In February 2011, I ran my first Ragnar. I was part of a 12-man team that ran from Wickenburg to Tempe, Arizona. We had a great time and as soon as we got home a few members of the AZ team decided we would like to try the Ragnar experience as an Ultra team. An ultra team runs double the miles.
“Ragnar is the overnight running relay race that makes testing your limits a team sport. A team is made up of 6-12 individuals; each individual runs 3 legs. The legs of the race vary in difficulty and distance, from 3-8 miles, allowing elite and novice runners to run together. Over 2 days and 1 night, teams run across 200 miles of the country’s most scenic terrain. Pair that with crazy costumes, inside jokes, a great finish line party and unforgettable stories. Some call it a slumber party without sleep, pillows or deodorant. We call it Ragnar.” -From the Ragnar Relay website
One reason we wanted to do the 6 man ultra team was the simple fact that you don’t really see or bond with the other van during the relay. The alternate van is out running while your van is taking a break and vice versa. Secondly, we were all up for the bigger challenge of running double miles. Having run both the regular 12-man Ragnar Relay and the six man Ragnar, I can tell you they both have their advantages.
The 12-man team allows for runners of all talent levels. Even someone that has never run five miles before can participate in a Ragnar Relay. There are many of teams just out there for the pure joy of being part of the event and they are not worried about being competitive at all. Every shape and size person is well represented at the relay. The 12-man team can actually get some rest and or get food when the other team is out on the road. The 12-man Ragnar is a ton o’ fun that will be a challenge for the average runner. I love to run and I like to feel like I have really conquered a challenge, for me the 12-man team offers the jocularity and merrymaking, but wasn’t quite the challenge I was looking for. We ran it hard, but traveling half way across the country to run a little over 14 miles left me wanting more.
Running the six man ultra team provided the challenge we missed the first go around. My relay legs added up to 35 miles of running. Breaking up the runs might have been harder than just running 35 miles straight out. With all six of us in the one van, the bonding aspect was still part of the event but made for less time to rest and recover between runs. We didn’t get a chance to stop for much because the team is supporting the runners while they are out on the road. We took a break to get some food and coffee at Starbuck’s, when we arrived at the next check point to exchange runners, our runner had to sprint from the van to beat the current runner to the exchange. It was a close one. This made whole event go by really fast. Before I knew it we were in Key West at the finish.
The Ragnar Relay team puts on a spectacular event. I have run other relays and Ragnar does the best job. My only complaint is that the swag for ultra teams is non existent. Ultra teams get the same shirt and medals as the 12 man team. To add insult the medals and the shirt read “2x Van 12x Runner…” There were at least 30 Ultra teams that’s 180 people at just this one event. I would have liked a special shirt and medal for the ultra.
Finally, between Florida Keys and Arizona, I liked Arizona’s run slightly better. I really enjoyed the desert runs and there was a lot less traffic than when we were going through Miami. However, the straight flat running on route 1 and the water views on the way to Key West were awesome. I highly recommend running a Ragnar Relay; it is a barrel of monkeys with some running mixed in.