Wasatch Relay a really fun time
In just three years the XanGo Wasatch Back Relay has grown from 260 runners to 2,200, built on one simple concept fun.
"We’ve emphasized fun from the beginning," said event organizer Dan Hill.
The event, which will be held June 23-24, was created by Hill, his father Steve, and Tanner Bell to fulfill a dream. Hill had always wanted to create a Utah relay race comparable to the Hood to Coast race he had competed in while living in Oregon many years ago. He first attempted to get the race off the ground in the1980s, but one of his sons died and he had to put the dream aside for awhile. When his son, Dan, retuned from LDS church mission years later, he decided that it was time dedicate himself to making his dad’s dream a reality. After joining forces with his high school buddy, Bell, the two were able to stage the first relay in 2004 and have watched the event grow ever since.
"It’s a dream come true for my father," Hill said. "We are happy doing this job making half of what we would somewhere else."
The 175-mile race runs from Logan, along the backside of the Wasatch Mountain range and ends on lower Main Street in Park City. Teams of 12 run three to seven-mile legs of the relay at a time. Utahns make up the bulk of the participants, but Bell says that more and more out-of-staters are signing up to compete.
According to Bell, the biggest draw for both locals and non-Utahns is the scenery of the Wasatch Back.
"We think it’s one of the prettiest in relay races," Bell said. "Plus, it’s a part of Utah a lot of people don’t always see."
Most of the major baton passes take place by a reservoir or a park and in between are mountain towns, lakes and interesting rock formations.
Another draw is the team atmosphere. Teams of 12 are encouraged to wear costumes or do whatever they need to make the best of spending time with their friends. Short running lengths with breaks in between also allow runners of all ages and varieties to come together for one event.
"We have a lot of runners that get pulled into it," laughs Bell. "Our race is a race that a lot of first time racers can get into. There’s lots of different skill levels."
Bell suspects that people first get involved in the relay for the beauty and mystique of the Wasatch Back, but return for the fun and team camaraderie.
Among the teams taking the fun-factor to new heights is the Xena Road Warriors, an all-woman team from Roy, Utah, with two blind runners leading the charge. There will also be a team dressed like Pixar’s "Incredibles," a muumuu-clad group and Oompa Loompas.
"I think that’s what is so fun about this it brings the team aspect," Bell said.
Logistically, team vans run along the course to help support the relay members, the towns of Huntsville and Paradise will provide sleeping and shower arrangements.
"It’s kind of like a high school slumber party," Hill said.
There are also bands, spectators and volunteers along the course encouraging the runners.
Volunteers are actually a key part of the relay. There will be over 500, in large part because every team that registers must provide three volunteers to help with the event. All proceeds from the event go to Operation Kids, an umbrella charity that represents various groups devoted to improving the lives of children. Their goal is to raise $50,000 at this year’s event.
The fun will continue at the race’s end in Park City. Lower Main will close down for a party at the finish line. Bands will be playing at the Town Lift plaza, sponsors will have booths, and Operation Kids will be on hand with information for people to learn more and make donations if they are interested. Adults, kids and families can go to the second level and watch the runners arrive, including fun mascots like McGruff, the Crime Dog, and the Winder Dairy Farm’s Cow.
"It will be a really fun Saturday family event to come out to," Hill said.
Prizes will be passed out to runners who successfully complete the more grueling legs of the race, like the mountain passage between Midway and Park City.
For more information on the XanGo Wasatch Back Relay, visit http://www.wasatchback.com.
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