On Saturday, May 14 at 3:30 am, I found myself running six miles in the pitch black on Cape Cod. I realize that out of context this sounds extremely odd, so I’ll fix that. I wasn’t just running, but racing as a part of a team in my first ever relay race.
You may only know of relay races as a fun game you played in P.E. as a kid or track sprints that Olympic athletes compete in, but I ran a Reebok Ragnar Relay Race, which is quite different, to say the least.
Just a quick run down on what it is: all you need is yourself, 11 teammates, and two vans. The team of 12 then runs 200 miles from point A to point B over the course of two days. There are 36 total legs to the race, as each runner completes a portion of the 200 miles between three different legs. This means a lot of time in the van, limited food, and even less sleep.
Wondering why I signed up for this? Don’t worry, the same thoughts were going through my head the night before the race started, but all of that changed after the team I was on finished the race in just over 28 hours. I didn’t just survive the weekend; I loved every exhausting, ridiculous, and crazy moment of it.
I ran my first leg around 5 pm in the evening. As my teammate finished her leg and slapped the wristband onto my arm, the adrenaline kicked in. As I ran five miles in the first leg, I was reminded of how racing gives you confidence unlike any other sport.
As I kicked my legs into gear and kept a consistent pace for the entire five miles, I remembered that exercising is about more than losing weight or maintaining a “perfect” body; rather, it’s about feeling stronger and knowing that you’re more than capable of overcoming physical challenges.
My team was able to cheer me on as they drove alongside the course in the van. Their enthusiasm and confidence propelled me forward through the moments I doubted myself. As I finished that first (very hilly) first leg of the race I was greeted with cheering, clapping, and excitement and I knew that I could not have done it without incredible teammates by my side.
The second leg I ran took me into some uncharted territory. It was a six mile run, which is reasonable, but I’d never ran that late at night (or technically that early in the morning). Per safety regulations, I ran without headphones in and realized that running without music can be far more exhilarating. I’m so used to plugging in and tuning out the physical pain with pounding music, but I ran considerably faster than I expected as I listened to my body without the distraction of music.
As I went into my third segment of the race having slept for a total of about two hours since the beginning of the race, I had no idea what to expect. My muscles were sore and cramped from jumping in the van moments after my first two legs of the race and sleeping on a hard gym floor.
I doubted myself throughout the last leg of the race and finished wishing I had pushed myself harder. This was a tough way to finish the race, but I was reminded that racing isn’t always as idealistic as you may picture it.
Through the tough moments and memorable times throughout the weekend, running in the relay race certainly gave me a newfound appreciation for my personal capabilities, inspiring teammates, and full nights of sleep.