I should have written this post a few days ago. I tried. But this darn thing called “work” kept getting in the way.
Ragnar was amazing. I didn’t expect it to be. In fact, in the weeks leading up to the event, I was worried about sleep deprivation and missing work and school and wondered why I’d signed up.
What is Ragnar? you might ask. Up until a year ago, I had no idea, either. Ragnar is a multi-stage, point-to-point relay race in which teams of 12 runners (or fewer, if you’re crazy) cover 200ish miles in one straight shot. Teams typically split up between two vans and stagger shifts of runners. Van 1 has runners one through six; Van 2 has runners seven through twelve. When your van isn’t running, it’s either eating or sleeping — or trying to! Ragnar Tennessee goes from Chattanooga to Nashville and covers everything from mountain climbs to farmland to city scapes. It was an amazing way to see Tennessee, but even more, it was an opportunity to meet some incredible people.
I signed up for Ragnar last summer before I moved to Knoxville. Back then, an old college friend in Chattanooga was looking for teammates. I’d heard good things about the event from friends in Santa Rosa who’d done it and thought it’d be a good way to reconnect. I was right. Ragnar is a bonding experience like no other. Your van-mates quickly become close friends, and the more sleep-deprived you become, the funnier everything gets. You said whattt?! Ohhh. That’s not what I heard! (And so on.)
You have a lot of down time between runs. The course typically takes about 30-36 hours to complete, in a team of 12, everyone runs three legs. My three totaled 18.5 miles. If that sounds like a lot, it’s really not, but it is when you space them so closely together! I always push myself during races, and in my first two runs (8.5 and 6.5 miles, respectively) I managed to maintain sub 8-minute miles. By the third leg, however, I was tight and sore and came in at an 8:03-minute mile pace. Thankfully this was also my shortest leg (3.5 miles). Not sure I could have run much more!
Below is the start of my second leg. It was 12:30 a.m.-ish.
It’s the “people part” of Ragnar I’d like to focus on most, though. I ended up in a van with five other wonderful and wildly different people — some I’d known before, and some I was meeting for the first time. It was a group who probably wouldn’t have hung out under normal circumstances, but in those moments, we became the best of friends. This was greatly refreshing for someone who’s been incredibly lonely for months (me, lol), as it was companionship I relished and found I greatly needed. Because the truth is . . .
Whether we like it or not, we’re social creatures. Even introverts like me need companionship, and it’s been tough to readjust to my normal routine since Ragnar ended. I keep hoping that by getting out and doing things I’ll gradually create a strong friend network here in Knoxville. These connections get harder to make as you get older, though. People have busy lives and kids and careers. “Real life” isn’t the same as life in college — or in a van!
In all, my team came in 95th out of 231. There were other “ultra” groups (teams of 6 or 9) whose individual members ran greater distances, and there were incredible groups of runners who were amputees. But whether you were an ultra runner or a beginner, an amputee, or somewhere in between, something else I loved about Ragnar was the lack of competitiveness I felt between the teams. True, some groups were counting “kills” (the number of times their teammates had passed other runners) on the sides of their vans, but they were also counting “poos” (self-explanatory), and everyone was cheering everyone else on. It evident that people were there to have a good time. This was in stark contrast to most triathlons I’ve done — where it’s all about doing your personal best and “get out of my way” in transition and on the road, etc. — and if ever you have a chance to compete in a Ragnar event, I’d highly recommend it! You’ll make memories that will last a lifetime. (I hear it’s coming to Britain soon!)