For hundreds of people over the past 34 years, their first view of Pahrump came on foot.
Pahrump is the halfway point of the annual Baker to Vegas Challenge Cup Relay, organized by the Los Angeles Police Revolver and Athletic Club. Relay teams made up of law enforcement personnel will pass through town from Saturday evening into early Sunday morning, and the exchange point for Stage 11 of the relay race is at Blagg Road and Nevada Highway 372.
“It’s right at the Green Valley Grocery,” said race coordinator Chuck Foote, one of the founders of the event. “It’s a mutually agreeable spot. They like us there, and we like being there.”
At Green Valley Grocery, Assistant Manager Lisa Nielsen and Tisha Dotters have worked race day for the past three years and can’t wait for Saturday.
“We love it. We look forward to it,” Nielsen said. “It’s our busiest day of the year.”
While some working at a convenience store would be terrified of a few hundred people running toward them and another few hundred waiting around to start running away from them and a few hundred support personnel hanging around, Nielsen and Dotters have no worries.
“Chuck goes out and makes sure everything is OK before they run in,” Nielsen said. “It’s months of work. That’s why everything goes so well.”
The store stocks extra eye drops, hand sanitizer, ChapStick and other essentials, Nielsen said, and both women agree they enjoy doing their part to help the race.
“Once you meet all of the people, you’re going to want to work it every year, too,” Dotters said.
The Green Valley Grocery is not the only familiar sight to veteran Baker to Vegas runners.
“The Pahrump Moose Lodge 808 Welcome Wagon is located in front of the Saddle West Hotel,” said Foote. The place for runners and support team members to grab coffee, cookies and bananas that was organized by Alice Eychaner for two decades is a highlight of the race for many.
“She was pivotal in shaping this event,” Foote said. “What was remarkable about her was that she was the most enthusiastic person for our event, and yet she was not working for the Los Angeles Police Department.”
Eychaner merits a place on the race’s website, which lauds her role in making Pahrump a pivotal part of the event’s story.
That story began with Foote and the late Larry Moore, Los Angeles police officers who wanted to pick up where the Death Valley Relay ended in 1985. That first year, 19 teams competed in a race that ended on Blue Diamond Road, 13 miles from Las Vegas.
This year, a record 276 teams will race 120 miles from just north of Baker to the Westgate Las Vegas.
“Each team has 20 runners, anywhere from three to 10 alternates and 20 support people, so about 45 people to a team,” Foote said, meaning roughly 12,500 people will be involved.
The Los Angeles Police Federal Credit Union is the title sponsor of the race, which will feature mostly competitors from California but many states will be represented, said Foote.
Not represented this year will be the Nye County Sheriff’s Department, which Foote said has fielded a team most years.
“We traditionally run in the race, however this year with current staffing levels, we are unable to put together the people necessary for a team and still provide minimum law enforcement coverage in Nye County, so we opted to use them at work instead of the race,” Lieutenant David Boruchowitz said. “We had to put the interest of the residents above our desire to participate in such a great event. We are hoping to be back in the race next year.”
Of course the sheer magnitude of the event will keep the sheriff’s department busy anyway.
“We have additional personnel assigned to work to provide additional coverage,” Boruchowitz said. “We also have our SAU (volunteer auxiliary officers) scheduled to provide traffic control on SR 372. Traditionally the race has caused very little disruption and simply slows things down a little. Search and Rescue additionally will be staffing a checkpoint and assisting with runner counts.”
With so many participants, organizing the race includes everything from making sure things go smoothly at each of the exchange points to figuring out who starts when.
“We start the slowest ones first and the fastest ones last, based on their estimated ability,” Foote said.
Los Angeles teams have won the relay for the past 10 years, with a police department team winning each race since 2012 and the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Central Jail team winning four consecutive years before that. An LAPD team has won 16 times overall.
The first runners will leave Baker at 8 a.m. Saturday, with the last group getting underway at 4 p.m. The first runners are expected to arrive at the Stage 11 exchange point at Highway 372 and Blagg Road no earlier than 5 p.m. Saturday, with the last group reaching Pahrump by 11:55 p.m. The Stage 12 exchange point will be at Highway 160 and Dandelion Road, with runners arriving there between 6 p.m. Saturday and 1 a.m. Sunday.
Stages are as short as four miles and as long as 10.7 miles, and the difficulty ranges from mostly flat roads around Pahrump to the challenging climb up to Mountain Springs. The course and stages have changed little over the years, according to Foote.
“It stays the same, pretty much from the beginning,” Foote said. “And I would guess more than a few teams have done it every year.”
Contact Sports Editor Tom Rysinski at firstname.lastname@example.org On Twitter:@pvtimes