Living out of a van with 5 people for more than 24 hours straight isn’t everybody’s idea of a fun time. But for most runners who’ve experienced Ragnar Relay, it is more than a once in a lifetime experience.
It’s an annual pilgrimage that is worth repeating.
For my team, The Flying Elvesters, the 198-mile relay, from Winona, Minn., to Minneapolis has become a must-do event. Each year, since 2008, I’ve been lucky enough to be part of the team, and it gets better and better every time.
Thanks to our captain, Kelly, it’s well organized. And every runner serves as an inspiration – regardless of ups and downs during the previous year, this band of friends always supports each other and runs courageously. And then there’s the outrageous – like our friend Adam, who ran his first 6+ mile leg in a full Ragnar-like costume.
For me, running Ragnar is a way to bond with friends – some whom I see only during this 2-day event. The camaraderie is the best part of the experience.
As a runner, though, it’s also a pretty important aspect to my training. Over 3 legs, I logged a bit more than 18 miles.
While that sounds like the equivalent of a long marathon training run, it really is more than that. Those miles are run at race pace, on some long rolling hills. And while it’s an excuse to eat whatever sounds good at the time, the training effect is important. By the second and third legs, the body is getting tired. Forcing oneself to run hard during those legs helps toughen up the body for the rigors of marathoning, which requires determination and grit late in a race.
Going into this year’s Great River Relay, my legs felt shot. Afterward, though, they were in shock from climbing long hills. There’s something special about those three runs, though.
For me, the first was at a hard race pace, and the longest of the legs, in the afternoon warmth. The second leg is always special – in the dark of night, somewhere in rural Wisconsin, and millions of stars hovering above as I climb blindly up and down gravel roads. And the third was simply tough as the body is just craving sleep, but the desire to push oneself hard and finish strong – for both the team’s sake and for the sake of getting it over.
Marathon training just wouldn’t be the same without running Ragnar’s Great River Relay. And my summer just wouldn’t be the same without the camaraderie and support of my running friends – an event that always provides among the year’s best highlights and makes me excited for the next time we run Ragnar.