Race Preview: 2016 Twelve Bridges Relay

Many runners, especially beginners, find the concept of a relay daunting. Usually covering well over a hundred miles over the course of a couple days, the sheer numbers involved can be imposing. When looking at the Twelve Bridges event, 65 miles in one day split between up to 6 people, it becomes a much more manageable concept. It also becomes more appealing when the majority of the run is on the Banks-Vernonia trail which is shady and beautiful. The shade can be helpful as the event date on June 4th can be warm at times. Relays are often known for their fun factor, with participants indiscriminately looking out for and cheering on everyone involved. Water and treats are shared with everyone nearby and cheering tunnels magically appear at many exchange stations. I have personal experience at this event, and you can read about it here.

Run Oregon also put together a 6-person team in 2011, and here were some highlights:

Leg 1 – Teresa:

My first leg was pretty uneventful, which is just how I like it. The sun was out and the temperature was cool, ideal running conditions. The 4.1 mile stretch flew by since I was distracted with vans, team signs and people along the way, plus it was a bonus that it was super flat and out in the country.

Leg 2 – Matt:

I took the handoff from Teresa, who blazed in before I felt ready to go. The exchange point was pretty quiet this early in the morning, with most of the early morning teams already passed and the later teams not having started or caught up. I headed out on the quiet rural streets where I am pretty sure no cars passed me, aside from those adorning “Runners on the Road” posters. Over the first few miles I passed Rhubarb and Blackberry fields, a local dairy, and a teeny tiny bridge. At mile 2, I ran past a beautiful Catholic Church and had a little climb out of sleepy country town. The final few miles kept me relatively flat until I arrived at the next checkpoint at Banks High School. This leg was beautiful in its own right, but was definitely the precursor to the amazing rural legs coming up.

Leg 3 – Matt

This was my first time running the Banks-Vernonia Trail, and boy was it amazingly beautiful. Almost the entirety of this leg was run along this straight and shaded stretch. I passed a few teams along the way, and more than a few bikers passed me (it was a beautiful day for a bike ride too). There was a palpable energy at this exchange point, as many teams from a variety of times were all converging at close intervals. Everyone was cheering EVERYONE on – it was really incredible stuff.

Leg 4: Joe

I have quickly become a big fan of one-day relays, and the Twelve Bridges Relay is one of my favorites because of the low-key, friendly atmosphere, and the fact that most of the course is on the peaceful, tree-lined, and traffic-free Banks-Vernonia Trail. I also had the privilege of running with a great group of goofballs, Team Run Oregon.

The first 1.5 miles or so were relatively flat, with a section across an open field, and then the trail entered the woods and began to climb. For most of the way the incline was pretty gentle, and the path was nicely shaded and cool. I usually find rails-to-trails paths a little dull because they’re so straight, but this part of the trail had just enough curves to keep it interesting. I settled into a nice rhythm and tried to concentrate on the peaceful and scenic surroundings, rather than the fact that I had umpteen uphill miles left to go!

Leg 5: Chere

Despite several steep switchbacks at the very beginning of the leg, the remainder of the 4.2 miles was all on a steady, gradual decline, shaded the entire way by a gorgeous tree canopy. Since it was a pretty hot day, I couldn’t have asked for a better way to start my share of the relay.

Leg 6: Marilyn

My first leg  was a 5.9mi run. It was fairly flat and I was ready to get those miles done while it was still somewhat cool! While I had initially been a little nervous that I might get lost as I’m not familiar with the area, all of my fears were quickly put to rest. There were tons of volunteers and the course was incredibly well marked. I was able to just go out and run! Given the smaller number of teams, there were lots of times that the runners were fairly spread out, but there were enough to keep me from feeling too lonely or isolated out there. I got to run around Vernonia Lake, a cool place in a neat small town, and put us back on the road towards North Plains.


The start time occurs in waves dependent on your team pace. However, teams must maintain an 11 minute per mile or quicker pace and the course is closed after 12 hours. As with many other relays, each team is asked to provide a volunteer for a four hour shift or ‘hire’ one for $75. This fee will go into a fund benefiting local high schools.

Registration is open, here is the current fee set up:

March 1st – May 15th
$480 – 6 Person Team
$320 – 4 Person Team
$240 – 3 Person Team
$160 – 2 Person Team
$  80 – Solo

Logistically, it is relatively easy to plan for a one day relay. It is just a matter of having enough changes of clothes as necessary, the proper nutrition for each participant, loads of water, and the basic medical supplies in case something goes wrong. Then it is just a mission to maintain a comfortable pace and end the day with a smile. They do a great job of putting on this event, and while there are a few race options on June 4th, few will provide the kind of fun that will be found here.

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