What to Know Before Signing Up for a Relay Race

What to Know Before Signing Up for a Relay Race

Who says running isn’t a team sport? Increasingly popular overnight relays bring together teams of all experience levels to conquer extreme distances. 

Most relay races are spread over two days and cover some 200 miles of road and trail. A team of six to 12 runners split the distance into legs, with each participant running multiple legs throughout the overnight event. This format presents all sorts of logistical challenges, so you’ll want to make sure you’re prepared for anything that might get thrown at you.

How to Train

One hallmark of a relay race is running multiple times in a single day. You’ll need to train your body to recover quickly and get back on the road.

Start by breaking your longer runs into three shorter runs in one day. Make each run at least the shortest distance you’ll be running during the relay. For example, if the shortest leg you’ll run is a 3-mile leg, make each run at least 3 miles. This will also help you practice how you’ll hydrate and fuel between those runs. 

If you’re planning to use any safety gear, try it out on training runs in the middle of the night or very early in the morning (always run with others if possible). 

Lastly, because you’ll be covering all sorts of road, be sure to do some hill training to get used to the different type of pounding that comes with ascending and descending frequently.

What to Expect on Race Day

Because these relays are overnight, you’ll need to get to know the course. There may be intermittent signs, but you should study it in advance and print a copy to take with you as you run.

You’ll be spending a lot of time with the same people in the same van. It can be cramped and uncomfortable. It might not be easy to get sleep and there may not be time to get in a good shower. These conditions and how you work through them are all part of the experience, so have fun with it!

Despite the cramped conditions, it can be a party at times. Many of the runners are hungry and tired, but decorated vans and cheering teams give it a festival-like atmosphere. 

Some legs will be quiet, dark road. Others will have you running to the checkpoint into a crowd of shouting and jumping teammates. It’s an unforgettable experience.

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