Over 20,000 runners and walkers headed to Columbia County
by: John Brewington Aargh! Walkers!—The KOA Pirates of the Analgesic will be one of 400 teams taking part in the 130-mile Portland To Coast Walk Relay this Friday and Saturday. The 400-team walk is one of three races coming through Columbia County. The Hood To Coast Relay is a running relay with 1,250 teams and the Portland To Coast High School Challenge has 50 teams. There will be nearly 27,000 persons connected to the relays making their way through the county from Friday through Saturday morning.

The population of Columbia County will swell briefly Friday and Saturday by nearly 27,000 when the 30th annual Hood to Coast Relay, and two other races, wind their way up Highway 30 and into the back hills.

The Office Max Hood To Coast Relay is a 200-mile relay with 1,250 12-person teams. It starts at Timberline Lodge and each runner will complete three legs of varying lengths and difficulty. The Integra Telecom Portland To Coast Walk was a race started some years ago, joining the HTC course in Portland. There are 400 walking teams with each walker covering two legs of the 130-mile course. The OHSU Sports Medicine PTC High School challenge is for high school teams, usually cross country teams, running on the same course as the walkers.

Overall there are 1,700 teams (20,400 runners and walkers), 4,200 volunteers, around 3,000 van drivers, and a large number of spectators. The races involve participants from all 50 states and 30 countries. Over 500 portable toilets are set out on the course. Over 60,000 persons are expected at the end in Seaside for what is called 'the world's largest relay.' The local band, Hit Machine, will perform at the festival on Saturday night. A large fireworks display is also planned.

Last year, the races raised over $500,000 for The American Cancer Society and they have a goal of $550,000 this year.

Founder Robert Foote calls it 'the mother of all relays.' It's the largest running and walking relay race in the world. Entries in HTC are sold out on the first day and over 1,000 teams are usually turned away.

A course change (see box) has resulted in some changes locally. Safeway is now a sponsor of the event and St. Helens High School is an exchange point. The St. Helens Boosters are expecting large crowds. Both St. Helens and Scappoose high school gyms will be used as sleeping areas, and two meals will be offered.

The Boosters are going to serve a chicken lunch from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., and then start serving their traditional pancake, egg and sausage breakfast at 5 p.m.

Both St. Helens and Scappoose will have teams in the High School Challenge. St. Helens is running a mixed boys and girls team, while Scappoose will run a boys team and a girls team.

There are also local teams signed up for both the HTC and PTC.

Teams leave the start point at staggered times. Walkers are the first to hit Columbia County, beginning around 8 a.m. and continuing through about 2 p.m. Runners start arriving in the evening hours and continue through about 9 a.m. on Saturday morning.

HTC route change will impact St. Helens residential areas

Runners and walkers will make their way right through the heart of St. Helens under a route change made this year.

The relay race will now use St. Helens High School as an exchange, rather than the Warren School. The next leg goes right up Highway 30 to Pittsburg Road, down Sunset Boulevard to Columbia Boulevard, west to Gable Road, and then out Gable and Bachelor Flat to the Columbia County Fairgrounds.

Also changed was an exchange point in Scappoose, from Fred Meyer to the Scappoose Middle School. All the changes came about after Safeway signed on as a sponsor.

St. Helens Police Lieutenant Terry Moss said they will block all but local traffic eastbound on Pittsburg Road from Sunset Boulevard to Highway 30. Westbound traffic will still be allowed. The closure will be in effect for 24 hours, from 9 a.m. Friday, Aug. 26 through 9 a.m. Saturday, Aug. 27.

Race officials have banned all local vans from that leg of the race, directing them to Millard Road and then to the fairgrounds.

Moss said the change wouldn't result in additional costs for the police because HTC volunteers would man the closure points. He said that department personnel had looked at other potential trouble spots along the route and would be monitoring them during the race.

'I've had it go by my place in Warren. Most of it is in the middle of the night and most of the residents won't even notice the change,' Moss said.

The St. Helens City Council approved the change several months ago.

Local Course Changes:


Leg 16:  On Highway 30 finishing at the Scappoose Middle School.

Leg 17:  On Highway 30 finishing at the St. Helens High School, across the street from Safeway.

Leg 18:  Highway 30, left on Pittsburg Rd., left on Sunset Blvd., right on Columbia Blvd., slight right on Gable Rd., left on Bachelor Flat Rd. until reaching the Columbia County Fairgrounds. 

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