Touch 'Em All: Touchstone Runners Make 125 Relay Run
A few weeks ago, a large crew of Touchstone members joined forces to run to every single Touchstone Gym. Vaughn Medford, the manager at Sacramento Pipeworks, wrote about their 125 mile quest to Touch 'Em All.
Sunday June 6th, 3am: If a driver of one of the few cars cutting east through the darkness on highway 80 that morning happened to look off to her right, at exactly the right spot, on a lonely stretch of frontage road just outside of Vacaville, she saw a bizarre sight. A group of nine people in running shirts and shoes stood in a circle, wearing headlamps and conical birthday hats blowing noisemakers, throwing an impromptu surprise birthday party.
Several months earlier it had started the way most unlikely endeavors do; as a joke. A group of friends were sitting around drinking wine, talking about the event they had recently completed, a 200-mile, 12-person relay foot race from Calistoga to Santa Cruz. Scott Clark, the most organized person in the group said, “We could coordinate a run like that and add our own twist!” Ideas were being tossed around, when Sacramento Pipeworks manager Vaughn Medford said, “We could do a run that would tag all the Touchstone gyms. Starting in San Francisco at Mission Cliffs, we could run to Oakland’s Great Western Power Company, Berkeley Ironworks, Concord’s Diablo Rock Gym and then end in Sacramento at Pipeworks”. We laughed at the absurdity. I have a name already said Will Harris, “We’ll call it Touch ‘Em All!” This garnered the biggest snicker. The next day, several hours of pouring over Google Maps produced a rough sketch of the possible route. After driving sections of the route and thinking about it for several weeks, we were convinced that it could be done. On the third scouting trip, we drove the entire 125-mile length with a GPS unit and finally had an official map. Though the spring had been mild, summer means hostile temperatures in the Central Valley. If we were going to run, it had to be soon. Within a couple weeks, we had assembled a ten-person team, with seven out of ten being veterans of the prior Calistoga to Santa Cruz relay run.
Driving to the start at Touchstone’s flagship gym in San Francisco, Mission Cliffs, the runners in the big 15-seat van were charged with excitement. Promptly at 2pm, on Saturday June 5th our first runner set off up Harrison Street, headed for Sacramento, 125 miles away. Using BART to cross the bay (this being the only section that couldn’t be covered on foot), an hour later the runner showed[MM1] up at Touchstone’s Oakland gym, Great Western Power Company. From there, Diane Ortega took over for the short 3-mile jaunt to Berkeley Ironworks. “Having the van "stalk" me the whole way down San Pablo Blvd. was one of the highlights of this run” said Diane. For the rest of the relay, the van was generally following the runner, lagging behind, then passing with the riders cheering or harassing and then cruising ahead to wait for the runner to pass again until the handoff. Three gyms down, two to go. It took 7 different runners and a lot of hard climbing up the Berkeley Hills to reach the next gym, Diablo Rock Gym in Concord.
Night fell as we tagged DRG at about 9pm. Four gyms down, one to go. All night long, without stopping, the runners passed the baton, through rural and urban landscapes, crossing the Benicia bridge, braving industrial districts, following a frontage road flanking highway 680, passing over highway 80 and cutting east through Fairfield. On the highway between Sacramento and Fairfield, we threw the surprise birthday party for Touchstone CEO Mark Melvin, who turned 50 that day.
As we skirted Vacaville and turned northward, Robin Frank, who had vowed to fight to the death for the sunrise leg, got to see the sun peak up over the Sierras. “Seeing places that I have seen before, but not at less than 70 mph was cool.” Said Robin. Just before the town of Winters we turned east into the sun, for the final leg of our journey. This portion began outside Davis, and was given to Kent Gillis, a disabled athlete who rode his hand crank bike on the final stretch into Sacramento. Just outside Raley Field (home of AAA baseballs Rivercats) everyone abandoned the van for a group crossing of the iconic Tower Bridge into downtown Sacramento and a symbolic two and a half mile team trot to the final gym, Sacramento Pipeworks.
A beautiful BBQ spread awaited us, 20 hours after starting in San Francisco, 125 long miles away. We had managed to arrive one hour ahead of schedule. When asked for his reflections, event organizer Will Harris said “Great mix of silly fun, solitary effort, collaboration, contemplation, and teamwork. Lack of sleep is the biggest hurdle.” Pipeworks desk staff Diane Ortega felt that ”Overall I had an awesome time and would do it again and again. The memories are worth the pain. Thanks to everyone who put so much work into this thing. I was glad to be along for the ride!”
Be sure to watch for another Touch ‘Em All run sometime in the future. There is talk of opening up the TEA to teams of runners from other gyms, as a competition, in addition to possibly making the contest a fundraiser for disabled athletes. Thanks to Touchstone Climbing And Fitness for complete support and finance of this very unconventional event!
Photos of the run can be found at The Photo Gallery
Labels: Touch 'Em All, Touchston Running, Vaughn Medford