Human Interest Runs Its Course in Race Doc Hood to Coast


It would be virtually impossible to present the 197-mile relay race that gives Christoph Baaden’s Hood to Coast its title as anything like a coherent, easy-to-follow sporting event: The contest involves a thousand teams of 12 runners each, pounding the pavement from Oregon’s Mount Hood to the Pacific. Baaden focuses on four squads, but even with that narrowed field—and even while documenting their efforts over the 24-hour race with frequent use of maps—one never gets a sense of the competitors’ progress. More important to Baaden’s concerns are the personal stories—in particular the unexpected and recent death of a young man that galvanized his family to compete in tribute to him, and the return to action of a 67-year-old racer who collapsed and nearly died in the previous year’s contest. Because the runners’ standings in the race are never really established, and are largely beside the point, the film keeps cutting back to these increasingly sentimentalized accounts of hardship overcome, thus making the project resemble less a thrilling sports telecast than the bathetic human-interest segments that often precede them.