Once barely seen beyond track and field, relay races have soared in popularity in the United States. Runners enjoy being able to conquer massive spans of distance with their friends and teammates, all the while benefiting from one another's support and encouragement.
The Ragnar Relay, for example, had 95,000 participants in 2013, while Oregon's Hood to Coast Relay—the subject of a recent documentary—hosts about 20,000 runners each year.
More: Inside the Ragnar Relay
These relay races are fun tests of the human spirit because they include unique challenges such as running at night, running on varying and extreme terrain, and completing multiple runs in a short span of time.
And since the popularity of relays is relatively new, many participants are gearing up and picking their team names with no past experience. If you aren't prepared, this could lead to injuries or complications during the competition.
Even casual participants need to take time to get ready for the challenges ahead. With proper training and preparation, every runner can have a positive experience and come away excited for the relay. Here are some essential tips to guide your training.
Mix in Double-Run Days
Most relays ask at least some team members to complete two or more legs throughout the competition. This is foreign territory for many runners who have never run twice in one day.
The lack of recovery time can be shocking to the system, particularly if you wait until the race day to see what it's like.
Naturally, it's smart to sprinkle your training regimen with some days of multiple runs. To accomplish this, try these strategies:
1. Tack on a shorter, easier run later in the day after a moderate workout, and gradually extend the length of that second run over time.
2. Split your recovery days into two runs. So instead of running 6 miles as a recovery, run two 3-milers with four to eight hours rest in between.