The 3 Capes Marathon Relay is held in February, and the weather has been beautiful every year. Every year, except 2018. This year, we had a little bit of everything – rain, sleet, hail, wind, sun, clouds. But for the most part, it was a beautiful day for a race.
3 Capes Marathon Relay is a gorgeous coastal Oregon race. It passes three different capes. It starts in Bayocean, climbs up past the Cape Mears lighthouse, from Oceanside through Netarts, up to Cape Lookout, down into Pacific City – ending at Cape Kiwanda. If you are into hills and views, this is a race for you. You start at sea level, climb 2,400 feet, and then end up back at sea level for the finish.
The race is 26.2 miles long, and you can choose to run it in a variety of ways. You can enter as a solo runner doing the full marathon. Sign up as a dual person team – each person can run a full half or split the 5 legs up between each team member. Finally, you can run as a 5-person team and run one leg each.
The race grows in popularity every year. This year there were 35 solo runners, 25 dual runner teams, and 86 five-person teams registered. Not only does the number of runners grow, but the support gets better and better. Each exchange now offers Gatorade and water. There are ample volunteers to keep everyone going where they should. And you don’t have to wait too long for a port-a-potty.
3 Capes is a fundraiser with 100% of the profits going to support the Tillamook High School’s track and cross country teams. I love supporting young runners, and the race is arranged by Coach Patrick Zweifel. Zweifel is an energetic, friendly guy. He even tried to recruit my 11-year-old daughter into his cross-country team while we were picking up our race packet. You can tell that Zweifel lives for running.
Despite a lack of proper training, the legs seemed easier to manage this year. My teammate runs the hilly legs: 1, 3, and 5. She is a hill monster, I am not. I take the long legs: 2 and 4. Leg 4 is nearly seven miles long, the last half of it is a straight boring road. In my opinion, the last half of leg 4 is the most demanding part, but I don’t have to run up to Cape Lookout.
One of my favorite things about a relay is the cheerfulness, and support from other runners. There seems to be more camaraderie during a relay than at a normal race. We also saw some real characters out there. A gentleman running in underwear for instance. And a woman who knitted as she ran. I still can’t figure out how she does it.
Another treasured aspect of 3 Capes are the views and immersion into nature. You get frequent glimpses of the Pacific Ocean and a few different bays. As you climb into the forest you hear the trees creaking from the wind. You hear birdsong, and maybe even a woodpecker. When you pass through Sand Lake you hear the drone of 4-wheelers. The relay ends on the beach in Pacific City, with a spectacular view of Haystack Rock.
The beach finish line boasts hot soup, bread, cinnamon rolls, and a free Pelican Pub beer coupon. The Pelican Pub is a few short steps from the finish line, but the coupon can be redeemed at any of their three locations on race day. Last year we headed to the Tillamook Tap Room to avoid the Pacific City crowd. Pelican makes a delicious beer, and it is the best finish to a tough race.
3 Capes Marathon Relay is a first-rate way to get warmed up for running season. I hope that I get to participate in it for years to come. It’s a must-run.