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THE EXPERT: Melissa Carlson
While this runner, from Austin, Texas, has completed her fair share of individual events—she’s currently training for the 2016 Marine Corps Marathon—it’s the camaraderie of a team that makes relays her favorite type of race. The 32-year-old accountant contributed to our list of the best relays in the U.S.—and tips for making team running fun!
“If you’re only going to do one relay,” Carlson says, “the Hood to Coast Relay should be the one. Starting at the top of Mount Hood with stunning views and beautiful downhill stretches, the scenery in the Pacific Northwest is topnotch.” The 200-mile, 36-leg event requires runners to speed all through the night into the following day—and is so popular, entry is via lottery.
Aug. 26–27, Oregon
Take your team off the grid and into the Sierras at the Truckee Marathon Relay. Nestled in a mountain town, this inaugural race promises to test your legs with tough climbs rewarded by majestic views. Each runner completes 13.1 miles, adding up to 26.2 miles total before crossing the finish line as a pair.
Sept. 25, Truckee, Ca
Ragnar is the biggest name in overnight relays, with both road and trail events offered all around the country. If camping is your thing, you’ll like the Ragnar Trail Wawayanda Lake, about 50 miles outside New York City. Teams of eight take turns tackling the off-road paths, including a long stretch of the Appalachian Trail. Don’t worry about running out of energy—the lakeside village fire is the perfect spot to refuel with s’mores and ghost stories before heading out on another loop!
Sept. 30–Oct. 1, Hewitt, NJ
Ready to take your running friendship to the next level? Try out the relay option at the Bellin Women’s Half Marathon, set in Green Bay, Wis. You’ll divide the 13.1-mile distance with your partner—perfect for relay-racing newbies. This event serves as the ultimate excuse for a girls’ getaway with your running bestie.
Oct. 8, Green Bay, WI
While the rest of the country is gearing up for cold weather, grab a buddy and head south for the Rocktoberfest 10 Miler in Naples, Fla. You’ll be able to hit the beach after completing your duo-run. Soak tired legs in saltwater waves while raising post-race cocktails to weekend fun.
Oct. 16, Naples, FL
“The Texas Independence Relay (TIR) was my fifth relay race and by far my favorite,” Carlson says. “It starts in Gonzales and ends at the San Jacinto Monument in Houston. The best part is you start and end with your team, bringing all of the runners together in a unique way. My team was on our way back from Austin post-race when we committed to running the event again in 2017.”
April 2017, Gonzalez to Houston
Melissa’s Relay Race Tips:
“I recommend bringing a reusable water bottle and sipping from it regularly,” says Carlson. “While sitting in the van [or on the sidelines waiting for your partner] for multiple hours, it’s easy to forget to drink, so keeping it accessible is key.”
Mother nature can change her tune drastically from the start to finish, especially in longer events. Dress for the temperature predicted during your segment, and remember to bring extra duds—it’s no fun standing around in sweaty clothing!
Nothing is worse than standing at a handoff station wondering where in the world your partner is. Consider running with your phone in case race day goes wrong and you need to let your teammates know. You’ll also have a camera to capture in-the-moment memories!
Know Your Nutrition
Carlson says: “You’re going to run at strange times of the day and you shouldn’t play Russian roulette with the food you eat. Pack your tried-and-true snacks, so you aren’t left wondering if you’ll make it through the next leg in one piece. If you’ve never had a burger and a beer before a run previously, now is not the time to experiment!”