Nicki Miller shares some lessons learned during an overnight relay race in California.
Running can often feel like a solo endeavor, but not for some 24 to 36 hours when you do a Ragnar Relay. This massive undertaking of organizing 12 people to run about 200 miles and coordinating two vans with food, gas, and safety vests is really all about the camaraderie.
At my first Ragnar—SoCal’s from Huntington Beach to San Diego earlier this month—I learned about this with a team of mostly strangers. Whether you know your teammates or not, here are some tips for being a teammate who’s tops!
1. Stock Up With Key Foods
Make sure everyone has food they like but also enough to share. Our must-haves: bananas (duh!), bagels and peanut butter (surprise, surprise!), kettle chips (yum, salt and grease!) and small bottles of Gatorade (the tiny bottles were a revelation). For the record, dried mango is excellent, but freeze-dried doesn’t have mass appeal.
2. Show Up On Time
The first shocker of the Ragnar was arriving at exchange No. 1 and runners having no teammates to pass off to. That’s like a slap in the face, especially since they were the fastest runners.
3. Be A Cheerleader
Especially at the beginning of the race and on longer legs, there’s energy to spare with stops along the route to cheer on your runner as well as others. This raises everyone’s spirits! (But don’t let this delay your arrival at the exchange—see No. 2 above)
4. Swing By A Party Store
It may be the antithesis of everything you stand for, but this will bring an injection of fun and the unexpected as you cheer on your teammates. Clackers and hand clappers and candy, oh my! (Add Swedish fish to the shopping list.)
5. Have Water And Sports Drinks At The Ready
Especially on long legs, offer to meet your runner in the middle with water (ask in advance if room temp. is preferable). Bring a cold bevvy from the van (you definitely need a cooler) to the exchange to offer pronto to your finishing runner. Refreshing!
6. Stay Dry
After a sweaty run, the last thing you want is to do is sit around soaked—and get a chill. Bring towels for every seat and encourage teammates to layer up. As the mercury falls overnight, you can also use your towels as blankets.
7. Test Gear Beforehand
Whether it’s your own or a teammate’s, make sure everything is fitting and working properly so you aren’t slowed down by a reflective vest that feels weird or some other mechanical.
8. Help With Mental Preparations
Sometimes a run may be labeled as “hard” but you’re not sure why—I had a flat seven-mile run through a commercial area with lots of stoplights, which definitely made the run “hard.” A teammate had a long run that started just after daybreak and, frankly, she was cranky and tired. Sometimes you need to bolster each other’s spirits and talk through routes in advance to psyche each other up.
9. Be Visible
Organizers are strict about everyone wearing a reflective vest during nighttime hours and there are flags that must be used when non-runners are crossing the street. As everyone gets tired, they will tire of these rules, so those with more energy need to step it up.
10. Revel In The Run
When a teammate finishes a run, ask how it was and let them reminisce. It was surprising how many runners there were and it wasn’t often when I couldn’t see another runner on the road with me. “Kills”—how many people you pass on the run—are big with Ragnar. Some vans are all decked out with hash marks. One of our runners had 184 in 11 miles! Everyone is there to run, but more of your time is spent with teammates, so be a good one. I had some of the best!
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