In 2013 I ran the Wasatch Back Utah Ragnar Relay. It was my first, and looking back I was completely naive. I was asked by my friend Lisa to join an ultra team and cover 200 miles in a van with 5 other women who I had never met before. Generally, teams are made up of two vans of 6 for a total of 12 runners.
Whether you are running an ultra team of 6 or a regular team of 12, you are going to have the time of life and make some lasting memories. I was very fortunate because even though I had never met my van mates, we became instant friends, in fact we are all still very close to this day. Sometimes this isn’t the case though. As we traveled along our 200 miles, we heard stories and people griping about their uncomfortable, annoying, and uncleanly van mates. Behind all of those hilarious team names, in some cases basic life manners can be thrown out the van window.
If you are running with people you don’t know before hand, personalities can clash and ideals can differ. As it’s impossible to iron all these things out ahead of time, I have created a basic list to help everyone have the best time possible as they conquer the wild and crazy relay.
1.The GOLDEN RULE of Relays. I’m making this #1 for reason. Don’t forget the Wet Naps and use them generously to wipe down your body after each leg that you run. It also helps to bring a change of clothes for each leg. Place your outfit and the Wet Naps in labeled bags, so that they are easy to access after each run. It’s one thing if one person smells, but when 6 people stink up the van it can get unbearable. Wet Naps are safe to use on your face, body and hands, so don’t hesitate… get wiping!
2. Ditch the Labels and Cheer for Everyone. Don’t just cheer for your favorite friend that has come along on the relay with you. Cheer for everyone. Your lack of enthusiasm for the runners that are slower than you or the ones that you view as less popular, older, younger, or whatever label you have created, has no place in a team sport. Make sure that everyone feels important.
3. Everyone is a Part of the Team. Take the time to walk the next runner to starting line/ relay exchange. If it’s not your turn to run, escort the next runner to the exchange and cheer for the team mate coming in and do the same for the runner starting their leg. I realize that it isn’t always possible to do, and that you will need to take turns doing this, but make it happen every time you can.
4. Be Flexible. Example: If someone suffers from severe motion sickness and needs to be in the front seat the whole time, don’t pout or make them feel wrong, just go with it. And the opposite is true, if you suffer from some aliment and have strict boundaries, tell people ahead of time and learn to compromise where you can. You can’t control everything and if that’s your gig, relays might not be for you.
5. Be Mature. Relays are not about you, they’re one of the rare times in our sport when it’s a team effort. The best way to have an awesome time is to ask yourself “How can I serve my van mates?” not, “What’s in it for me?” Don’t be selfish or your van mates will never invite you back again.
6. Keep it Balanced and Practice Reciprocity. DO NOT talk about yourself the entire 48 hours. Please, keep the conversation balanced. It’s okay to let us know about your life, but ask us about ours, too. There is nothing worse than having to listen to someone go on and on about themselves without letting anyone else talk.
7. Quiet Time After Dark. When it’s two in the morning and your van mates have a rare opportunity to sleep… LET THEM. Now is not the time to be talking non-stop about your life and about what’s happening on Snap Chat and Instagram. If you see that people have their head down and are trying to catch some ZZZ’s, give them the courtesy of silence or, at the very least, tone down your voice and put your phone on silent.
8. Be Aware and Share. If you go to eat the last of the peanut butter pretzels, make sure everyone has had a chance to have some. Need to charge your phone? So does everyone, make sure each runner has had a turn using the charging station. See number 5.. it’s not all about you.
9. Help the Team Captain. There is generally one person who has worked their tail off putting the logistics of the relay together. Find out who that person is and before you take off on 200 long miles, ask them how you can best help them during the next few days. Is there anything that you can take charge of before, during, or after the race?
10. Thank you’s. When all is said and done, it never hurts to write the Team Captain or person who organized the event a hand written thank you note. They probably spent a good chunk of their life and their money putting this together so that we all can have a good time, showing that we appreciate them is the least we can do.
I have also included a check list of some things you’ll need in the van to make you race a little more enjoyable. I purchased my Wet Naps at WalMart and many of the other items are available there too. Visit Walmart for all your Wet-Nap® needs: 110-Count Hands, Face, & Body Cleansing Wipes, 24-Count Packettes Antibacterial Hand Wipes and 40-Count Canister Antibacterial Hand Wipes.Wet Naps to the rescue! How to Spend 2 Days in a Van w/ 5 Other Relay Runners #conquerthemess #ad… Click To Tweet
From California to North Carolina, Canada and beyond, relays are quickly becoming one of the most popular races in North America, so share these tips with your team mates and make these races something you’ll continue to do year after year.
How about you– have you ever run a relay? Any bad experiences with any of the above mentioned? Any relays you’re dying to run?