By Scott Oxarart, Reno Gazette-Journal, May 31, 2013
The Reno-Tahoe Odyssey is about showcasing the landscape of Northern Nevada. It’s also a chance to run through some of Nevada’s history.
Race director Eric Lerude modified the ninth annual, 178-mile relay race to include the famous Toll Road near Virginia City, a pathway the miners used during the 1860s gold rush.
Instead of running down Geiger Grade into Reno like previous years, runners of leg 33 will get a glimpse of history.
“It’s obviously less busy than State Route 341,” Lerude said. “We’re always looking for ways to improve the event, make it a little better, add some bells and whistles. We’re always looking for a way to show off more of the area’s beauty and history. So, this really does it because it’s the historic toll road that was used during the Comstock days.”
The race will feature a record 259 teams and begins at 7 a.m. today at Wingfield Park. Defending champion Nutz will try for a repeat after finishing the race in 17 hours, 55 minutes, 37 seconds last year, a 6-minute-per-mile pace. The last team to finish took 34 hours.
The finish line is once again at Idlewild Park, and teams are expected to start entering the park around 10 a.m. Saturday.
For the first time, the event will feature the RTO One, which is a one-day relay on Saturday that allows teams to run the final 12 legs of the regular race instead of the full 36.
“The first year, we had 36 teams and about 400 runners,” Lerude said. “This past year, we reached a self-imposed cap of 275 teams and 3,200 runners.”
Leg 33 down Toll Road has breathtaking views of Mt. Rose, the Sierras, bristlecone pines and “if you’re lucky, you might see some wild horses,” Lerude said.
But don’t take your eyes off the road too much.
Lerude recently ran the leg with a Reno Gazette-Journal reporter, who tripped on one of the rocks on the road while admiring the view and biffed it, leaving the palms of his hands with minor scratches.
The downhill stretch of the road is mostly maintained, but there’s a section with exposed rocks.
“For the experienced trail runners, they won’t have much of an issue,” Lerude said. “But I would advise caution for everyone.”
He added that the leg will have more volunteers with first-aid supplies than other legs.
Another new leg is No. 7. Last year, it went through the underpass of Interstate 80 at the Hirschdale Road exit in Truckee.
This year, it stays north of the interstate and goes into the hill between Boca Reservoir and Prosser Creek Reservoir. The 7.4-mile jog is considered “more challenging,” but is nestled in the forest and is considered one of the more scenic runs.
There are also changes on legs 8, 25 and 26. The van exchange point on 6 is different, too.
While Lerude said he likes changing things up, he said the overall experience is what continues to draw in record participants.
“It is not just a typical run,” he said. “Rather, it is an amazing experience over 24 to 36 hours. It is spiritual for many runners. The typical runner runs a leg on Friday, then one that night, and then a third leg the next day.
“In addition, the team aspect makes it so different. So much camaraderie is generated. Not only within the team but among all the teams as they travel the 178-mile course. It is a great group accomplishment to complete the event. The course takes runners on a comprehensive tour of the region. They see lots of interesting sights and locations.”
WHAT: A 178-mile relay race around Northern Nevada that has about 270 teams ranging form six to 12 members. Each runner does three legs and on average runs about 15 miles.
WHEN: Teams go off in intervals starting 7 a.m. today and the race will end around 4 p.m. Saturday.
WHERE: Starts in downtown Reno at Wingfield Park and goes to Tahoe City, South Lake Tahoe, Genoa, Carson City, Virginia City and finishes in Reno at Idlewild Park.
BEST PLACES TO WATCH: From Lerude, “The exchange on Saturday morning at Virginia City. The last leg through southwest Reno on Saturday and the finish in Idlewild Park.”