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The Ultimate Fun Run
by Aaron Retherford
Jun 04, 2011 | 1227 views | 0 0 comments | 4 4 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Tribune photo by John Byrne - Travis Heitzenrader takes off from the starting line of the Reno-Tahoe Odyssey Friday afternoon. Heitzenrader was the first runner for the N.E.R.D. team, which was comprised of local high school runners.
Tribune photo by John Byrne - Travis Heitzenrader takes off from the starting line of the Reno-Tahoe Odyssey Friday afternoon. Heitzenrader was the first runner for the N.E.R.D. team, which was comprised of local high school runners.
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As teams crossed the finish line of the seventh annual Reno-Tahoe Odyssey, a sense of accomplishment overshadowed any feelings of fatigue after completing a race that takes most teams over 24 hours to navigate.

While outsiders might think a non-stop race that spans over two days and through the middle of the night might be a crazy way to spend a weekend, there is a reason why over 200 teams signed up for the one-of-a-kind event. And there is a reason why there are so many repeat participants.

Sara Day, a sixth-grade teacher at Sparks’ Van Gorder Elementary School, has been the captain of the Old Skool team since it formed four years ago. It started as a way to build camaraderie among teachers and other staff members at the school. Each teacher has their own running program for their students, and the RTO was a good way to set an example to those students.

“By the time we finish, we are completely drained and depleted, but then we’re planning the next year’s race,” she said. “It’s a nice opportunity to hang out with your co-workers in a different type of situation, to cheer each other on and have fun in the process.”

Day said she would run the event as long as there are enough teachers interested, and the desire to participate doesn’t seem to be losing steam among her co-workers. She also said that more and more people are interested every year, so it’s not difficult to fill the 12-runner team.

“I highly recommend it for anyone who likes a different type of challenge,” Day said. “Several of us have run marathons, but this is harder than a full marathon after weighing all the other variables.”

That seems to be a commonplace for the event. Word of mouth piques the interest of other runners and the event keeps growing.

That’s what happened with Evan Harris, a Spanish Springs High School senior and co-captain of N.E.R.D.

“My friend Luke (Holladay) told me about it a couple years ago, and I was intrigued by it, running 178 miles with 11 of my closest friends and just having fun throughout the night,” Harris said. “I feel like its builds camaraderie because you’re up there for like 24 hours without any sleep and not much food and running basically three 10K’s back-to-back-to-back.”

The RTO might be a grueling race, but teams still like to have fun. Not only will you see some wacky team names like “The Derek Zoolander Center for Kids Who Can’t Run Good,” but some teams like N.E.R.D. dress up like their namesakes.

The 178-mile race began Friday in Wingfield Park and ended in Idlewild Park Saturday. Start times for teams are staggered based on ability, so teams will finish around the same time.

The race is broken up in 36 legs and each runner runs three legs. The course reaches heights of over 7,000 feet and travels through the Sierra Nevada mountains, and along the shores of Lake Tahoe, circling back through the high desert of northern Nevada.

Runners from all over the United States come to experience the diverse landscapes of the race. There was even a team entered from Brazil.

Once runners experience the RTO, they tend to get hooked. Harris is one of those runners who said he would participate until he couldn’t run anymore, and Holladay. Holladay is now in his fourth year.

“I’m going away to school, but I would love to do it,” Holladay said. “It would be so much fun to come back and run with my friends again, so if I possibly can, I would love to be able to do it. I want to keep doing stuff like this because it’s a lot of fun.

“You get to hang out with 11 other people who love running just as much as you do because I don’t think any sane person would be out here if they didn’t love running.”
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The Ultimate Fun Run by Aaron Retherford


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