Ragnar Great River is the overnight running relay race that makes testing your limits a team sport. A team is made up of 12 individuals who each run 3 legs. When each runner finishes, the next one begins over the course of 198 miles. The length of each leg varies from 3-10 miles and varies in elevation difficulty. We ride in two vans of 6 runners each. For example, the first runner in the first van starts at 7:30am and runs 5 miles, when they finish, they hand the baton (slap bracelet) to runner 2 and they run 7 miles and so on until the 6th runner runs and hands it the 7th runner in van 2; after the 12th runner runs, they hand the baton back to the 1st runner in the 1st van. This relay happens 3 times while the runners who aren't running cheer on the runner who is running. We all get very little sleep, eat sporadically, and smell horrible. It kind of reminds me of a reality TV show.. what happens when we put 6 strangers in a van for 24-36 hours of running, sweating, and cheering? The line is "Run. Rest? Repeat."
So I was the 3rd runner in the 1st van which happened to be the easiest leg because I was filling in for another runner who had to drop out and I hadn't really been training for this. Also, it turns out that I was the slowest runner in my van. I ran 5.6 miles on my first leg, 3.5 on my second leg, and 3.1 on my third leg.
We drove down to Winona, MN together on Thursday night and stayed in a hotel room because we had to be at the start at 6:30 am for the safety meeting and 7:30 am race start. Since that was about 3 hour drive from where we lived and where the finish is, we wanted to maximize pre race sleeping.
My first leg started at about 9:30 am and I was really nervous. It adds a bit of stress to have 12 other runners depending on your outcome. Luckily my tri training has increased my run time considerably this summer and I managed to run the first 5.6 miles in 47 minutes. When you pass another runner, you call them roadkill and you count up all your roadkill at the end of each leg. I passed 9 runners and no one passed me, so that was encouraging. Mind you, this was the easiest leg, so other runners doing this same leg were also most likely the weakest link in their group as well. My van finished the first 6 legs at about 12:30pm.
While van 2 ran we were able to get some lunch and wipe off with baby wipes to prepare for our next bout. Then we headed to the next exchange point and tried to rest a bit. Our first runner was off at about 5pm.
At about 8pm, I started my second leg. After 7:15pm, the runners need to wear nighttime safety gear, so I had my head lamp, safety vest, and blinking tail light. This one was only 3.5 miles and it was almost all downhill. The bottoms of my feet were burning from hitting the pavement so hard. I got passed by one guy who was tearing down, but then passed him back when the ground evened out. I passed another 4 people and finished in about 28 minutes.
It was nearly 11pm when our last runner finished and handed off the baton to van 2. We drive to the next major exchange where there was a high school that allowed us to use the locker rooms to clean up in. The water in the shower was ice cold, but I did my best to rinse off. Then we went to Perkins for some late night diner food. Then headed back to the exchange for some bit of sleep. I apparently got the short straw or just wasn't quick enough to claim my space, so I got the driver's seat to curl up in to sleep. I may have gotten a broken 2 hours between limbs cramping up. At 3:30am, our first runner was off again.
My third leg started at about 4:30am and it was pitch black. My route was through the woods on a paved trail which was nice because I didn't have to deal with the occasional car swerving at me, but freaked me out as my head ran away with me. I could only see about 2 feet in front of me so I was worried about taking a nose dive. I kept telling myself it was only 3.1 miles and ran through the pains in my calves to get to the finish as fast as I could. I think it took me about 29 minutes so it was my slowest run, but I was so glad to be done.
We finished leg three at about 10am, then drove to the finish line to await the rest of our team from van 2. They had a slight mishap with one of their runners that accidentally missed an exchange and ran an extra leg. They then had to be escorted back to the exchange and the rightful person had to redo the leg, so that lost us an hour. At about 1pm, we all ran across the finish line and were given our medals (which doubles as a bottle opener - how handy) and then were given our free beer and pizza. We hung out as long as we could stand it and then dispersed to go home and pass out.
We finished 141st out of 312 teams with a time of 29:18:20.
It was long and grueling, but fun and I hope to do it again next year.