In 2008, two brothers named Ben and Bart Orth created the Inland Northwest’s first overnight relay run, the Spokane to Sandpoint Relay (S2S). The standard 2-day, 12-person, 36-leg race format was popularized by Portland’s Hood to Coast, and S2S sought to bring the same unique style of event to Spokane. The original course started atop Mount Spokane and included a memorable ride on a Silverwood Roller Coaster. Over the years, the Spokane to Sandpoint Relay has creatively evolved through multiple organizers, sponsors, and route changes, but retained its core structure and scenic course. Current owner and race director Nathan Luke of North by Northwest Relays (NxNW) acquired the event in 2018 and began putting his own personal race touches in place, including new branding and sponsors, some safer routing, and a new starting line in Green Bluff at Big Barn Brewing.
The starting area move to Green Bluff has been very popular with S2S participants, giving them a beautiful farm setting start line, country roads, and a safer traverse across North Spokane on the Children of the Sun Trail. Upon reaching the Spokane River at Nine Mile, teams travel east on the Centennial Trail through Bowl and Pitcher, downtown Spokane, Spokane Valley, Post Falls and Coeur d’Alene. Overnight, they make their way north on Idaho backroads all the way to Priest River, then follow the Pend Oreille south shore all the way to the Long Bridge and into Sandpoint for a celebratory finish with their teammates at Trinity City Beach in Sandpoint.
New this year will be the Running Club Competition. Clubs from Spokane and beyond will be competing for a new S2S traveling trophy that will reside at the winning club’s home venue for the following year. Also, coming this fall, NxNW will be launching a new event called the Inland Relay, scheduled for September 30. A one-day event for teams of five, the Inland Relay will be a roving event, with a different course each year highlighting areas of the Inland Northwest. The inaugural course will start in Rosalia, come north on farm roads to Cheney, then come into downtown on the Fish Lake Trail for a finish at Brick West Brewing. Details will be available soon at NxNWRelays.com.
Back at the S2S, Spokane does seem to have an ongoing love affair with this unique event. Teams with names like Forest Gump’s Groupies, Herd of Turtles, and PR or ER enjoy decorating their vans and other vehicles and dressing up in themed costumes to increase the frivolity of their weekend experience. Although there are some seriously competitive teams in the S2S, most participants and spectators describe the relay as ‘a party going down the road.’ This year’s Spokane to Sandpoint Relay will start at Green Bluff on Friday morning, July 21, and finish about 30 hours later Saturday afternoon on the shore of Lake Pend Oreille. By the time teams reach Sandpoint, they will have covered 200 miles and will be ready to celebrate their great accomplishment together.