The first relay I ever ran was my beloved Dances with Dirt, way back in 2005. I’d heard some stories from the people that convinced me to give it a shot, but I really had no idea what I was getting into. I was a little scared. A little nervous. But I was mentally prepared to have my butt kicked and get incredibly muddy doing so.
So, naturally, central Michigan had a hot, dry week preceding the race, making for zero mud. However, I still had a blast running through the woods and, more importantly, hanging out with a bunch of runners. At the beginning of the weekend, they were people I sort of knew and had run with a few times. By the end of the weekend, we were all friends.
And, thus, an addiction was born.
I didn’t make it back to DWD in 2006, because a couple of friends convinced me to leave the country with them and that dates overlapped. However, I made repeat appearances in 2006, 2007, 2008 and 2009. My streak ended there only because I started grad school, and getting from Seattle to Michigan for a Saturday morning race when you have class all day on Friday is, quite simply, physically impossible. Which has made me very sad, indeed. My biggest joy in next semester’s schedule is that there’s no Friday classes, which means I’ll be able to return to Hell for another visit if I can wrangle my way onto a team.
When my friends from Hell asked me to fill in a spot on their team for 2006′s River to River relay, I agreed. After all, another day in a van with the same people I’d had such a good time with in Michigan? It was a no brainer! I got to make a few new friends and surprised the pants off myself by running far faster than I ever thought possible. I’m still sad that I wasn’t able to head back to Southern Illinois one last time before I moved across the country in 2008.
Thanks to my awesome experiences with the DWD crew, I immediately jumped at the chance when some friends of mine emailed me in early 2007 to tell me they were putting a team together for the Great Midwest Relay that summer. We’d be a team of 12, covering 200 miles from Madison to Milwaukee to Chicago. Was there any chance I was interested?
I didn’t even have to think about it. Sure, it was a much longer relay than River to River and it didn’t have the mud factor of DWD, but spending 36 hours in a van with 5 of my best runner friends? How could I turn that down?
I couldn’t. And I’m glad I didn’t, or else I would have missed whatever Mike was doing here that cracked us all up. Or his interpretive dance to “Unwritten” that still makes me giggle every time I hear that song. (No, seriously. I still laugh every time almost 6 years later.) And this was only an hour or so into the race, before we really got punchy.
I even ran the Ragnar Northwest Passage relay in 2008 with a bunch of complete strangers, and you know what? It was still a blast. Which leads me to one conclusion: the type of runners that want to run relays are awesome. It doesn’t matter who they are or where they’re from. If you put 6 of them in a van together, it’ll be great.
Which means I’ll pretty much jump onto any relay team that’ll take me. I may not be the fastest, but I’m consistent: I’ll get out there and run my legs like a machine, regardless of how much sleep I’ve gotten or what hurts or what the weather’s like. And, most importantly, I’ll do it with a smile on my face. I’m well-educated in important relay skills like making PB&J sandwiches in the back of a van, changing on the side of the road, and laughing like crazy and whatever nutty inside jokes we come up with on the road. And, most importantly, I know that some of what happens in the van, stays in the van.
Of course, the big daddy of all of these relays is Hood to Coast. I never really seriously considered running it until I lived on this side of the country, but now it’s an absolute must-do. My friends and I put together a team for it in 2009, but then failed to get through the lottery. I dragged my husband to see the movie in theaters, even though that was very nearly torture as I was stuck with a knee injury that had kept me out of running for 2 months at that point.
But that was a year and a half ago, and the knee is back to 100%. I’m running a half marathon in June. In short: I’m ready to relay this year. Which is why I’m asking Nuun to include me on one of their all-female HTC blogger teams. It’s the weekend before I return to classes for my final year of grad school, and what better way to top off my last summer break ever than to spend it in a van with a bunch of other awesome women?
Seriously. Ask anyone I’ve ever spent quality time in a relay van with. They’ll tell you that I am always a valuable addition to the group.