GENEVA — For some teams, this weekend’s Seneca7 relay race is all about the competition.
For others, camaraderie and having fun top the list.
An example of the latter will occur Saturday, when a van-decorating contest adds a new twist to the fourth annual event.
“We try to build on the things people seem interested in from past races, and we found that teams wore costumes or decorated their van,” race co-director Jackie Augustine explained. “We wanted to reward those teams that have Seneca7 spirit.”
The decorating will happen from noon to 3:45 p.m. in the Seneca Street parking lot; it will be closed during that time. Prizes will be awarded.
The race itself begins at 7 a.m. Sunday in downtown Geneva and winds through Ontario, Yates, Schuyler and Seneca counties. More than 200 teams, each sporting seven runners, will complete a 77.7-mile circuit around Seneca Lake. The finish line is in Geneva as well.
A post-race celebration starts at 5 p.m., and the awards ceremony is set for 7:27.
As usual, many of the team names incorporate the number seven, while others get high marks for ingenuity. They include:
• The 7 Sweaty Señoritas.
• Run PhD.
• Vineyard Vixens.
• Heart & Sole.
• Are We There Yet?
• Running with Scalpels.
The latter squad features seven surgeons from Strong Memorial Hospital.
This year’s field will include teams from eight states, the District of Columbia and Canada, representing the widest geographical draw in the young event.
When registration opened last October, the race officially filled to capacity in just five days.
The Seneca7 attracted 75 teams in its inaugural year of 2011. The following year, it sold out for the first time, reaching 150 teams about one month before race day. Last year, even with the capacity increased again, all 200 slots were taken about two months after registration began.
“We knew popularity was surging, but we were shocked to reach the field limit in less than a week,” said Jeff Henderson, race co-director.
Two hours after this year’s race sold out, the waiting list swelled to 90 teams. In December, organizers opened up additional bike-only spots and made available 10 charity slots; they sold out within hours.
Charity slots allow a team to register at an increased price — $777.77. The proceeds are donated to a charity of the team’s choice.
Augustine and Henderson said since roughly 20 teams elected to bike to exchange points rather than using a vehicle, the field was expanded to 222 teams.
The race was featured in Runner’s World magazine in April 2012. Augustine said while the event has grown immensely popular, it remains true to its mission from the start: to support sustainable living.
“What we found is so many people have a good time during the race, they tell other people about it,” she said. “We are still focused on showcasing and displaying sustainable race practices. Teams will get items locally made by sustainable-based companies. We are maintaining that commitment.”
For teams choosing to bike to exchange points, a special “refresh station” is being set up in Watkins Glen. It will include products from Red Jacket Orchards in Geneva and service by Geneva Bicycle Center.
Augustine said the format is embraced by runners who want a change of pace from a normal road race.
“Sometimes, running can be a solitary activity,” she said. “This gives people the opportunity to participate with friends.”