If you want to see the definition of teamwork play out in front of you, sign up for a relay. As we do every year, my team took on Cascade Lakes Relay, a 216.6 mile foot tour of Central Oregon’s rough and beautiful terrain. Teams consist of 6-12 people, each assigned to legs of varying mileage and difficulty (easy to WTH?!). It’s a test of endurance, proof of mental toughness, and display of intense camaraderie.
Runners cross over mountains, dusty desert roads, through starlit National Forests and blaze down urban running trails to the finish line where we all reunite and run across as a team. Digging in and taking those last strides together after 35 hours of little sleep is evidence that we wouldn’t have made it without each individual on the team.
Personally, I look forward to seeing my van waiting on the side of the road to give me a full water bottle, a blast of water from our Super Soaker to cool down (temperatures can hit up to 100-degrees), or just a shout of encouragement.
I’d be remiss to not allow my team to lend a voice to this article. I asked them to share what they love about the relay and tips for anyone interested in embracing the crazy that is an overnight relay.
What is your favorite part of running a relay?
1. I love the manic camaraderie a relay builds. We’re trapped in a van with relative strangers for extended periods of time and we’re all the athletes, support crew, and relief workers simultaneously. It builds bonds that I’ve never duplicated in other aspects of life.
2. The Team, the struggle, the jokes, the competition within yourself, my 80’s playlist, the afterparty and the post-afterparty. Also, I enjoy meeting and connecting with other runners and teams. Love the creativity of some the team names and van decorations.
3. The camaraderie between the teammates as well as with the other teams. Everyone is cheering for you to do your best. The comparison is against what you were expected to do, not with what some super-human is capable of doing. Close 2nd favorite, seeing all of the teams that go all out on keeping the theme.
What advice would you give someone who wants to join a relay team?
1. Make sure to get some training runs in at least 1-2 weeks before the race, stay hydrated WITH salt tablets during the race, eat the right foods that fuel your body and STAY AWAY from Sriracha sauce 2 days before the race.
2. Embrace the crazy. It’s not going to be your fastest or best run. That’s not the point. It’s about what you can do given the limitations. It’s about being up to the challenge when you’ve had no sleep and no real food, and just ran the distance six hours before and are now breathing at 4K+ elevation. It’s about digging deep and challenging yourself and coming out the other side feeling like a Rockstar with a whole team telling you are a Rockstar and you telling them that they are too. It’s absolutely the best kind of crazy!
3. Don’t stress too much – yes, you want to be prepared by training and packing appropriately, but in many ways the team can fill in the gaps in your packing list. If you brought bug spray but not sunscreen, people will share. You WILL forget something in your packing, but you WILL survive.
One thing is for sure, a relay creates a strong micro-community and that’s one of the biggest draws. Maybe a relay isn’t for you, where would you look for a community? We recently looked into how creating a community around activity helps to motivate.