The DeCelle Memorial Lake Tahoe Relay is celebrating 50 years this Saturday.
The race, dubbed the oldest relay in the U.S., starts at 7 a.m. at the junction on Highway 50 and Highway 89 with teams of seven people running eight to 12 miles each circle the lake ending back at the starting point. The course is closed at 8 p.m. for the safety of the runners.
The race became a sanctioned relay in 1964 by Robert E. DeCelle Sr., the chairman of the AAU’s distance running committee, after four Sierra Nevada Track Club members completed the 72-mile course. It took the four runners 7 hours and 22 minutes to complete.
DeCelle Sr. would fire the start gun then go fishing until the teams complete the lap about seven hours later until his passing in 1997.
The relay is named after Capt. Robert E. DeCelle Jr., who was killed in action during the Vietman war.
In 1982, the time of 7 hours and 22 minutes was broken by six Olympians from Columbia and one runner from South Africa, who were all runners at the University of Nevada, Reno, with a time of 6 hours, 16 minutes and 28 seconds. That record still stands today.
Chico Track Club has dominated the race over the last 10 years losing once in 2011 to Bringham Young University and McFarland High School in Fresno has been dominant in the high school division.
This year, 130 teams will participate including over 400 participants from Girls on the Run. Last year, all the proceeds from the event were donated to the organization from Butte County, Calif. that encourages girls between fourth and eighth grade to participate in after school running programs.
For more information on the DeCelle can be found at the website www.laketahoerelay.com.