I want to start off with a few numbers:
- 10 people
- 197 miles
- 4 legs
- 18 miles
- 45 minutes
- 2 times
- 28 hours
What do they mean?
Last weekend, I ran the Ragnar Relay race from Madison, Wisconsin to Chicago, Illinois. There were 10 people on my team. Together, we ran 197 miles over 30 separate legs (run segments). Of those, I ran 4 legs, which meant I had to run a little over 18 miles total in less than 24 hours.
My teammates and I waited at the starting line at 8:45am on Saturday morning, and that was the first time I wondered, Could I do this? I thought I was in shape, but was I really an athlete that could run 18 miles in less than a day? I’d soon find out.
Our first runner, Sami, started with a 9 mile leg at 9am, leading off our team on this loooong running trip across Wisconsin and Illinois. I didn’t have to wait too long to hit the ground running myself; by 11:30am, I was gearing up for my first leg of 7.2 miles. It would be my longest leg, so I was happy to get it out of the way first.
When my teammate before me finished her leg, she handed off our “baton” (really just a slap bracelet) and I took off. Watching the other runners all morning and anticipating my turn had my adrenaline pumping; I was aiming for a 10-minute-per-mile running pace for all my runs, but as I passed the first mile point of my 7-miler, I looked at my watch and saw a 9:12 flashing at me. Whoops! I tried to slow down so I wouldn’t burn myself out, but it was hard making my legs calm down. I don’t think I did a good job of pacing myself because by mile 5, I was starting to feel very tired. Not good, considering I still had two more miles to go, plus three more runs after this one! When I finally finished, I was pooped and hot and tired. But, I took solace in the fact that my longest run was over.
We traveled on to the next exchange areas for the runners on our team, and eventually our first 6 runners were done with our first legs—time to rest! We got some subs, and then we laid down on the ground on blankets for about 1.5 hours and just rested our bodies before it was time to get moving once more.
By about 9:30pm, I was getting ready to run again. I had a 4.5 mile run along a nice bike trail, but was a bit creeped out that I had to run on it at night. Luckily, there were many other runners all around me. I was starting to slow down (oh, the fatigue!), when another runner caught up to me slowly; we started chatting and she helped me pick up my pace again. We ran the last couple of miles together, before sprinting in to hand off to our teams. I was so glad this runner friend turned up just when I needed someone to help me through!
When we finally finished our legs, we had time to rest again—it was 1:30am and we SO wanted to sleep. Sadly, I only had about 45 minutes of sleep before it was time to go AGAIN. And this time, I was our first runner, so I had to wake up fast.
As I stood, half-asleep like a zombie, at the exchange point at 3am, shivering in the cold night and the misty rain that had started to fall, I wondered for the second time, Could I really do this? And, more importantly, Had I lost my mind?! It was 3am and I was about to run 4 miles through the streets of a not-so-safe town; WHAT was I doing? But before I could think about it too much, my teammate handed off to me and I began to run. Just run.
There were plenty of other runners around me, once again, so I quickly realized that I didn’t need to worry about my safety while running in the wee hours of the morning. While I groggily ran the four miles of my third leg, I tried to take in the peacefulness that comes with running in the middle of the night: bugs chirping here and there; a lone pair of tiny headlights slowly growing until they passed; the loud sound of silence that reverberated against the sound of my footfalls on the sidewalk. These were things I don’t normally get to experience during day runs. This was a whole new world I was running in. Before I knew it, the 4 miles was over and I was handing off the baton again.
But don’t worry—I still had one more leg to run! All I wanted to do was close my eyes and take a nap, but I only had about 1.5 hours until I had to run my final leg of 3 miles. As I sat stretching and guzzling Gatorade, struggling to keep my falling peepers open, I thought about how nice and easy a simple 3-mile run would be.
And then it was time. The baton came, I went. I can’t say it was an easy three miles, but, I did it. My legs and body were so tired that I just kept telling myself to keep going and finish—it didn’t even matter how fast I went.
But, of course, I still managed to finish at my 10-minutes-per-mile pace, because we know I can’t not care how fast I go… As I got to the line and handed off the baton for the last time, I took a (gasping) sigh of relief. I was done—I had run 18 miles and I was DONE!
Several hours later, our entire team crossed the finish line in Chicago, Illinois, 28 hours after we had begun the race the day before. I marveled at the fact that 10 people could run 197 miles in such a short amount of time—and reassured myself that even though I had many moments during which I wondered if I had lost my sanity out there on the pavement somewhere on the way to Chicago, at least I was in good (equally crazy) company.
What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever done?
P.S. The medal we got upon finishing couldn’t be any cooler—don’t you agree? C’mon, it’s a bottle opener! You better believe I tested it out that night when I got home.