The Biggest Little Relay Race: The Reno-Tahoe Odyssey

Written by Kristin Stith, originally posted on What Keeps The BIGGEST…little.

“This is kind of like Burning Man, but with running.” – friend/burner/Odyssey teammate, Johanna Bailey

Speaking of all things Reno…Here’s an event that keeps the Biggest Little City, little…The Reno-Tahoe Odyssey. Now, this is one of those events that I tell my friends about, and they look at me like I am completely nuts. Probably. But, I am not the only one who is nuts. There were almost 3,000 people that participated in this 178-mile relay race throughout the Reno/Tahoe area on Friday/Saturday.

Eric Lerude founded the Odyssey 8 years ago, and he coordinates the event every year with many volunteers. Portion of the proceeds are donated to charities like the Northern Nevada Children’s Cancer Foundation and Tahoe Pyramid Bikeway. An incredibly entertaining aspect of the race is all of the team names and yes…costumes. I saw it all this weekend. Men running in speedos, women running dressed as American flags, women and men running in tutu’s. And yes, there is beer. I saw a man dressed as a pink bunny running up Geiger Grade with a Heineken in his hand. God bless him.

How does this work?

Most teams include 12 members (male, female, or coed); some only have 6 (these teams are “ultra” which to me, means unbelievable). Each team of 12 will be broken up into 2 vans (6 and 6). Van #1 will have runners 1-6 run each of their legs, stopping at individual “exchanges” to have each runner pass off The Odyssey wristband. Then van #2 carries runners 7-12. These exchanges go on for 178 miles, a team of 12 will have each runner run 3 times. It took our team 26 hours to complete the race, some teams are faster, and some teams are slower.

Here are some FAQ’s: Is there time to sleep? A little, when your van is off- you can attempt to grab some shut-eye.  I slept for about 3 hours, which is a treat! Where do you change? In the vans…yes it gets stinky. Do you run in the dark? Yes. The race is nonstop; in fact Miss Evven Carrion was climbing 4.2 miles up Kingsbury Grade, exiting Lake Tahoe at 3 am. Where do you go to the bathroom? ANYWHERE and EVERYWHERE! Are you following all of this? This may break it down for you:

Where do you run?

The best part about The Odyssey is the scenery. Starting in Downtown Reno along theTruckee River, traveling through the Sierra Nevada Mountains and along the shores of Lake Tahoe. Then, we circle back through the Northern Nevada high desert back to where you began in Reno, at Idlewild Park. Runners get to experience a variety of sceneries. Each of my legs were in completely different areas, I saw Tahoe, Carson City, and Downtown Reno.

I was invited by the Mayberry Athletic Center to run with them this year. I was runner #12, which means I was the runner to cross the finish line for my team. My first leg was the beginning of North Lake Tahoe, it was about 9pm. The moon was fairly full that night and the whole lake was lit, it was gorgeous. Once again, I am from Southern California- and running through Truckee and Lake Tahoe is still a dream to me. I am still a tourist, and I may always be. If you check out my Facebook, I was keeping everyone posted throughout the 26-hour race. I was also tweeting. The Odyssey hash tag this year was #RTO12 if you want to check out tweets from the race this year- many of them are quite comical.

Despite the beer and costumes, this race is nothing to take lightly! It was intense and it was hot. Running in and out of the mountains has many elements: altitude, total darkness, animals, bugs, major inclines, and major declines. All of that aside, it is an amazing experience and I had a blast competing with my team. It was cool to see so many runners come together to enjoy this event. Everyone is supportive of one another. Complete strangers will offer you water, food, cold towels, or toilet paper. I can’t wait to do it again.

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