LOGAN — Small towns are known for their hospitality.
But 13,000 runners descending on rural communities from Logan to Park City can really test those neighborly feelings.
Friday morning at 5 a.m., the first of 1,050 teams will begin running the 188-mile Wasatch Back Ragnar Relay. It's a trek that begins in Logan, winds its way through the small towns and along highways and dirt roads of the Wasatch mountains and ends at the Canyons Resort in Park City. With the addition of nearly 400 teams, the Wasatch Back becomes the largest relay in the world.
"It makes me proud of this state, proud to live here," said co-founder Dan Hill of the communities along the race route were of the seven-year-old event. "There are definitely going to be people who are inconvenienced, but communities have been very accommodating."
Many towns, schools and other groups use the temporary population boom as a way to raise money for their causes. This year the family and friends of Jeremy Kunz, who was killed by a drunken driver while participating in the Ragnar Relay in Las Vegas last fall, will be serving breakfast at the end of Leg 24 near Kamas as a fundraiser for his family. Leg 25, which runs past Kunz's home, will be lined with glow sticks Friday night in honor of Jer, who loved the relay races.
His family is also running the race in his memory, and their team name is "Wanna be running for Jer."
While many teams are running for their own causes, the Ragnar Relay Race series chose the American Cancer Society as its official race charity. There are 10 teams running for the cause officially, Hill said.
"I don't think there is anyone who hasn't been impacted by cancer," Hill said.
Race officials also suffered through "headphone-gate" just a few weeks before Friday's 24-hour race.
"We were doing safety analysis of all of our races and headphones and iPods is something that came up," he said. Organizers also thought the USATF wouldn't insure races that allowed the use of headphones.
After announcing the ban, normally loyal fans of the race blasted them with criticism.
"We got a clarification from the USTAF said our event fit the criteria where it was allowed," Hill said. "The biggest issue is that people need to be able to hear what's going on around them. We've seen runners on the wrong side of the road and when we call out to them, they can't hear us. People need to wear them in such a way that they can hear someone talking to them in a normal tone. You should be able to hear your footsteps."
Ragnar Relay Wasatch Back
Starts today at 5 a.m. and goes through Saturday
Logan to Park City (188 miles)