Running has traditionally been a pretty solo sport. When racing, its typical to leave friends at the start line and pound the pavement alone until reconnecting in the finisher's area. However, relays like the Ragnar Relay series have been gaining popularity over the past several years and are turning running into more of a team endeavor than ever before.
In fact, running a relay is all about the team -- from organizing 12 crazy people to run 200 miles, coordinating two vans with ample supplies, and planning to sleep and sweat next to 11 people for 24-plus hours.
With nearly 10 relays now under my belt, I've learned a few things about what it takes to be a great teammate:
1. Be prepared to share.
There's nothing worse than a stingy teammate. If you've signed up for a relay, be prepared to share with your teammates -- whether its food, gear or even sleeping space. I always bring extra everything when I run a relay and am happy to share whatever I've got.
2. Be a cheerleader.
This isn't just your race, its your team's race. The best team members are the ones that get out of the van and cheer their teammates on whether along the course or at the exchanges. Don't get so caught up in your own running that you forget to be a great teammate!
3. Sleep fair!
Going into a relay, you should know that you're not going to get a lot of sleep. Prepare for it, expect it and handle it. Don't be the selfish person who sleeps the entire time -- if you want people to cheer for you, give you water breaks and be your cheerleader -- you better do the same. If you know you really can't stay awake, try and work out a sleep schedule that's fair for everyone.
4. Laugh it off!
It's a long journey to the finish and it's normal to hit a few bumps in the road. You might get lost (running or driving), or perhaps your van is late for your exchange, or you run a lot slower than you wanted... or worse, you get a little sick to your stomach. These things happen -- just remember, its a team sport. Do your best to laugh it off and move on. Don't bring negativity into your van, it's not worth it in the long haul!
5. Prepare food and drink ahead of time.
Depending on your team's pace, there isn't always a lot of time for eating in between legs. If you have strict dietary requirements or want certain foods while running, make sure you pack them. If you have a favorite sports drink, try grabbing the powder version (way easier to pack and carry) and prepare it while you're sitting in the van.
6. Bring your inner party animal.
Whether wearing costumes is your thing or not, get over yourself for 24 hours and join the party. Relays are all about team bonding and having fun. Don't be afraid to rock a costume or cheer in silly ways with your teammates. It's not just about the running, after all.
7. Wipe yo'self.
Okay, so that sounds grosser than intended. But it's always a good idea to have baby wipes or sports wipes on hand to give yourself (and your teammates) a good hosing down after you run. The van is going to stink, sure, but there are things you can do to make it a little less unpleasant for everyone. Some of my favorite body wipes include: ActiveWipes and ShowerPill body wipes. And never, ever underestimate the power of deodorant.
8. Stay dry.
It's never a good idea to sit around in your sweat-soaked clothes. After you run, try and get yourself into something dry and warm. Make sure you bring plenty of running clothes so you can keep yourself from sitting around sweaty in the van.
9. Bag it up!
Bring plastic bags (or dirty laundry bags) so you can keep your dirty, smelly clothes to yourself. It's not a bad idea to bring extra plastic bags as there is always an excess of stinky things that pile up in the van -- from food, clothes, trash and even shoes!
10. Be a good sport.
I mean, duh. Of course you should be kind and encouraging to your teammates, but its also important to be kind to the other runners both on and off the course. And don't forget to thank the volunteers who are out sacrificing their time and sleep to ensure you have a fun and safe relay experience!
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