Conquering the Ragnar
Conquering the Ragnar
“From the Heart” Guest Blogger: Kris Kester, Endurance/Triathlete Coach
Last month I participated in a Ragnar relay. A Ragnar relay is a 200 mile, 12 person, overnight running relay in which each person runs 3 “legs” or sections which can vary from 3 miles in length to 8 miles. There are 15 different Ragnar relays held yearly in the United States, with over 100,000 fellow crazy people who run them. The relay I signed up for was in Cape Cod, Massachusetts.
Ragnar is named for a Viking warrior from the 1st century. He apparently was a fierce fighter who died by being thrown into a pit of snakes. Not sure why they picked him to name this event after as it is more about fun and making friends, but it sounds cool. This was my second Ragnar that I have done so I guess the first one wasn’t so bad. I am amazed by the whole event. It is a logistical nightmare that somehow works and is a great time for all involved.
From a psychologist’s point of view it is amazing that you can put seven strangers in a small van for two days under stressful conditions (no sleep, stiff legs, smelly, sweaty clothes), and they can all get along and laugh alot. I suppose it is the shared purpose, or perhaps temporary insanity that one would even sign up for an event as this? Whatever the case, I was impressed by our group of men and women, half of us over the age of 45, who participated in this run.
Adventure racing in the United States has exploded in the past ten years, with races ranging from extreme challenges to fun, family oriented events. Women are the minority in these events, and especially women over the age of 45. In my experience as a triathlete for 25 years and finisher of the Hawaii Ironman; women are equally capable, sometimes better than men, at accomplishing endurance events.
In the past few years, there has also been an increase in the number of races, both running and multisport, that are geared specifically to women, regardless of their age. In my personal and coaching experience, I have found that women like to train and race with other women, it becomes a group effort, and the atmosphere is more collaborative than cutthroat. I encourage you to set a goal, find some friends to help you accomplish that goal, and you will feel a tremendous sense of accomplishment.
I was asked, before I left for the trip why I would want to do something like this and not try to “win” it. That is a valid question that made me stop and think. I can’t answer for everyone else but I feel that trying to win an event like this defeats the purpose. I sign up to challenge myself to run the distances that I say I will, to see how my body will hold up after little to no sleep, and most importantly to meet a new group of like-minded (okay, crazy) individuals who are outside my usual sphere of influence. After all, trophies and medals are great but it is the memories and friendships, things which can’t be bought or “won,” that mean the most. A weekend where you can leave the desk and computer behind and just be a kid again, acting silly, wearing costumes, cheering on teammates, sleeping in a tent with girlfriends, and eating snacks.
Perhaps that is why these events have grown in popularity the past few years, people are seeking connections in our world that has plenty of social media but lots of loneliness. We are a goal driven society and this bizarre adventure fulfills some of those “bucket list” goals. Lastly, after struggling through the tough parts of this race, you can cross the finish line and celebrate with all your new friends. You even get a medal that doubles as a bottle opener! I think we all need some adventures in our life, we need to come out of our comfort zone, and do something crazy sometimes.
Depending on the event you are interested in, you may need to buy some equipment and pay an entry fee. For a Ragnar relay or similar race, the entry fee is about $100 per person, and then you split the other costs such as gas, van rental if needed, water and snacks. Our team captain gave us a training plan 3 months out from the race that we could use as a guide. It is helpful to have some run training started before you commit to a race such as Ragnar.
Kris Kester is an Endurance/Triathlon Coach in Atlanta, GA. She has competed at the World Championship level in all distances of triathlons, from Olympic distance to the Hawaii Ironman. She is a personal coach for triathletes of all levels, races for the Roswell Bikes triathlon team, and is an assistant coach for a kids triathlon team (Multisport Explosion).