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August 20, 2012

Relay Runs: The Race of the Future

Woman running-93367000(iStockphoto,Thinkstock)

Running is typically not a team sport, but the latest fad of "relay races" is changing this. The distance and time can vary, but a relay race usually involves eight to 12 team members, two vans, and 24+ hours of running a few hundred miles from one point to another. Many running buddies are signing up for events like this and planning their yearly vacations around them. The largest relay race in the world, Hood-to-Coast has been held for more than 30 years. Today this Oregon race hosts 1,050 teams that all start their race 6,000 feet above sea level on Mt. Hood, then wind through Portland, and finish 200 miles later on the beaches of Seaside. This particular race consists of 36 legs, and each runner completes three, which range from around 3.5 miles to eight miles each.

If your team doesn't get a spot in Hood-to-Coast or you want something closer to home, here are some alternatives to get you pounding the pavement in no time.

The Bourbon Chase, Kentucky
Every year people joke they run for food; well, these participants run for bourbon. This chase is a 200-mile overnight relay along the Kentucky Bourbon Trail that was first organized in 2010. Runners journey through Kentucky's famous rolling hills, past championship horse stables, and historic towns of the Bluegrass State.

Blue Ridge Relay, Virginia and North Carolina
This race is one of the longest running relays in the United States. It starts near Mt. Rogers in Virginia and finishes 208 miles later in Asheville, North Carolina. The route takes runners past some of the highest peaks east of the Mississippi and through the Blue Ridge and Black mountains.

American Odyssey Relay, Pennsylvania, Maryland, and D.C.
Deemed "a race through history," this run starts in historic Gettysburg, where Lincoln's famous Gettysburg Address took place, crosses the Mason Dixon line, and finishes some 200 miles later in the nation's capital.

The Ragnar Relay Series, D.C., California, Illinois, Massachusetts, Florida, or Utah
The Ragnar Relay Series gives six options for race destinations around the country. In its D.C. race, runners go from Cumberland, Maryland, through the Appalachian Mountains to the National Harbor near Washington, D.C. In California, plan on some fun in the sun as the race starts in Huntington Beach and finishes in San Diego. Want to visit the Windy City? Ragnar has a race that starts in Madison, Wisconsin, and heads across the state line to Chicago, Illinois. Run from Plymouth, through the Cape Cod area to Provincetown in its Massachusetts race. Is Utah on your must-visit list? Started back in 2004, its Logan to Park City, Utah, race regularly has almost 30,000 runners. And nothing could compare to its 199-mile race from Miami to the end of the Florida Keys.

Whichever relay race you choose, a little more planning will be needed. Rather than just showing up at the start line at 8 a.m., this race will last more than 24 hours and clothes will need to be packed, vans will need to be rented, food options will need to be considered, sleeping arrangements will have to be factored in, and who will run what and when will need to be scheduled... but don't fear, even though the packing list may look exhausting by itself, it's doable! And at the end of the day, err, the next day, you'll look back at the miles pounded and the memories made and (most likely) want to do it all again!

Relay Race Packing List
Running Shoes (~2 pairs, alternate wearing them)

Non-Cotton Socks (~4 pairs, switch out of the damp pair as soon as your leg is over)

Change of Clothes (~3 pairs, depending on how long your race is you can alternate outfits each leg or change into a clean one each time you finish your leg of the race. Include non-cotton underwear to keep comfortable.)

Warm Clothes (gloves, pants, long sleeves, and/or light jacket...depends on race location and time of year, but 3 a.m. can be cold anywhere both running or in the van)

The Stick and/or Foam Roller (jump-start recovery during the race)

Body Glide (helps prevent chafing that can ruin a race experience)

Reflective Vest (if you have a leg between dusk and dawn, it's usually required to wear a vest for visibility)

Headlamp and Flashing Red Light (for safety during the night hours)

Hat/Visor (keep the sun and dirt out of your face)

Sunscreen, Sunglasses, Water Bottles, and Water (bring gallon jugs of water to fill up your water bottles along the way)

Compression Pants/Sleeves/Socks (if you're into it)

Pillow/Eye Cover/Ear Plugs (bring things to help you sleep during your non-running times)

Plastic Bags (put your dirty clothes/shoes in a bag to keep the stink down)

Recovery Food/Fuel for Running (carbs, electrolytes, sodium)

Bandana (if you'll be running on a dirt road, cover your nose and mouth as traffic goes by)

Watch/Sportsband (track your mileage and pace)

Costume (not required, but part of the fun can be coordinating shirts or tacky headbands with your team)

Cards or Activities (you might want cards or a book while you are in the van to help keep busy)

Other: Band-Aids, pain/headache medicine, flashlight, bug spray, map of area, binder with race information and transition locations

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