6 Reasons to Run a Relay Race and Where to Find Them

By Karen Poole

Ever heard of running 198 miles with a group of your closest friends? Relay races are taking over the running scene, but there are still a lot of runners who have never experienced a relay race and that's a shame! Relay races give so much more back than they take. 

I first fell in love with relay races when I ran Hood to Coast in 2012. As an ambassador for Nuun Hydration, a sponsor for the race, I had the privilege of running with a group of female bloggers from around the country. I knew no one when I flew up to Oregon for the race, but at the end I had 12 amazing new friends! We bonded over those 27 hours. Late night stories while riding in the van from checkpoint to checkpoint, games of truth or dare, sweaty clothes, bathroom habits and headlamps were all topics of conversation. We cheered each other on, helped each other through tough moments, laughed, cried, and learned how to quickly change running outfits in a Honey Bucket (port-a-potty). We truly made the most of every moment.

My second relay was this year at Ragnar Trail Cascades. This was a totally different experience that involved camping for two nights and s’mores! I again met all my teammates just a day before the race, but we became friends fast. Runners have to be some of the nicest people. I'm always befriended instantly when I’m in a new running group. That easy going, friendly nature is what keeps me coming back time and again for more and it's part of the reason relay races are so special. 

I am so hooked that I signed up to run another relay race - this time from San Francisco to Napa. Still pondering whether you should run your first relay? Read on to discover all the reasons why you should give running as a team sport a chance.

6 Reasons to Run Your 1st or 10th Relay Race

It’s challenging but achievable with the support of your team. Most relay races have runners running 3 times, over a 24-30 hour time period, from anywhere between 12-19 miles. It’s a challenge to run, pass your timing chip to your team member, attempt to get sleep in the van following runners along the relay course, begin running again 6-8 hours later with little sleep and repeat this process three times. You run through the night, and fatigue can set in around leg two or three. The great thing is that your team lifts you up and helps you achieve things you think are impossible. Knowing that my team was waiting for me at the end of each relay leg pushed me to run harder and faster every time, even when I wanted to give up. 

It’s a team bonding experience you’ll cherish forever. I’ve never talked so much about random life moments. From runner’s food to bathroom adventures and incredibly stinky and sweaty van life, you’ve never bonded with a group of people so fast and learned so much about everyone so quickly. All team bonding moments should involve running together for 24+ hours. 

You will travel and see things you normally wouldn’t see. I’ve gotten to experience parts of Oregon and Washington I would never have seen without running through them. Back roads, remote sunsets, small town and big city vibes. Over your nearly 200 miles of road you will see it all. Running a trail relay? Soak up nature in a whole new way. The sunsets on mountaintops are epic. 

You’ll conquer your fears. I’m a chicken when it comes to night running. But having run two relay races, and having a third one coming up shortly has taught me how strong I really am! Early AM runs, like 1-4AM, always empower me to step out of my comfort zone. You’ll finish your night run feeling like a superhero.

You’ll experience running as a team sport. So much of running is a solo sport. Running a relay is an entirely different experience. You are rooting for your team and cheering each other on the entire time. It’s an uplifting environment where everyone is focused on having a good time, encouraging one another, and getting to the finish as a team. It’s the most fun, inviting time I have had at a race. Suddenly the run is less about myself and more about inspiring others and making my team proud. 

You’ll leave inspired, with a new running family, knowing you have done something few people will ever do. Every time I run a relay I leave truly inspired to keep running. I learn so much about where my teammates come from and why they run and it always inspires me to keep running and to challenge myself with new races, new distances, and new experiences. A relay race is less about the run and more about the experience, the team and the adventure.

Sign up for your own race now

Now that I’ve piqued your interest, you probably want to know where to go to find these amazing races! My two favorite relay races are Ragnar Relay races (City Fit Girls has a team for 2017!) and my first ever relay, Hood to Coast in Oregon. Ragnar races have both a road and trail option, all around the country, so there is no excuse not to run! Get a group of your closest friends together and sign up. You won’t regret it. 

Karen Poole is a RRCA certified running coach, personal trainer, and lover of all things fitness! She believes that dark chocolate and a good run can solve most problems. You can follow her on Instagram at @superwomankw. 

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