I run relay races. The kind where 12 runners cover 200 miles in 24 hours, or in my team’s case more like 30-ish. I’ve done Ragnar but my hands-down favorite is the Reach the Beach series not only because we start at a mountain and run to the beach but also the organizers are awesome people and it feels a lot less commercial. I’ve been organizing teams for said relays for the last 5 years. This weekend will be my 6th and I’m super excited as we inaugurate a brand new course for the first Reach the Beach New Jersey.
I got started into relays on a whim. In 2008, I was a last-minute sub for a team fielded by runners who were also my training partners for the NYC marathon. That weekend was so much fun and such a change from urban running races that I was immediately hooked. The relay put the fun back into long distance running.
200 miles may sound daunting but the average runner covers 15 or so miles. Some of us luck out with just over 10 cumulative miles while others cover as much as 23 miles. However, whether you are a seasoned marathoner or new to mid-distance running, it’s all manageable. The challenge lies not just in your total mileage but the diverse terrain, the lack of sleep and pacing yourself to run 3 times in a 24 hour window.
In putting together a team, I have found that a crucial if not the most important part are the personalities. The dynamic of a van can make the experience amazing or miserable. When planning to spend two days in a van with little sleep, you want to be with people who are laid back enough to roll with the punches, who you can laugh with and at, openly discuss bowl movements and who will ignore the funk that settles in the van from 6 people not showering after a day of running. Each van is its own little satellite universe so you are really managing two groups of six.
I have lucked out. Our team has always been in it for the fun above all else. Though there’s definitely some fun competitive camaraderie going on, if someone bonks, gets lost or is late to the transition they get cheered not chastised. Though we will make fun of them for getting stuck in the porta potties… Our runner hand-offs have included exchanges that are debriefs (had a good run? how about that hill? okay I’ll take it from here, see you in a few miles…), dance moves and of course slappy-bracelet-baton drops.
Once you have the people, it boils down to the logistics, which are as simple or as complicated as you want to make them. Some teams load into SUVs, we prefer to rent two 15-passenger vans. Some teams bring all their own snacks but we go full-service. I juggle van reservations, pre/post race hotels, food and equipment supplies (snacks, water, reflective vests and flashing lights, maps, directions, first-aid kits, etc), ordering team tee shirts and most importantly collecting the money. It can get a little hectic keeping track of everything though as this is my 5th year, at this stage its become a well oiled process. A project manager even in recreational mode.
For me, success as a captain is knowing that come race day the team just needs to show up with their running gear and sleeping bags and that van 1 / van 2 jostling has already begun. That and the smiles on all our faces when we hit the beach.
So tonight I head to Mountain Creek, NJ and Friday/Saturday we run to Seaside Heights. I’ll be posting more about the adventures of Team Got Lost and the first RTB New Jersey over the weekend.