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What does it take to make it through a ragnar relay? Are you ready for ragnar dc (or a trail ragnar in your area)?
What is a Ragnar Relay?
How do you know if you're really ready to take on the challenges of a ragnar? Well, before you decide to invest the time, energy, and money (around $200 per person when you register early enough), you want to be certain you'll enjoy being a ragnarian for a couple of days.
Therefore, it's probably time to read up on the details and learn some important information before you make the commitment.
So, here are all the details you need to know, followed by a list of must-haves for surviving the infamous ragnar weekend.
What Ragnarians Need to Know
Ragnar Relay is typically a 2 day event. It's a running relay race that was created by Steve Hill and named after a 9th century Scandinavian king. That king's name? You guessed it! Ragnar!
King Ragnar ruled during the 9th century and was known as a pirate and raider.
He roamed from one area to the next claiming new land and acquiring new riches. He was adventurous, brave, and determined to overcome any challenges in his path.
People who participate in Ragnar Relays, AKA Ragnarians, are much like Ragnar. They have a desire to experience the outdoors, take on difficult challenges, and embark on an adventure.
Steve put together his first team consisting of his son, his son's college roommate, and one of Steve's friends.
This founding team was created to run the first Wasatch Back Relay Ragnar.
Now, there is a series of Ragnar Relay races all across the United States and one in Canada. There are two categories of Ragnar Relays: Reebok Ragnar Relays and Ragnar Trail Relays.
Reebok Ragnar Relay- Road
Reebok Ragnar Relay is the road version of a Ragnar. These are point-to-point relay races. Each team consists of 6 to 12 team members.
The Ultra team consists of 6 members and the typical team has 12 members. For a typical team of 12, there are two travel vans, each with 6 relay members assigned.
The Ragnar begins on a Friday morning and ends on Saturday afternoon. Throughout the entire Ragnar, someone from your team will be running.
Van 1 starts at Point A where the first runner runs their first leg. Each member of van 1 runs a leg while the van drives to the next hand-off location. After the last person in van 1 runs their leg, they meet up with van 2 where van 2 begins their leg.
This switch off continues until the last runner (runner 12) ends at Point B. The same process applies to the Ultra team, however, there is only 1 van.
Depending on what runner you are (Runner 1-12 or Runner 1-6), will determine the total number of miles you will run.
Some runners will run more miles than others, but each runner will have the same number of legs to run as the rest of the team members.
For road Ragnars, it is important to figure out hand-off locations and take turns driving. That way, each runner will have time to rest, eat, etc. until the their next leg.
Where Van 1 hands-off to Van 2 or vice versa, there is typically food and if you plan together, this can be a highlight of your weekend.
Of course there must be bathrooms, and places to park and rest. Each hand-off location at least has a few porta-potties to offer.
My Experience - Reebok Ragnar DC
I have only run one road Ragnar back in September, 2017. It was the Reebok Ragnar DC (which of course is in the nation's capital)
This relay starts in Cumberland, MD and ends 200-ish miles later in Washington, DC.
You drive and run through forest trails, scenic paths and roads, and historic towns. The company I work for decided to put a team together to run this particular relay so of course, I was all-in!
We got 12 members from our office and signed up for the corporate division.
The corporate division just means that we versed other companies for first, second, or third place. I was in Van 2 and was the 12th runner.
Which Leg will you run?
My team wanted me to run leg 12. Leg 12 runs the most miles out of all the legs. I ran a total of 28.3 miles.
My first leg was 7.4 miles, my second leg was 8.8 miles, and my last leg was 12.1 miles. My first leg was at night and in the dark, which was pretty cool.
This leg finished at a Maryland middle school where they were serving dinner in the cafeteria and we all took a 2 hour nap in the auditorium before we had to head to the next hand-off location.
My second leg started around 6 in the morning. This was my favorite leg. I was running on rural roads and was able to experience the beautiful sunrise.
I ran by horse farms, cow farms, and even a beagle breeding facility.
My last leg was the longest and at this point I was so tired! It was also wicked hot. It was about 90 degrees and super humid.
This leg had you running through DC, which nice, but also AWFUL. You had to run through Georgetown and on DC sidewalks, weaving in-between pedestrians.
You also had to stop at every single crosswalk. About a 1/4 of a mile to the finish and the finish line was in my eye sight, I had to cross another cross walk.
I had two seconds left to cross when I got to the road and was ready to sprint across. A volunteer then grabbed my shirt and said "wait!" I groaned.
"I could have made it. The finish is right there!" He replied, "you could have gotten hit by a bus." My reply, "I already feel like I got hit by a bus!"
And at that point, I really did. After two days of running and having to run ~12 miles in hot, humid weather, I was beat! That being saying, the best part was being able to finish for our team.
I got to run through the finish line with all the people cheering and my entire team waiting for me at the finish which was pretty cool.
At the finish, we received our medals and complementary Ragnar glasses. Our team ended up coming in second for the corporate division-not bad!
Our prize was relay batons which are a pretty cool keepsake.
The best part about the Ragnar DC, was being able to connect with my co-workers. We grew closer together and all became friends.
My last leg of this Ragnar had some pretty funny experiences. One was pretty memorable. I was running through downtown DC.
I wasn't sure where the heck I was. All of a sudden, I had to stop at yet another stop light to let traffic pass.
Then, out of the corner of my eye, I see a group of people in red. As they got closer, I realized it was a group of men, probably in their twenties, running down the sidewalk in vibrant, risqué red dresses.
They were hooting and hollering. They all looked ridiculous, but it definitely made me laugh. As they passed, I heard a voice from next to me. I turned my head and see a DC cop. "Where is your red dress?" He asked me with a smile on his face.
I laughed. The crosswalk turned green and I was able to go. I waved to the cop and continued my journey to the finish.
Ragnar Relay Trail
Ragnar Trail is the trail version of a Ragnar. An Ultra team consists of 4 team members while the typical team consists of 8 members.
Each trail Ragnar has three trail loops. A runner will run once, if they are part of a typical team or will run twice if part of an ultra team.
The loops all start at Ragnar village where each team sets up a campsite. At Ragnar village, there are vendors, bathrooms, food, a first aid tent, and other necessities.
Since there are 3 loops each of a specific distance, each runner runs the same amount of miles as the rest of the team members.
The Ragnar begins on a Friday morning and ends the following day in the afternoon.
My Experience - Ragnar Trail Appalachians, WV
The Ragnar Trail Relay I did was my first ever Ragnar. I did this Ragnar relay in August of 2016 with three of my college house-mates and now best friends so we had a great time!
This trail Ragnar was located at Big Bear Lake Campground in West Virginia. We signed up for the Ultra Co-Ed Ragnar.
We arrived to the campground on Friday morning where we set up our tent, chairs, cooler, etc. and prepared for our first leg.
The campground was FILLED with other tents and other ragnarians. It also had vendors, music, bathrooms, and fun activities planned throughout the days (like yoga). There were three loops, a green, yellow, and red loop.
The green loop was 3.5 miles and the easiest in terms of distance and elevation. The yellow loop was medium being 4.6 miles. The red loop was the hardest, being 6.5 miles and having to climb over rocks and climb over major hills.
Since we were an ultra team, each of us ran each loop twice for a total of ~29 miles each. We ran through the hot, humid day and cooler nights. Running through the trail was beautiful. I saw deer, chipmunks, and other creatures.
The yellow loop was the prettiest loop. You ran through tall pine trees that made you feel like you were in a movie scene. Then, after the pine trees, there was a clearing that overlooked the Appalachian Mountains.
Many people stopped to take pictures. We obviously didn't since we were there to compete. Our team came in second for our division.
The medals were HUGE and had a knife, bottle opener, saw, and other useful tools that were all a part of the actual medal. We also got a belt buckle that has a bottle opener for coming in second place.
The four of us grew closer together and we are currently all signed up to run this Ragnar again to improve our time this August, 2018.
After reading about this experience, do you think you're cut out for a ragnar? Are you okay with running in the heat, overnight, camping, and using porta-potties?
If you do decide to endure one, there are key items that I find very necessary for being successful and safe in your Ragnar relay race.
The following images are clickable links to amazon items that you can purchase. Of course you can buy your products anywhere you want, but we just have to disclose that we would make a small amount of money if you purchase any of these items from this page. (all opinions are our own)
Along with these items, it is important make sure you are fueling properly. I highly recommend checking out our post "Ultimate Nutrition for Performance" to get some tips on proper nutrition and training.
A headlamp is required for both types of Ragnar relays. This running headlamp is just a light attached to a headband.
It allows runners to see where they are going during the night time legs.
Although a headlamp is required, a flashlight is also recommended during your night time runs. It brightens up the path even more.
The flashlights are also useful for the runners that are not running to navigate around the switch off area.
Blinker Light -
A blinker light is required for the Reebok Ragnar Relays and are beneficial for trail Ragnars too. These are little clip-on lights that can be attached to a belt, vest, shirt, or shorts.
These are required for all road Ragnars so runners are visible to cars and road traffic. These lights also help for trail Ragnars so other runners and volunteers can see you.
Reflective Vest -
A reflective vest is required for road relays so traffic can visibly see the runners. Safety first, of course!
Running Belt -
Running belts are small pouches that you strap around your waist. These are good to hold fuel during your legs (if needed) as well as your cellphone.
I recommend EVERYONE carry their cellphone with you during your run. That way, if something happens along the course, you can contact your team, race personnel, or 911.
Handheld Water Bottle -
You absolutely have to have a convenient, handheld water bottle. The two Ragnars I have done were both in the summer and it was SUPER hot.
Plus, for longer legs, like the 12 mile one I ran in the Reebok Ragnar Relay, it is nice to have extra water to keep you hydrated.
First Aid Kit
Each team is required to have a first aid kit. These are essential. It is important to have pain medicine for headaches, muscle aches, etc, band aids for any scrapes runners get from thorns, twigs, asphalt, etc., and Neosporin and/or alcohol to clean.
Make sure if the runner has an allergy or asthma that the runner has their inhaler or EpiPen with them at all times.
2 Pairs of Running Shoes -
You never know when it will rain or what you will step in during your legs so it behooves you to always have a spare pair of running shoes.
A pair of comfortable sandals like the Oofa, is just nice to cool and soothe tired feet and let them air out.
Sweatshirt & Sweatpants
Even though most of the Ragnars occur during warmer weather, it does get chilly at night so just pack a pair of comfy sweats and a jacket or sweatshirt.
Can't predict the weather so be prepared with a few rain ponchos or coats for when you're waiting and stuck in the rain. You probably also want to pack a lightweight rain jacket specific for running just in case.
Keeps your water and food cold and safe to eat. If you can afford a yeti get one, they're awesome and you may not need to fuss with as much ice.
Massages and loosens up tight muscles and can prevent strains and injuries.
Sunscreen/Bug spray -
No one wants sun burn or itchy bug bites. Also be careful of ticks if you are running trail. I really like the brand Tick-n-All which you can read about at this link by clicking right here.
External Phone Charger -
Cell phones are good to have in case of emergencies. For road relays, you are able to charge your phone in the van. For trail Ragnars, it is harder to charge your phone. It is recommended to bring an external charger that can keep your phone alive.
PLENTY of Food and Water
Refuel and replenish your energy. Trust me, you will be starving after all the running you're doing. Make sure to pack easily digestible foods since you will be running often. During the road Ragnar, I made sure to pack some of our gluten free banana peanut butter muffins for quick fuel.
I also like to pack things like protein bars, peanut butter, bananas, bread, and other snacks, etc.
Ragnars are a great way to change up your running routine. They challenge you in so many ways. We always encourage cross training and working major muscle groups while still having fun and a ragnar relay is perfect for that! It is also important to fuel properly. Try our keto recovery shake for a post workout, nutritious snack!
Now, are you ragnar ready? Have you done Ragnar DC yet?
If you're already a ragnarian, we would love to hear about your ragnar relay experiences.