Sunday, October 19, 2008

Running Hood to Coast

When I woke up at 4:00 AM in a dark field, after just a half hour of sleep, I wondered if I was crazy. When I put on my headlamp and running shoes for a six-mile run—my second of three runs that day—I knew that I was crazy. But I was happy about it because I knew that my teammates were just as crazy.

I was running Hood to Coast with the Google relay team. That's a 197-mile Oregon race that starts at Mount Hood, travels through Portland, and finishes on the beach in the town of Seaside. More than 1000 teams participate in the race, with 12 runners on each team running three legs each.

The 12 runners on our team were all Googlers from different parts of the company: AdSense, AdWords,, Engineering, Search and Analytics, Search Quality, and more. We had runners from a number of offices: Cambridge, Chicago, Mountain View, New York, San Francisco, and Seattle . Many of us had run Hood to Coast before and even won similar races for Google; some of us were rookies to all-night relay races. What brought us all together was a love of running and a desire to get Team Google to the finish line as fast as possible — even if that meant that we wouldn't get much sleep.

We started last Friday night with fresh legs, fresh clothes, and lots of enthusiasm. Over the next 197 miles we wore out our legs, made our running clothes and vans smell terrible, and generated even more enthusiasm by coming together as a team and cheering each other on.

We had a lot to cheer about, because everyone contributed great performances and because we ran faster than we expected. We finished in 19 hours and 45 minutes, which meant that we averaged 10 miles per hour for the race. That was good enough to finish in 9th place overall and in 3rd place in the corporate division—behind a couple of running shoe companies that you might have heard about.

We were more than happy with the result. As we gathered on the beach near the finish line, we enjoyed the sun, the sense of accomplishment, and the camaraderie of our teammates. I smiled and thought back to when I woke up at 4:00 AM in that dark field. Considering all that we had accomplished, maybe I wasn't so crazy after all.

Here's a picture of the Team Google runners and drivers, enjoying the beach at the finish.

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