Bengal Runners, a Bangladeshi American 12-man team aged between 30 and 50, finished in the top 50 percentile in the recently-concluded 199-mile Hood to Coast Relay race held on August 27 and 28 at Oregon in the USA.
The relay race started from Timberline Lodge at Mt Hood and ended at Oregon coast seaside. Racers wore a simultaneous look of joy and relief on their faces as they made their way across the finish line at the beach.
A total of 1100 teams participated in this race hailing from different parts of the world and only 867 teams crossed the finish line. Three Bangladeshi teams Bengal Runners, Bengal Tigers, and all women team Joyeeta took part in the relay race this year. All the Bangladeshi teams successfully crossed the finish line while Bengal Runners finished 378th position among all at a pace of 9 min per mile that put them in the top 50 percent among the 867 finishing teams.
“This is an outstanding achievement as we are not professional marathon runners. Even most of the team members are running for the first time. This is to set a stepping stone for our next generation of Bengali runners,” Jalal Uddin, captain of Bengal Runners, told The Daily Sun after completing the relay run over phone.
“I want to say the new-generation Bangladeshi relay runners that we are not extraordinary. If we can do it, you can do even better. I believe that one of our Bangladeshi teams will win this relay one day and run to the finish line raising our flag high,” he said.
The event is known as the Mother of All Relays around the world because of the level of difficulties, stress and struggle runners need to undergo in this longest relay. In this race, each runner needs to run about 16-18 miles in 3 legs within 20 hours of time span. Each team has 8 to 12 runners and they complete the total 199 miles race in relay style. With few months of practice, and proper rest in between, it becomes easier to run these miles.
However, the key challenge on the race day is that one needs to run these miles without sleeping properly, taking rest or food and sitting most of the time in a cramped van while not running. Such situation makes it even more challenging to run at a higher pace. On top of that, running as a sport does not come naturally to the people from the Asian continent.
Bappi Khayer, a senior member of Bengal Runners, said, “I almost lost all my strength and could do anything to take a break and walk a little at times but I remembered that our captain Jalal was pushing us for pace. Therefore, I kept running. I am glad that I have done it and now I feel much better when I see my team has achieved such an outstanding position in this race.”
Asked that what motivated them to take part in this horrific stress test of life, captains and senior members of Bangladeshi teams, told The Daily Sun that the cause of the race inspired them to attend the race. According to them, the race is arranged to support cancer research charities. It raises millions of dollars through registration and sponsors, and all the money are spent for cancer research. Bangladeshi runners wanted to support this good cause through their participation in the race.
At the same time, they wanted to enjoy the health benefits and create awareness of good health among the expats of their own country.
“This is an excellent achievement for the whole community and Bangladesh as well. We are pretty sure the message we want to spread will reach all Bangladeshis and more Bangladeshi teams to participate in the future,” said Jalal Uddin.
Bengal Tigers is the first Bangladeshi team that participated in the Hood to Coast Relay in 2019. Two more teams Joyeeta and Bengal Runners joined the HTC 2021 by following their footsteps.
“Even though it is a big stressful race, it is a fun as well. We had our first team in 2019 and will continue running Hood to Coast in coming years,” said Ashraf Uddin Akash, Captain of Bengal Tigers.
All the participating women of Joyeeta were full-time workers or mothers. Most of them never ran a mile before taking part in this race. With their determination and hard work, they finished this challenging race setting a huge milestone for our women.
“We are women involved in different professions. Some of us are working moms, students. We have overcome social stigma and mental barriers and physical challenges. Each of the Joyeetas has their own story and all these stories are worth sharing,” said Selina Begum, Captain of Bangladeshi women team Joyeeta.
“To me, they are the winners and they can do anything. I am so proud and happy to be a part of their trailblazing journey,” she added.
“I congratulate team Joyeeta for this great success and it will be a source of inspiration for all women around the world, especially our younger generation of girls,” said Zahed Kauser, a senior member of Bengal Runners.