What could possibly be fun about skipping sleep for the better part of 24 hours, sharing a van with five other people who smell of stale sweat, and oh yeah, running three times in less than 24 hours? Turns out, a whole lot. Just north of 250 teams of 12 (that's more than 3,000 runners) have registered for the 12th annual Reno-Tahoe Odyssey, a 178-mile meandering from Reno to Tahoe and back again June 3-4.
With more than a decade under its belt, the event, fondly known as the RTO, has quickly become a local fixture. In a nutshell, the event begins Friday with two vans, six runners in each, leapfrogging at the exchange points and alternating runners until the Saturday afternoon finish in Idlewild Park.
Whether you're a runner, a spectator or just scratching your head at the thought of it all, here's some things to know about the 12th annual RTO.
The scenery is not too shabby
"We pass the Emigrant Trail, where so many traveled on the way to California," race creator and director Eric Lerude said. "One group, the Donners, did not make it and did not get much further than Exchange Point 4."
Other notable sites: Downtown Truckee; Squaw Valley, home of the 1960 Olympics; the Pony Express Route; V&T Railroad; Virginia City and the Comstock Lode.
Fun outweighs the competition
"The event is more about the fun and experience than the running," Lerude said. Teams get creative with their names too, jockeying for the best name award. Winners through the years include "Donner ... Party of 12," "How the West was Run," "Scrambled Legs 'n Achin" and "Off Like a Prom Dress."
Van 1 gets stoked
The runners in Van 1 finish their sets of three legs in Virginia City, passing the torch to Van 2 to complete the final legs of the RTO. Tradition has Van 1 runners enjoying a celebratory Bloody Mary at one of the many bars that open early for the racers. Most common watering holes are the Bucket of Blood Saloon and the Delta Saloon, both adjacent to the exchange point.
If you don't want to run the whole tamale
Runners also can participate in two shorter relays. The Capital Odyssey Relay is a relay from Carson City to Reno. Join the RTO in progress for the last 12 legs on Saturday, June 4, running Leg 25 through Leg 36 on the Reno-Tahoe Odyssey course, which is approximately 63 miles.
Not up for 63 miles? Check out the shorter Comstock Odyssey Relay from Virginia City to Reno. This event joins the RTO in progress for the last six legs of the RTO running Leg 31 through Leg 36 on the Reno-Tahoe Odyssey course, which is approximately 29 miles.
Best place to watch the action
Catch the starting line action at Wingfield Park on Friday morning, watch sleep-deprived runners race along the historic streets of Virginia City, and cheer for the teams as they join their final runners and cross the finish line together.
Not all teams are created equal
There have been many "ultra" teams in RTO history, meaning teams with six or less runners. In 2014, Juan De Oliva (team name "Party of Juan") was the first runner to attempt and complete the 178-mile RTO, finishing in 46 hours and 20 minutes.
A handful of teams has completed the RTO all 11 years: NDOT Chain Gang, Sierra Survivors, Sole Sisters, Free Range Chicks and Run for Just Us.
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