Rainier to Ruston relay returns for 21st year

The 50-mile relay starts at the mountain and heads through Carbonado, Wilkeson, South Prairie, and Orting.

Editor’s note: The following is a press release from the Foothills Rails to Trails Coalition.

The Rainier to Ruston Relay will be celebrating 21 years at its 2023 event, scheduled to coincide with National Trails Day on June 3.

The 50-mile relay carries on a unique tradition begun by a handful of friends decades ago. Over the years, the event has transformed from an annual run amongst one single group of friends into a beloved event that continues to attract hundreds of runners from across the Pacific Northwest and showcases the beauty of Pierce County, from Mountain to Sound.

“The race has turned into a regional favorite for runners. The nature of it being a relay makes it great for both mid- and long-distance runners, and people love that it’s a feat they can accomplish alongside their friends,” said Sabrina Seher, the event’s race director.

Known as the “R2R,” the relay covers a 50 mile stretch from Mt. Rainier to the Tacoma waterfront and may be completed with teams of two, three, four, or six runners. The course follows historic railbeds through beautiful forests, passing by historic towns and cities along the way.

For teams, there’s more to preparing than just getting fit and strategizing a plan of action for race day. Many pour their time into creating hilarious team names and creating fun costumes and traditions they can follow the next summer.

The relay has persevered year after year, including throughout the pandemic when committed racers were given the opportunity to participate in an innovative no-contact version of the relay, and in 2021 when the event was postponed from June until August to wait out a second wave of COVID.

2019 was a record-breaking year for the R2R with participation reaching 2,000 runners, and organizers anticipate the 2023 race will attract the most runners yet. This year, additional waves have been added to accommodate larger participation numbers.

“It’s the camaraderie of the team and fun in the unpredictability of the race people really love and that brings them back summer after summer,” said Dan Bucci, co-organizer of the race. “It’s also cheering on other runners and enjoying the creativity other teams bring.”

While the preparation and race itself are big highlights, many agree crossing the finish line is the best part of the day. Each team’s anchor marks the completion of their relay by ringing the bell at the finish line and snapping a picture with Sasquatch. The day wraps up in Tacoma with a view of Mt. Rainier and a celebration including a craft beer garden, food, and awards. Award recipients for each category will receive the highly coveted railroad spikes paying homage to the relay’s path along the railbeds.

Registration is now open for relay teams and can be completed online at www.rainiertoruston.com.

The race couldn’t be held without the generosity of both sponsors and volunteers. The R2R is sponsored by US Oil & Refining Co., with beer generously provided by Silver City Brewery.

Businesses and organizations can become additional sponsors of the event beginning at just $1,000, and volunteers can donate their time from setup to breakdown.

All proceeds from the R2R go to the Foothills Rails-to-Trails Coalition, a non-profit trail organization based in Pierce County.

“The R2R is the most important fundraising event for the Foothills Coalition, and we’re lucky for it to be an event the community comes out in full support of every year,” said Shayla Miles, Executive Director of the Foothills Coalition. “We appreciate all the hard work that goes into the event; and it truly helps us continue our mission of partnering with stakeholders to create, fund and maintain a trail system connecting communities and destinations from Mt. Rainier to the Puget Sound.”