Run All Night: Ragnar Relay Series

Valerie Worthington

Contributor - Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, Educational Psychology

Princeton, New Jersey, United States

Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, Sport Psychology

If you like to temporarily deprive yourself of sleep, hygiene, and at least some of your sanity -- and if you have a sense of adventure and a love of running, then the might be for you. In existence since 2004, Ragnar is a series of roughly 200-mile relay races that take place in various parts of the country. Teams of runners, usually 12, cover 36 total legs of continuous running, at various levels of difficulty/elevation gain and loss, over two days.


Relay routes go through both urban and rural areas, and runners are supported by vans (usually two for 6 runners each) that carry gear, food, and the resting members of a relay team. As a given runner covers a leg on foot, his/her van drives ahead to the next checkpoint to await his/her arrival and facilitate the hand-off of the “baton,” a bracelet that tracks a team’s start and finish time. Teams run through the night and on into the second day, coming together as a group to cross the finish line together. At the end, weary, lightheaded, malodorous runners and drivers stay for a post-race party and the announcement of prizes.


Those are the logistics, but the description doesn’t do the event justice. Speaking as a three-time van driver for teams racing in Las Vegas and Southern California (two times), I can say what makes Ragnar fun and memorable is the participants’ creativity and camaraderie, and the cumulative effects of togetherness and physical activity over a basically sleepless two days.


For instance, teams come up with clever names and costumes (consider, for instance, a team that ran the entire race clad in nothing but probably-too-short-for-decorum denim cutoffs, or the team in tutus), and they log “kills,” people individual runners pass on their own legs. Teammates develop private jokes, catch cat naps on top of their vans, share toilet paper imprinted with the Ragnar logo, and otherwise get to know each other more intimately than they had probably anticipated. In addition, the staff are friendly, competent, and concerned about safety above all else.


Runners just completed a Ragnar relay in Washington, DC, September 23-24, and upcoming races will take place in Pennsylvania (October 7-8), Las Vegas (October 21-22), and Tennessee (November 4-5).


For more information visit the Ragnar Relay Series website.

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