This is the other half of the Running Duo here Nora asked me sometime ago to do a post on relays since I’ve been able to run a couple, but unfortunately, they are always when she is away at school.
For those of us who were never athletic enough to participate on any real kind of athletic team, relays offer a fun chance to get into that team spirit, to cheer for your team members, and to push yourself a little harder than usual.
I never knew they even existed until my daughter and I joined a running club with the idea of meeting other runners as we prepared for our first half-marathon. After Nora had gone back to school, one of the members asked if I would be interested in running the “Mill Cities Relay” as a part of a team. It seemed like fun, so I said yes. And it was fun – so I did it again this year, as part of a three women “Senior” team . Apart from objecting to the use of the word “Senior” my teammates and I had a great time!
This race takes place in early December so the weather can be milder (think Thanksgiving football games) or colder (like Super-bowl weather with slushy snow and ice to make things interesting). One of the fun things about the relay is traveling to and from the race with your teammates, and organizing what they call the “chase vehicles”, which will get you and your teammates to your specific start points for your leg. Sometimes this can mean a six AM meeting in a very cold parking lot to go over last minute team changes, distribute water, and hear some encouraging words from club officers. (This is the closest thing I’ve ever had to a coach pep talk, so it made me feel young and fired up, which was good since it was pretty cold.
Not sure why, but as a team of “Senior Women” we only needed three runners, instead of the usual five, and our first runner (Janet) would hit the road beginning leg three, setting off precisely two hours after the beginning of the race. So this gave us plenty of time to hit the Dunkin’ Donuts, and have a nice hot cup of coffee – as well as a chance to use a real bathroom, something us “Senior Women” really appreciated – before getting Janet to the start.
We knew this course, but getting your runner to his or her start, can be an adventure if you aren’t familiar with the area. Most races provide detailed instructions to get you from one point to another, but there can be traffic backups, and the race to get your runner to the start can sometimes turn into a Grand Prix – or worse – you get hopelessly lost and get your runner off late. Luckily, between our GPS and the fact that we had done this race before, we knew where were going and got our second runner (Lisa) off without a hitch for her 9.5 mile leg. Another nice thing about a relay is that as your teammates drive to the next start , they will pass you in the “chase vehicle” and cheer you on. The members of our club are big on this and everyone brings bells and whistles and makes a great deal of noise to let you know that you are doing a great job – and of course you have to smile and run faster. (If you happen to be running a long leg, your team mates can even pull over several times to cheer you on.)
Since Lisa was running the 9.5 mile leg, Janet and I had more than enough time to find the start of the last leg (mine), and we even had time to hang out a while in her van, where we ate almond butter sandwiches and drank Trader Joe’s Candy Cane tea.
I had run Mill Cities once before but this was my first year running the last leg, 4.75 miles through downtown Lawrence, and ending at the Claddagh Pub , where the post-race party was being held. Despite the cold and damp, there were quite a few friendly spectators along the road to smile and cheer me on, not to mention the dogs in those small “fenced” city yards who got all excited to see someone running and having all the fun.
At the finish, I found my teammates and other members of our club, all sweating and smiling and happy that this year’s weather had been pretty cooperative.
Retiring into the Claddagh, we grabbed some waters, and some food – pasta, salad and some wickedly good chocolate chip cookies – and chatted with fellow runners. Though the noise level gets pretty high, and it gets crowded, it’s a great way to end a fun winter race, and one that has got me hooked on running relays!
Other fun relays to look for in the New England area are, Stu’s 30k, held in March, and the Lake Winnepausake Relay run in September. The weather is nicer for this one, but the hills are to die for.
With this in mind, relays usually offer legs of varying lengths, so runners of all levels have a chance to participate. Mill Cities’ long leg is 9.5 miles, but they offer a 2.5 mile leg as well.
Now most longer races (typically half- or marathon length races) offer “relay” options. It adds that level of team spirit, as well as getting more people running so it’s win-win.
So if you haven’t ever done a relay, grab a few running buddies and give it a try! I promise that at the very least, you’ll have fun socializing with your friends and you’ll get in a run. Sounds pretty good to me!