Why You Should Run a RAGNAR Race
I can’t remember exactly when I first heard about RAGNAR, the 200ish mile relay races that involve a bunch of runners, vans, and minimal sleep, but needless to say, I wasn’t very interested in the idea. 200ish miles sounded long, and I didn’t quite understand the point of the challenge if it was shared among 12 people. For me, running had never been a team sport, and racing was supposed to be hard and competitive. I couldn’t comprehend why anyone would want to pile into a van, not sleep, and then run…for fun. Without even a chip time! But then several months back a good friend asked if I wanted to participate in one such RAGNAR event. In summer. In Colorado. I couldn’t say no.
For all intents and purposes, I didn’t have a clue how to run in a RAGNAR race. What was I supposed to pack? What do we eat? When do I run? Wait, I run in the dark? Aren’t there bears? There were so many mental obstacles between myself and the finish line, I nearly backed out. But RAGNAR is a team event, and I couldn’t let down my team! For all of my apprehension, running RAGNAR Colorado was an incredible experience, and one that you should have, too.
Here is why you absolutely must seek out this relay team event:
First and foremost, RAGNAR races are a team event. As someone who never ran track or cross country in school, I didn’t quite understand this concept. Running had always been a solo venture, and one I felt pretty selfish about. The truth, however, is that running with a team is incredibly rewarding.
In my van, we had several runners who were newer, for one woman RAGNAR was her first race, ever! It was refreshing to be around people of so many different running backgrounds, and changed the way I thought about races and competition. We didn’t need chip times or the fastest runners, what mattered was finishing the miles, passing the baton (or in RAGNAR’s case, a slap bracelet), and supporting our teammates in completing a 200 mile journey. When we collectively arrived at the finish line, I finally understood the appeal to relay teams, and was so proud to have been one small part of an amazing accomplishment. To share those things with other people, and to have a race finish be about more than just me, singular me, was an incredible feeling that I won’t soon forget.
The second thing to know about RAGNAR is that it’s a little bit like running vacation, especially if you choose a destination race. I had never been to Colorado, but was excited for mountain views, epic stargazing, and miles of scenic running routes. Running, and cheering, and driving around for more than 24 hours straight is part camping trip, part race spectating, part racing, and yes, really, part vacation. Imagine 40 odd hours where you only need to think about running, eating in relation to running, and sleeping in relation to running. Like all good obsessive runners, this was paradise for me! The only thing that won’t feel like vacation is returning home and needing all of the sleep.
At the end of the day though, you should really run a RAGNAR race because they are FUN! Much more fun than I thought possible. Running with friends, some old and some new, and sharing the race experience as a team was a blast! Not to say that other races I have done haven’t been fun, but this certainly took Fun Racing to a new level. For us, time and speed were irrelevant (though it would be fun to be with a competitive group, too), which made the race much more relaxed and more about enjoying the experience. We ate Costco bananas, Cheez-its, and sandwiches, ran nearly 20 miles a piece, and didn’t sleep much. We had loopy conversations and challenging runs. We cheered each other on and celebrated after each leg. And doing these things together, collectively as a team, was surprisingly really, really fun!
I was skeptical of relay races, but after doing my first RAGNAR race this summer, I’ll definitely be back back for another one soon!