Hood to Coast Relay
Mount Hood, Oregon
Though the Hood to Coast race admits 20,000 participants, application numbers are much higher. According to Dan Floyd, the race's COO, 60,000 people tried to sign up on registration day last year. The alluring backdrop spans the 199 spectacular miles from Mt. Hood to Seaside, a coastal Oregonian town. With legs cutting through mountainous terrain, bare trails, urban landscapes, and coastal paths, the Hood to Coast provides a veritable gamut of challenges for competitors. If the challenge and landscape haven't already collectively hooked you, bear in mind that participating teams raised more than $800,000 last year for cancer research, treatment, and support services.
Market to Market Nebraska
Omaha to Lincoln, Nebraska
M2M Nebraska is the country's largest daylong relay. Teams of seven runners cover the 78 miles between Omaha and Lincoln on rural trails and scenic back roads. Each person runs three stages that vary between three and five miles in distance. Many runners wear costumes, and many teams decorate their vehicles. Everyone finishes in downtown Lincoln at a beer- and music-filled post-race party called the Shindig. "The entire day is a fast-paced experience," says director Ben Cohoon. "Ultimately, like any great road trip, it's the opportunity to have a good time with friends, and even collect a few new ones along the way, that makes this event so memorable."
Wild West Relay
Fort Collins, Colorado
This 24-hour relay race starts in Fort Collins, at the Rocky Mountain foothills, and finishes 200 miles later in the resort town of Steamboat Springs. The event is limited to just 150 teams of the 7 to 12 runners who take on the race's 36 legs. "This wasn't designed as a 'corporate race,' which can allow for hundreds, or even thousands, of teams," says Paul Vanderheiden, its director. "The quality of the experience and the quality of the route were our priorities."
Red Rock Relay Zion
Brian Head Resort, South Utah
Teams of a dozen begin this relay race at Brian Head Resort, Utah's highest such venue. One chairlift ride and 187 miles later, the groups finish in front of Zion National Park—thus its nickname,Snow-to-Sun Journey. "The whole course traverses through scenery that's breathtaking," says Kate Roberts, the race's director. "Everything, from our fabulously flattering custom T-shirts, to our Slip 'n Slide at the finish line, conveys that this race is runner-focused and designed to encourage happy, zany, sweaty fun."
Ragnar Trail McDowell Mountain
Fort McDowell, Arizona
Held northeast of Scottsdale, Arizona, this stop in the Ragnar Relay Series has two divisions: regular and ultra. Regular eight-person teams cover more than 120 miles each run, under desert sun and stars, in this overnight relay. Participants may get to glimpse an elusive javelin, or hear coyotes howl, during their turns on the five-mile loops. The entire relay averages 22 hours, with each runner accumulating 15 miles. If you're interested in the ultra division, simply halve the number of runners and double the distances.