood to Coast used to be a very obscure name to runners. Now the relay is not only a simple sports event, it's also a party and a community to connect people to others and to nature," said Li.
The arrival of the Hood to Coast Relay is also welcomed by the local government in Zhangjiakou, with the event boosting the development of local tourism and the sports economy over the years.
"The relay has been successfully staged for four years, which helped boost the growth of sports tourism, leveled up sports tourism consumption and accelerated the development of the sports industry in our city. The event helped to showcase the charm of our Winter Olympics host city," said Feng Xiangqian, the deputy director of Zhangjiakou Sports Bureau.
"We will guarantee the high quality of this year's event in terms of security, transportation, medical protection and pandemic prevention. We will make sure all the runners will experience a passionate, exciting and unforgettable running event."
As part of the relay's comprehensive anti-COVID-19 measures, all staff and volunteers must be vaccinated, the start and finishing areas will be thoroughly sanitized, and all participants are required to report their recent travel history and show green health codes. In addition, runners need to submit a negative COVID-19 test result at least 72 hours before their arrival. They will then have a second test, provided free by the organizers, just prior to setting off at the start line.