Longer version of a movie review in the Friday, Jan. 7 Oregonian. There are footnotes.
"Hood to Coast" (playing for one night, in movie theaters and at Portland's Keller Auditorium, on Tuesday, Jan. 11) is a beautifully shot, feel-good documentary about "The Mother of All Relays" -- a 197-mile race in which 12,000 runners in 2,000 vans make their way from Timberline Lodge to Seaside over two days.
I've run (or at least enthusiastically jogged) the Hood to Coast relay six times over two decades  -- and to my thinking, director Christoph Baaden, working closely with race organizers, does a superb job capturing the geography of the race, the wildly varied mix of participants, and the often-surreal experience of running the thing. He and his crew give this crazy, one-of-a-kind race an epic sweep while also capturing a few emotionally naked moments with their exhausted subjects.
What makes Hood to Coast special is the way it sort of perversely captures the entire human comedy -- it's pain and pleasure tied up in sleep-deprived logistics,  and the punchline is that the suffering is completely voluntary. The pleasure comes from the terrain; the carnival of runners decorating their vans and wearing ridiculous costumes; the punchy camaraderie; and the pride of having conned oneself into slogging through this ridiculous endeavor one more year.
Baaden's film crew nails all this in a crowdpleasing way -- alternating between spectacular helicopter shots, animated overviews of the route and intimate moments with four very different Hood to Coast teams.
The fastest (and most articulate) team is an aging crew of hyperfit Masters-runner pranksters called "The Dead Jocks." At least one Dead Jock has run H2C since its first year, 1982, when eight teams of lunatics raced to Pacific City. There's also a beer-swilling group of Laika animators with an alarmingly casual training regimen, providing much of the film's comic relief. Then there's a single-minded survivor determined to run the race a year after a heart attack briefly killed her on the course. The movie's most nailbiting moment comes when she jacks her heart rate into the 180s during a stubborn-bordering-on-insane defiance of doctor's orders. And there's "Team R. Bowe" -- a grieving team of family and friends running to honor a man who died far too young.
Their experiences range from grim to silly -- nicely capturing the range of emotions you can feel during this big, ridiculous moving caravan of sweat. I recognized a hundred little moments in "Hood to Coast" -- the dust-choked logging-road leg that requires runners to wear bandanas over nose and mouth; the weird Lynchian vibe that takes over the van at 3 a.m.  ; and the dread and relief of the final leg, which is run mostly on fumes and pride. 
Now, that said, if I have one very minor beef with the doc, it's that it doesn't address the impacts -- positive or negative -- that Hood to Coast has on people living along the race route. In my experience, locals either form temporary service economies or, less frequently, get annoyed.  Baaden sidesteps all this in the name of narrative tightness, keeping his focus squarely (and safely) on a participant's-eye view of the race.
Maybe some world-building material will turn up as bonus features on the eventual DVD. At any rate, the doc will go over like gangbusters in a theater full of running enthusiasts on Jan. 11. And if any of the featured teams return for this year's race, they'll be greeted as royalty.
To learn more about the documentary or buy tickets for the Jan. 11 movie-theater screenings (or the "Portland Premiere" screening at the Keller Auditorium), visit www.HoodToCoastMovie.com.
1. Twice just out of high-school cross-country in the '80s, when I was all sinew and idiocy, and four times in my much-slower 30s, when the race was better-organized and I was better-padded. Several of my most vivid running memories come from Hood to Coast. I drew a comic strip about the relay for The O way back in 2004.
2. Here, more specifically, is how Hood to Coast works. The 197-mile route is broken down into 36 legs, with legs ranging from 3.52 to 7.79 miles in length. Two vans, containing six runners each, cover the route in shifts. Ideally, each team member runs three legs over the course of the race. A van lets out a runner and hauls fanny to the next relay exchange -- maybe stopping halfway through to give the runner some water.
Rinse and repeat all the way to Seaside, with fitful sleep breaks.
(The infographic in the documentary actually whiffs these logistics a bit, suggesting a van "follows" its runner to the next exchange. Uh, no. It can be quite a bit more panicky than that, depending on the traffic bottlenecks.)
3. Cell-phone coverage vanishes for hours in the middle of the race, reality narrows to a single headlamp beam, and the middle-of-the-night relay legs feel like a cross between night-dives and horror-movie setups.
4. I've suffered through that extra-long 7.79-mile leg, which comes toward the end of the relay. It's horrible. Imagine lurch-jogging for over an hour, on about an hour-and-a-half of sleep, while your brain yells at you Sam Kinison-style that what you're doing is a terrible idea.
5. One family in Olney transforms their home into a wildly popular coffee bar and burger shack; the Jewell School turns its gym into a barracks for desperate naps and showers and old-school powdered-egg breakfasts; and of course there's the epic beer-garden aftermath in Seaside, during which thousands of grimy, lithe and semi-coherent people stagger around the tourist traps yelling "Woo!"
'Hood to Coast' (The Oregonian, Friday, Jan. 7, 2011)