Back in November, I came up with this brilliant idea....I wanted to run a Ragnar Relay.
A Ragnar is a team relay challenge where teams anywhere from 6 members to 12 members take on about 200 miles of running. They had one a few years ago from New Haven to Boston that I remembered hearing about, and the idea struck me as being so cool that one day I wanted to try one.
And last Friday was my day.
I spent months recruiting people for the team, having people drop out, finding new people. It was nerve-wracking. But like a honey badger that don't care, if I had to show up and run the 200 miles by myself, I'd do it.
But running alone wasn't something I was going to have to worry about. Our team of 12 came together perfectly and on Friday we loaded up into our minivans and headed off to the starting line.
Our van consisted of Ali, Jenn, Catherine, John, Anne and myself, and we were the first van to give this a go. At the starting line in Hull, Massachusetts, we anxiously awaited the start as we stood in the cold with the wind blowing, not knowing what was in store for us over the next thirty hours.
Before we knew it, it was our starting time. John was up first and was quickly down the road and out of sight. We piled in the van, and weren't quite sure what to do. We wanted to stop and cheer him on the course, but navigating in a town none of us were familiar with on a course none of us had run had us tearing through the streets of Hull trying to figure out where we could actually spot him.
We finally saw some other vans in a library and pulled in just in time to catch him running by. We rushed to the vans and sped off to the first exchange where Ali would be taking over. As we waited, I saw another van parked there with a very familiar logo on its side.
Not too long after, John came in and made our first exchange to Ali and we were back in the van heading towards my first leg.
While we waited for Ali, we founded a Dunkin Donuts directly across from the exchange, having no idea that by the end of the race, we'd have a new found place in our heart for Dunkin Donuts bathrooms.
Ali quickly made it to the exchange, and I was off on my first leg, what was labeled as a 4.9 mile leg labeled "Hard", and they were not kidding.
The distance was easy enough to handle, but the elevations were much steeper than the chart made them appear.
I hit the exchange and handed off to Jenn and felt really good to have the first leg down.
We moved through the next three runners extremely fast, with everyone maintaining our projected paces before handing over to van 2 around 6 o'clock. Van 1 had finished its first leg and was feeling really good.
Down for a break, we took off in search of food, bathrooms and some rest. With the endorphins running high from how well we all did, the mood in the van quickly went from one of anxious nervousness to elated giddiness.
As night fell, it was time for us to head over to the Bourne Bridge to meet up with Van #2 so that we could start our night legs, which meant we it was time to break out our amazingly awesome night gear!
I'll admit, the night leg was absolutely horrendous for me. My leg started around 11 and the temperature had dropped significantly. I had a difficult time picking clothes, and removing layers was extremely difficult because of the safety vest and lights we had to wear. I ended up overdressed and overheating. And then to make things a little more interesting, the course had us running down the wrong side of the road in the dirt. Thankfully it was just an easy 4 mile section.
Rather than handing off to Jenn and heading back to the van, the plan was for me to pace her as we didn't want to have runners going alone in the dark. A lot of the areas were really sketchy and not well lit. Yeah, the plan sounded great until my body decided it couldn't keep up with Jenn. She took off, and I swear, there were actual trails of fire on the ground that I had to follow. That's my story, and I'm sticking to it.
I then did something I've never had to stop doing before. I stopped running. I climbed back in the van, exhausted, freezing and overheated all at the same time. I felt a little better when even the van had a hard time keeping up with Jenn.
We finished our night legs and found a few hours of sleep in Harwich before having to take over for our last go. Tired, feeling a little sick to our stomachs, though still smelling quite nice...we all were ready to finish.
My last leg was to be a 7.9 mile very hard leg. The weather was absolutely perfect and I was ready to go. Ali handed off to me one last time and I was on my way. My first turn was to be a half a mile down the road. Only, it wasn't. The maps had been printed wrong! My 7.9 mile leg quickly became a 9.9 mile leg due to a misprint!
Oh well. I just ran. And ran. And then dropped my water. So I swore. Loudly. Then I ran more.
The course took me onto the rail trail on a section I had run many times before that has some amazing views. The pictures that I didn't take were amazing, but trying to get my phone out to take them was just more than I had the energy for.
I passed the water station for this leg which was a bunch of empty cups and a sign that basically said "IOU 1 Water". I swore again.
Then I saw two people in orange Ragnar vests that told me the exchange was just around the corner. I almost kissed them. And there it was. The last exchange for me. I handed off to Jenn one last time, then quickly went down to my knee to catch my breath. I had never had the amazing feeling running as I did then.
We all may have been tired for the last legs, but it didn't show. Our paces held strong and as we watched Catherine hand over to van #2 for the last time, the exhilaration that took over all of us knowing that we had just accomplished something of this magnitude was overwhelming.
Tired and hungry, we headed to Provincetown in search of food while we waited for our teammates in Van #2 to arrive. While we waited, we had some fun with some local firefighters that were there for another event that was happening in the same park.
Our last runner came to the finish around 5 that evening and we all crossed the finish line together, completing our thirty-hour challenge and bringing an end to one of the greatest race experiences I've ever had.
It's funny, but the hardest part of the race wasn't over yet. That came when we had to say goodbye. We started off as six strangers out to run a race, never knowing how close that experience would bring us. To say that a race was life changing may sound crazy, but it's the only way to describe it. It's an experience I'll never forget, and better than any medal I could ever earn are the friends I walked away with that weekend.
If you ever have the opportunity to run one of these races, take it.