13 Ragnar Relay Dos and Don’ts


As you might have noticed in my Ragnar photo recap, the event was quite a memorable experience. And it sure was a learning experience, too. I didn’t give much thought to my preparations, well, besides training and throwing some running clothes and sneakers into a bag, so I was pretty lucky with how well the relay turned out! It didn’t hurt that Jenn was kind enough to take Melissa and I on a pre-Ragnar Target run. What can’t you stock up on there?

Looking back, here are 13 lessons that I learned as part of Team Dessert that I hope may be helpful for the future relay participants out there. I know I’m going to heed some of my own advice when I take off on the Market to Market Relay in a few weeks!

  1. DO get designated drivers. Yes, this will make space in your van a bit tighter, but it’s so worth it so you can focus on where you need to run rather than where you need to drive. Some of the runner transitions are tight, making driving route precision important.
  2. DON’T plan to keep your van’s exterior spotless. That’s part of the fun! Decorate your van before the relay with window markers—something like this would do the trick. Then keep them handy so you can tally your van’s “roadkill” (runners passed on the course)! Some people use those markers to tag other teams’ vans, so be prepared for extra “art.”
  3. DO get plenty of sleep before the relay begins…because you won’t get much during. Your team will likely start really early in the morning and it’s tough to doze off in the van. Ragnar does provide a group sleeping area or two for runners to utilize while the team’s opposing van is running, but these would probably only be useful for very sound sleepers.
  4. DON’T forget extra bags. Pack three separate running outfits, one for each of your legs, in large Ziploc storage bags. Include a top, shorts/capris/pants, sports bra, underwear, socks and anything else you might want more than one of, like a headband. Then bring several empty grocery bags to hold used clothes and store garbage in the van until you can get to a garbage can.
  5. DO pack your chargers. I often take for granted having fully charged gadgets for one-off running events, but no more! Ragnar helped me discover that it’s not easy to keep the batteries in your phone and/or iPod and GPS watch juiced up for two days. You’ll need your chargers and probably a splitter (like this guy) for the cigarette lighter so multiple runners can get energized at once.
  6. DON’T skimp on the water. Our van went through about two 24-packs of bottled water—don’t worry, we used some of those extra plastic bags to hold empties to recycle. It’s crucial to stay hydrated and isn’t always easy to find a fountain, so if you have room in your van, bottles are a great investment.
  7. DO be strategic with your food selections. Pre-race fueling can be tricky for the usual morning event, but relays are a whole different beast. You need shelf-stable food, and enough of it, that will sit well in your stomach for 36 hours. The items in the breakfast you usually eat before long runs should be safe, but you’ll need and want more for energy and variety. Some staples in our van: bananas, apples, whole-wheat sandwich thins, single-serve nut butter packets, pretzels and protein bars. And water.
  8. DON’T fear the Porta Potties. Any racer can testify to the fact that course Porta Potties can get dodgy, particularly near the end of the event after they’ve been well used. Ragnar did an amazing job of providing enough at the transition areas, keeping them stocked with toilet paper and ensuring that they were relatively hygienic. You will come to have a new appreciation for any indoor restrooms for the following week or so, though.
  9. DO study up on your routes. One thing Ragnar could improve upon is course marking. There were several occasions, especially during my night run, where I felt like I had no idea where I was going because there was one hard-to-spot course marker every mile or so. Be sure to look over your course maps and memorize where to turn, especially if you’re not from the area.
  10. DON’T get back into the van after your running legs without stretching. Relays include a lot of running, but also a lot of sitting. A good 10-minute stretch can do wonders to prevent stiffness and soreness. Bonus points if you are able to bring a foam roller—and find space to use it.
  11. DO take plenty of pictures. This might be a once-in-a-lifetime experience and you’ll want to remember it! Plus, those pictures you post on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter between legs will most likely draw cheers, reminding you of all of your supporters back home (instant motivation!).
  12. DON’T get anywhere near the course during official “night hours” without your reflective vest. For our race, night hours were from 5 p.m. to 9 a.m. Course officials will make you return to your van if you aren’t wearing your vest during those hours, even if the sun is still out.
  13. DO get out and cheer at exchange points. It might be tempting to try to sleep or stay toasty in the van, but a lot of the fun of the relay is cheering on your teammates and fellow runners! Walk to the transition area, chat with the other teams and get rowdy for the runners finishing and starting their legs. You’ll see some interesting things, like people without a teammate to hand off to because their DD made a wrong turn (see #1). :)

Most importantly, have fun!

Fellow relayers, what advice did I miss? And for non-relayers, would you even consider trying one?

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  1. I am struggling with the food for Market to Market. I’ll be on the 21 Day Sugar Detox (nearing the end) and am trying to be 100% paleo. So no Gu or Honey Stingers for me. Ugh. I’m thinking lots of sweet potatoes mushed up in a thermos.

    • Wow! You are tough with that detox, Jacki. The sweet potatoes sound like an awesome idea. I don’t know the specifics about what is acceptable on the plan, but maybe something quinoa, too, for between legs?

  2. Those are all great pieces of advice!! The sleep I got at the community center in Anthem was the most amazing sleep! Definitely bring a sleeping bag and try to get a decent nap stretched out as opposed to crunched up in the van. It just felt so nice to sprawl out0even on a tile floor!! Don’t forget chill clothes for between legs and for the time when the other van is running. I can’t wait to read all about the relay you have coming up!!

    • I think the sleep I got at Chris’s house was the best sleep I’ve ever had in my life! Awesome tip about the sleeping bag, too. I just remembered to toss an extra pair of comfy sweats in my duffel for my relay tomorrow—great minds, Stacey!


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