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More than 12,000 runners travel through East County for the Hood to Coast Relay

PMG PHOTO: DAVID BALL - Members of the Hoodzilla team pose on their van, with speakers blaring from the roof rack, during a layover at Main City Park on Friday afternoon.

The annual migration of sneaker-footed spaghetti eaters made its way through Gresham last weekend for the 38th running of the Hood-to-Coast Relay.

Waves of runners started from Timberline Lodge as early as 5 a.m. Friday with more than 12,000 runners moving off Mt. Hood, along Highway 26 through Sandy before connecting with the Springwater Trail through Gresham for the early legs of the 199-mile trek.

Southeast Portland's Hoodzilla crew attached speakers the roof rack of its vans all the better to share a party atmosphere with its fellow teams.

"Our whole goal is to bring the music to the people," Tim Shannon said.

"We are here to have some fun and spread joy throughout the race — we want to get people moving and grooving," John Gilroy said.

For Hoodzilla it is not about how fast they reach the finish line, it is about how much fun they have on the journey.

PMG PHOTO: DAVID BALL - Toby Lane (left) gives a shout to Babyloafers teammate Joel Barrenger after making a handoff at the Main City Park exchange point.

The team simply draws out of a hat to assign legs of the relay. The only strategy sessions leading up to the race involve what songs go onto the 30-hour play list. Based on a sample from Main City Park, the team's tunes range from rap to disco with an occasional folk song finding it's way into the mix.

"The play list changes all the time," Tim Faherty said. "We'll be listening all year long and when we here something we like we'll download it."

This year's race also marked the 'retirement' of Kit Krieger, who has been racing with the team for 20 years. A three-foot tall version of his face adorned the side of the van, and the rest of his running mates greeted him atop the coastal mountain range with a toilet paper finish line to celebrate his final strides as a Hood-to-Coaster.

PMG PHOTO: DAVID BALL - The first wave of runners hit Main City Park around the lunch hour Friday, moving along the Springwater Trail into Portland on the early legs of the Hood-to-Coast Relay.

The lunch hour at Main City Park also saw the Babyloafers moving along the trail — one of the few teams which is basically running home. The crew is made up of workers at the Tillamook Cheese Factory.

"It's not every day that you get together with your co-workers and commiserate together in a hot van with no sleep," Ryan Ramsey said.

Toby Lane was happy to see his teammates at the exchange station near the baseball fields after a lonely stretch along the Springwater.

"I didn't see anyone else the whole time," he said. "But it's a great day to be out. It's a fun community event, and the Pacific Northwest is glorious this time of year."

Another van pulled into the Main City parking lot, a group of eastside runners who leaned on Dr. Seuss for their name — Fried Legs and Spam.

"Once you are on the van nothing else exists," Francis Wankowicz said.

"It's like you get to be a kid again for 32 hours," Mary Jane Mullaney said.

PMG PHOTO: DAVID BALL - Debbie Utberg, with two children on Team Electra Glide, volunteers at the Main City Park exchange point.

Each team is required to provide a number of volunteers along the course route, and that is how long-time Gresham resident Debbie Utberg found herself folding T-shirts under a tent at Main City Park.

"I signed them up for things that they didn't want to necessarily want to do growing up. Now the roles are reversed," Utberg said with a laugh.

Her daughter Stefanie Pratka and son Doug Utberg are members of long-time team Electra Glide.

The Toyo University Ekiden Team was the fastest to complete this year's race, hitting the beach in Seaside in just under 17 hours.

This story is slated for our Tuesday, Aug. 27, print edition.

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