Are relays the perfect way to race with your friends?
I like running. I particularly like running with my friends. Therefore, a relay race sounds like a perfect opportunity.
I’ve written before about running the Bourbon Chase here in Kentucky. It’s a 12-person, 200-mile relay, and it’s great. However, it’s always right in the middle of marathon season, so I’ve never been able to get more than two or three of my usual running group on the team in any given year.
Plus, an event like that takes a lot of coordination and planning. With 12 people, the chances of at least one having to drop out before the race are pretty good, so you need to have people waiting in the wings. And if you’re a competitive team (guilty), it’s hard enough to find 12 high-caliber people willing and able to run — and in reality, you need to find a few more than that just in case.
Typically for Bourbon Chase we would send a post-race email to all our teammates to see who might want to join us again the next year, and add the yesses to a spreadsheet. Then, in the spring — Bourbon Chase is in October — we’d start sending emails out to previous teammates to gauge interest. With the full registration fee due in July, it was important to get the roster cemented early and money collected.
Inevitably, the roster would change over the summer months. Thankfully, we never had any true last-minute cancellations.
After four years of completing the race, the stress of putting a team together just seemed like too much, so we decided to take a break.
Here’s the fun part.
There had been talk between our Bourbon Chase team captains about taking a year off of the race then coming back with either an ultra team or an all-girls team. Obviously an ultra team is harder to race but way easier to organize. Finding 12 fast girls? Very difficult.
But both sounded fun.
Last year I came across two shorter relays, one in Columbus, Ohio, and one in Bloomington, Ind. Both were over the summer and 100 miles.
“This,” I said to myself, “could work.”
My group of girls — alternately called either “the gaggle” or “the birches” (the last thanks to autocorrect) — is pretty speedy. String us together end-to-end and you’d have a pretty solid relay team.
Plus, we have enough people that we could really field two teams and try to coordinate paces so that we could have two girls running together the entire race.
That was the theory.
In reality, there was a lot of racing and traveling happening this summer, which limited the number of available runners. Oh, and two pregnant runners, so they were out.
I found out the Red Eye Relay in Bloomington was launching an inaugural 50-mile version in July. The ultra division was three or four people to a team, which is a manageable distance apiece.
So I asked the three girls I run with the most, and everyone said okay.
Now, think to yourself: what’s the landscape of Indiana like? Midwestern, nice and flat, totally runnable, right? No. Bloomington is death.
Despite having one runner injured and only able to complete parts of both her legs, we stuck it out. I essentially ran hard every 90 minutes.
Four girls, 6 hours and 46 minutes, through the seeming mountain range of Bloomington.
It may sound like an exaggeration, but the total elevation gain is 3,367 feet. Any time you go down, you’re coming back up.
On the upside, the event is organized by the Upland Brewing Company and we got free beer at the finish. Unfortunately, we were all so tired we only managed to drink one before retreating to our hotel.
I love running. I love running with my friends. I still, I think, love running relays.