Looking for a Challenge? How does a 200 Mile, 12 Person Race Sound?

By Lesley Miller

I didn’t used to be a runner. In fact, I preferred to count a short walk to Starbucks as my daily exercise. But, after moving to Sacramento in 2006, a girlfriend convinced me that running would be a great way to get in shape. She was right—plus it allowed us hours each week to gab. Training for a race of any length is a major accomplishment, but after several long distance events I was ready for a bigger challenge.  Enter the Southern California Ragnar Relay – a 12 person, 200 mile, 36 hour race from Ventura, CA to Dana Point, CA.

If you’re looking for a crazy way to get fit, think about participating in a relay this summer.  Having just completed my race last week, I have a few lessons that might help to make your relay experience a great one. But first, let’s go over how a relay works.

Most long distance relays are comprised of 12 people, with six runners in each van.  Each runner covers three legs within the 200 mile course, and every person’s legs are different lengths. For instance, my team’s first runner began the race at 7:30am on a Friday morning, covering five miles. The next runner might travel three miles, the third runner eight miles, and so on. Once the first six runners finish their legs, the second van of runners begins their section of the course. Each van takes turns running until the race is complete. All of this basically translates to a lot of running, minimal sleep, and hours of driving.  To give you a sense of how far you’ll run, my total mileage over the 36-hour period was 19 miles.

Here’s what you need to know before you say, “Yes”:  Before you join a relay team, consider several things. First, make sure you have the time. Training for the Ragnar Relay took a lot of time and discipline. You’ll need between two and four months to get ready. Expect to run 5-6 days per week, with one of those days including a morning and evening run. Also, I would recommend participating on a team where at least one person has run a relay before. There’s a lot of organization that goes into a relay so it helps to have a veteran. If you don’t have any relay veterans, make sure there’s at least two “co-captains” (one for each van) who take the lead with organizing food, first-aid kits, etc.

Here’s what you need to do after you say, “Yes”:  Once you’ve been assigned your legs, build an appropriate training schedule. RunningRelays.com has a robust training section that can help. If you live in Sacramento, you’ll find it difficult to prepare for hills. Sacramento City College opens their stadium in the evening hours so I usually incorporated stairs into my workout. Once it gets closer to the race, make sure you spend time planning the fun parts of the relay such as team costumes and van decorations. Many relays give spirit prizes—great for teams who may not have a fast team, but a fun team.

Here’s how you can participate:  Ragnar Relays take place all over the country. Consider getting your college girlfriends together for a destination race. Or, if you’d rather stick closer to home, the Reno-Tahoe Odyssey is in early June and would be a great teambuilding activity for an office. Too soon? One of the most famous U.S. relays is Oregon’s Hood to Coast in August.  And, if a 200-mile journey seems daunting for beginners, it’s not too early to start training for Sacramento’s California International Marathon relay in December. See you on the course?

Guest blogger Lesley Miller is the public relations director for 3fold Communications. You can find her blogging about marketing here, or discussing things like books, cooking and travel on her blog, Barefooton45th.com.

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    1. @SacramentoMarko says

      Rad Girl of the Week Award goes to…. Lesley Miller! Wow Lesley awesome accomplishment! Your post got me all excited too, I just want to go run now!

    2. Ashlee says

      That Oregon relay looks awesome!

    3. Teri says

      You’ve also got The Relay near you, which runs from Calistoga to Santa Cruz. It’s always the first weekend in May. Running a relay on an all women’s team can be a life changing experience!

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