It is challenging. It is exhausting. It is a unique combination of individual effort and teamwork. And most of all, it is fun! You will find yourself walking along quiet country roads and along busy highways. You will walk through the heat of the day and the still cool of night. You will be alone at times and among your competitors at others. You will spend hours in a van with a group of people--friends or perhaps strangers--snatching a bit of sleep here and there and grabbing snacks at irregular intervals. At the end of the adventure you will come away knowing a lot more about yourself and about your companions. And you will be eager to do it all again.?
It is the long-distance walking relay. These events have been the purview of the U.S. Pacific coast with Portland to Coast and Willamette Valley relays in Oregon, Rainier to the Pacific Relay in Washington and The Relay Walk in California. Some have the walking category as part of a running event and others are strictly for walkers.??
This year, Canada adds its own distance event with the Westover Shore to Shore Relay through southwestern Ontario with competitive and fitness walk categories. This 3000K event starts in Port Stanley and goes through the picturesque countryside of Elgin, Chatham-Kent and Lambton Counties in Southwestern Ontario.?
How does this type of event work? The relay course is made up of? a number of legs (usually about 24) of varying distances--usually three to eight miles (five to 13 kilometers) traversing the countryside over 100 miles (160 kilometers) or more. Teams of six to 12 walkers in two vehicles start at one location and move along the route with each person taking a turn walking a leg. The walker hands off to the next walker at the exchange zone and so on until the team has completed the entire route. The rest of the team supports their walker with drinks and cheering along the way or perhaps just being out there in the night.
With 12 on a team, each person may walk two legs about 12 hours apart. Smaller teams mean more walking for each person and more frequently. Recovering between each walk can be a challenge.?
Teams may be made up of any type of walkers--fitness walkers, power walkers or race walkers. They may be made up of friends, family members or club mates. They may be groups of people with similar challenges--cancer survivors, open heart surgery patients, those in recovery. They may be members of the same church or co-workers or neighbors.
Teams may also have differing goals. Some are in it for the competition, others for the challenge and, hopefully, all for the fun. Some teams are competing to win, to better a previous time or a course record and others find finishing while still smiling enough of a test. A lot of imagination goes into the team name and into van decorations and uniforms. Some events encourage this with awards for the best names and decorations.??
If you do not have enough relations to make up a team, you can still participate. Most relays have team matching services which pair up teams that need extra members with people who want to take part. Or, you could contact local walking clubs to see whether any of their teams may need extra people.?
Try the long-distance relay walk. It is an experience not to be missed.
Sherry Watts lives in London, ON, Canada. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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