We admit, we’ve always been a tad intimidated by Ragnar Relay. Run 200ish miles with teammates in just one day and night? Very scary, indeed!
But after talking with Renee Hill, a local Ragnar Ambassador, the race sounds a lot less scary and more like an unforgettable, crazy-fun adventure!
So read on and find out more about this team relay race. And then round up your closest running pals to form your own team!
Can you start off by telling us some of the Ragnar race basics?
Ragnar is for runners of all speeds and experiences. Each team is made up of 12 runners or 6 runners for an ultra team. On a regular team, each runner runs three legs ranging from 2-8 miles, which ends up being anywhere from 13-20 miles total. On ultra teams, each runner has to run six legs. It is up to the team if that means two in a row or six separate runs.
Each team needs two vans (or one for an ultra) for teams to travel from exchange to exchange. I recommend 12 or 15 passenger vans. You need the space, trust me. People use smaller vehicles, but I wouldn’t want to be in a smaller van.
While the first 6 runners are on duty, the second van is at rest. You can eat, sleep, play, whatever you want. Just make sure to be at the next major exchange before the van gets there.
What does Ragnar offer that other races don’t?
The thrill of competing together – A Ragnar delivers everything you loved about playing a team sport—especially the feeling of being part of something bigger than yourself. Like any team sport, a Ragnar lives in the territory between “serious challenge” and “serious fun.” Over the course of 36 hours, you and your teammates will share highs, lows, triumphs, doubts, cheers and more laughter than you thought was possible. The culmination? That indescribable, exhilarating moment when the 12 of you celebrate your shared accomplishment by crossing the finish line together.
The magic happens after dark – Ask a member of Ragnar Nation, and they’ll tell you the best stories are born when the sun goes down. That’s when the headlamps and reflective vests come out, the team gets a little punchy and the laughter heads north of irrepressible. And then there’s the euphoric sense of calm that you get from running under the stars. It’s something you’ll never forget.
What is the Madison-Chicago course like? Is the course the same every year?
It’s a great course. I have been in both vans at this point so seen the whole course. A large portion of the course is on trails, some gravel, some paved. The course is almost the same from year to year, but there are always adjustments due to road closures or the need for a new exchange zones.
Do you have any tips for runners training for the race?
Run on tired legs; two in one day or one in the evening followed by one in the morning. If you have run a half marathon you have already done enough training. This does not mean you have to have run that far. Have fun with it. Make sure you can run the distance of your longest leg. Each person trains differently and it matters what your goals are and what your running experience is.
Is this a race that runners do competitively? If so, how are prizes awarded and what types of awards are given to the top teams?
There are competitive teams. I have never run on a team trying to place. There are several divisions that teams can compete in for prizes. You can have a men’s team, women’s team or mixed team. Winning teams get engraved batons. If you aren’t going for speed, your team can still go for one of the Personality Awards: Most Pimped out Van, Nom de Plume (best team name), Far out Fashion (best team costumes), and Homecoming (overall best).
How many Ragnars have you run and what got you to sign up for your first one?
I have run three and am signed up for number four in 2014. I signed up for my first one on a whim after moving back to Milwaukee. The team was looking for a replacement runner so I said, why not? I had a bunch of friends who had run the DC one and thought it would be fun.
What was your first Ragnar race experience like?
So much more fun than I ever could have imagined. We ended up being short runners, but made it work. I ran 24 miles over four legs to make up for a missing runner. I didn’t know anyone on my team before getting to Madison. We all met via Twitter, DailyMile and other random connections. To read more about Renee’s first Ragnar adventure, check out her race recap.
What about your first experience got you excited to do Ragnar again the next year?
The friendships, the adventure, everything. Sleep deprivation was the easiest part to forget. The friendships that came out of that first Ragnar are something amazing. I just attended the wedding of one of the girls that I met on that first team.
What are some of your favorite Ragnar memories?
The conversations at 4:00 a.m. They are ridiculous and awesome. They are probably insanely stupid if you are not one of the sleep-deprived runners participating in it. As I mentioned above I have made some great friends. Those 36 hours in a van with strangers or friends is something no one else will ever understand.
Can you tell us a bit about how you got involved at the race ambassador level? What does it mean to be an ambassador for Ragnar?
After my first Ragnar in 2011 they sent out an application. It was a new program then so I didn’t know much about it. I filled out the application and was selected. As an Ambassador, we help spread the Ragnar love. They give us some gear to run in. I talk about Ragnar with runners. A lot of it is they want people on the ground and who are part of local running communities to help promote the race. I’m not paid. I have continued to participate because I truly love the event. Even if I wasn’t an ambassador I would talk up Ragnar. We will also be hosting some info sessions at local stores in the coming months.
What are your goals for this year’s Ragnar race?
Have fun. Personal goals won’t be set until I get a lot closer and can see how my winter and spring training goes.
If you are thinking about it. Do it. And act fast! — Registration will go up on January 11, 2014.
Thanks for chatting with us, Renee! If you’d like to learn more about Ragnar Relay, you can connect with Renee here:
Keep Running MKE – you’re doing great!