Hood to Coast burst onto the scene on August 7, 1982. Known as the “Mother of All Relays,” it paved the way for several others. The mystique and attraction to these types of events are the victories, mishaps, and unpredictability. I guarantee any person that has been involved with an overnight relay has a story. The vast majority of them are humorous in nature.
As the popularity of relays grew, the expansion to other states followed. It wouldn’t be long before someone in Arkansas decided it was time to showcase what “The Natural State” had to offer. Todd and Kimberlee Guin wanted to afford others the relay experience. Thus, Outback in the Ozarks was born.
I met Kimberlee at the Route 66 Marathon when she approached me with a flyer about the race. Having recently finished Capital to Coast Relay in Texas, the idea was appealing to me. I had to know more.
She outlined her ideas and plans to me. I listened in astonishment. Her idea was to direct a race that you would never forget. Every Arkansan knows that a 200-mile relay in the Ozarks would not be flat. Along with hills, stunning views, lakes, rivers, wildlife, etc. can be appreciated.
By design the course will challenge you, but give you access to some of our Arkansas State Parks (i.e. Hobbs State Park-Conservation AreaWithrow Springs, Lake Fort Smith, Devil’s Den, and Prairie Grove Battlefield State Park). Relays are unique, but this undeniably is an example others should follow.
In my opinion one of the best things Todd and Kimberlee did was their orchestration of the major exchanges. This is where the vans switch. Utilizing the state parks was ingenious. Most teams have 8-12 members in two vans. Van #1 will run the first six legs and Van #2 the next six legs. The pattern continues until all thirty-six legs are complete.
Having the exchange in an open area benefits the teams. Since our state parks have showers available, the teams can freshen up, use “real” bathrooms, and lounge around before or after the exchange. No need to clutter around areas in the middle of nowhere, which is not uncommon for relays. Bravo, race directors!
On the eve of a relay, teams are making final preparations. Last minute rushes to the store for more supplies are underway. Decorations are being put on the vans. The anxiety of the event swirls through everyone’s mind. Injured or nearly injured runners are contemplating if they will run. Batteries are being checked thrice. Without question, it’s not the same as a typical race. One wouldn’t have to worry about a van running out of gas during a 10k or supporting an entire team of runners day and night. Something that is comparable to typical half marathons and full marathons is the pre-race dinner.
This gathering is open to all participants the night before the race. Teams have a chance to meet each other and to get any questions answered before the party starts the following day. Use your time wisely.
I applaud the race directors for going out of their way to make this the best experience for first-timers and seasoned relay runners. They have put in countless hours of preparation. The detail of the race guide confirms my belief that Todd and Kimberlee have the best interest of the runners in mind. The crazy contests add another element of fun to the event.
Both groups will find this to be nothing like they’ve ever experienced. I sure hope my schedule permits me to do this next year. I am jealous! I know what’s going through their minds. “What have I gotten myself into?” You’ve gotten yourself into a good time, that’s what!