You know when someone asks you to do something really awesome but really hard and normally you could respond with “that sounds great, but I can’t because …” and then they have the audacity to tag it with “…next year…” and you don’t yet have your excuses lined up for NEXT YEAR, you know what could happen ….
You could find yourself sitting in a really big van early on a Saturday morning with head lamps, sleeping bags, and enough GU gels to supply a small village in route to some place called Sittingbourne with the expectation that you and your van mates will manage to run every mile between it and Brighton by Sunday afternoon. GRL PWR on the move.
That happened this past weekend. We ran a Ragnar Relay Race.
Psst … because you absolutely won’t know enough about English geography in advance of committing: here is Sittingbourne on a map. And here is the way they are expecting you to run to Brighton. Red rover, red rover, they are asking us to FREAKIN’ RUN VIA DOVER!
Here was the pitch:
“Take to the road with 9 friends for the trip of a lifetime, as a Ragnarian, you'll embark upon a journey filled with fun, bonding, and obviously, running (both night and day). At Reebok Ragnar White Cliffs your team will tackle a 170(ish) mile course that snakes through picturesque towns, rolling fields, and the most beautiful collection of white cliffs you've ever seen. Entering this unique, overnight relay means night-time runs, turning a spacious van into a temporary home, and a bond-strengthening experience like no other. Each teammate runs 3 “legs” with each leg ranging between 3-11 miles and varying in difficulty.”
Here are the 10 of us who signed up for this as Team WRW 9s:
Here’s what they don’t tell you:
Someone will get lost.
Someone will get sick.
Everyone will stink.
Re: getting lost. Although 100+ teams all start from the same place, you spread out quickly and find yourself usually running without another runner anywhere in sight. When the signage is good, the sun is up, and the shins aren’t screamin’ - it’s all good. In the dead of night — we all know — things ain’t alway so magical. This could and did happen to one of our teammates, Meredith (shared with permission), who happened to draw both the hardest and most complicated legs :
“Ohhh let me tell you about magical! It was the f*cking Blair Witch Project. I set off into the dark park ie woods. Following that blue dot. Took one wrong turn I’m in the middle of the park just a blue dot turning in circles. I’m flat out hyperventilating, running in circles, screeching and saying “Mommy mommy mommy.” I call, they try to help me. I end up down a dark path at a fence. Back track now I have no idea where I am. I seriously was off the deep end- it’s like every law and order episode I ever watched (the SVU ones). When it was clear I was not making it out alive they had to send the rescue car to find me. So the rescue car drops me at the exit to the park where I proceed to finish the race about an hour late in tears. Remind me please to never volunteer for anything involving map reading, nature, headlamps-woods, dark parks. I need a stiff drink and a massage.”
With three legs each, everyone has at least one night run. Not everyone gets to run with the sheep. The sunrise is a welcome thing come Sunday morning.
Re: getting sick. Our bodies are creatures of habit and 36 hours of nut balls, Ramen noodles, and portable loos is hard on even the best of bowels. When you train for a race like this, there are no guarantees that your body will give you what you need come race day. We had a teammate -our Team Captain Roni - go down hard with the flu during the race. While it could have been a cause of despair or dropping out in a normal race, the rules of a team relay meant we were allowed to pass the baton to another teammate and get support for the one in need.
Re: stink. You know how one dirty sock can ruin a car ride? Multiple that minefield by 9 and throw in everything else worn. Do not be fooled. A van is not a temporary home. It is a smelly van.
So why did we do this again? Because:
That person will be found.
That person will be cared for.
Everyone will eventually get a shower.
And because we can say that we finished running 170ISH MILES together.
We of course didn’t all have the same views or same terrain or same distances.
BUT we shared stories and photos from each of our “legs” to fill in the gaps. And, most importantly, we did have the same swell of confidence and wonder that comes from accomplishing something hard. The confrontation of a white cliff — or the scuffles of daily living — may chip away at our belief that we are made to pull off some things only we can do in this one life we’ve been given. The courage needed to do that grows in lots of ways but perhaps most obviously when we push hard and push together.
Because it is guaranteed that sometime down the road, whether it’s a road you chose to run or walk:
You may be the one lost.
You may be the one in need.
There will never come a day when you don’t need a shower.