When I signed up for my first Ragnar Relay, I was excited for several reasons. First of all, I clearly love running. I am also a pretty big fan of camping. And, let’s be honest, I’m a sucker for S’mores. However, I was not completely sold on the idea of getting approximately 2 hours of sleep in a crushed rock parking lot with a lot of really sweaty people. Honestly, I still wasn’t completely sold on the idea even the day after our first Ragnar. Don’t get me wrong. We had a great time, but it was a lot of fuss and a lot of heat for not very much time on the trails. In fact, it wasn’t until about a month later that I realized how important that relay was for my team. Because about a month after the race, one of our teammates unexpectedly passed away, and then, in that moment, that race became worth everything. For his brother and sister, it was one of the last memories they shared with their brother, crossing the finish line together at Ragnar. For me, and the rest of our teammates, it was an honor to get to run with Adam. Looking back, I cherish all of the moments and realize that a trail relay has things to offer that I didn’t even notice at the time.
The Beauty of Three Races:
It turns out if you break 13 miles up into three races it is much, much harder than just going for a 13-mile jog. The beauty of the relay is that you get to race really hard, then you do it again, and then you do it a third time. I pushed so hard on my first loop that when I reached the transition tent I had a pretty severe case of what I so lovingly refer to as “runner’s brain.” Adam patiently asked me for the bib. I looked down at the bib, looked back up at him, and just said, “I can’t.” He helped me perform the very simple task of unbuckling a belt and was on his way. I then had 6 hours to fix my brain. Just when the pasta dinner started kicking in, I got to do it all over again. I ran just as hard as I did the first time. By the time loop 3 rolled around, my legs were aching and my ankles were screaming, not to mention it was 2 o’clock in the morning so my eyelids really wanted to be sleeping. I hobbled through the last loop with my dimming headlamp barely illuminating the path, and just like the two times before, Adam was there, cheering me across my finish line.
Running on No Sleep:
I am a solid 8 hours of sleep per night kind of a gal. I have a self-proclaimed bedtime that I follow very carefully. Therefore, this whole staying up in the middle of the night thing was a whole new challenge for me. Despite all of the yawns and sighs, there was also something exhilarating about running through the night. I got to experience a world that I usually miss out on. And there is something about the shared experience of not getting any sleep that brings a random group of people closer together. I still remember the first time a former 8-year-old version of myself stayed up for the whole night with a group of rambunctious 2nd graders. We were forever bonded by our late-night adventures in that blond-haired girl’s basement. The same sort of thing happened at McDowell Mountains. Sure, we didn’t spray Coca-Cola in each other’s mouths or toss ice cubes at each other when a yawn was spotted, but we did cheer each other on all through the night. And somehow, that shared experience of fighting off the sandman made me feel like I was in 2nd grade all over again with my new group of sleep-deprived friends.
Crossing the Finish Line Together:
Running is typically an individual sport. I think that is what I like so much about it. As a former bench warmer, I love getting to run the entire race, not just the last two minutes when the team was down by 20. I have also grown accustomed to the solitude that the sport offers. I am used to running solo every night after work, I am used to wandering through a maze of strangers after finishing a race, and I am very, very used to talking to myself as I meander across the desert. So Ragnar threw a giant metaphorical wrench into my running world. Suddenly, this race wasn’t just about me and my goals. It was about 7 other people too. My 13 miles were only a fraction of the 120. For the first time, I crossed a finish line surrounded by a group of people who were just as sore and sleep deprived as I was. (Oh, and they were dressed like pirates too!) There was something exhilarating about being a part of team again. Even though “Running Arrr Booties Off” finished nowhere near the top, we finished, and we were all pretty proud of that as we placed our medals around our necks and posed for one last time as a team.
We ran Ragnar again this year, and of course it felt like something, or someone in this case, was missing. But this year, I knew how to be present and cherish the moments that I was living. This time, I soaked up the sun as I ran through the desert. This time, when I really wanted to slow down, I pushed myself even harder because, I had a memorial bib on my back that said I was running for Adam. Adam pushed me right past that girl I had been chasing, he pushed me over the final hill, and he pushed me into that transition tent. This time, I looked at the stars, and I was thankful that I got to breath in that nighttime air. I didn’t mind the yawns and the sighs because they meant I was awake. This time, I savored that moment when I came flying into the transition tent and had a teammate there waiting for me, and I’m pretty sure Adam was there too. This time, I eagerly put on my pirate gear (eye patch and all) because I was incredibly proud to be part of this team of people who had pushed through far more than desert trails this year.