Running is a lonely sport, so they say. For the most part, it is. Most runs are accomplished alone. Maybe some tunes accompany and if you’re really lucky maybe you have a group for one long run a week. However, by and large, running is not a group effort, it’s a solitary activity. Thankfully, that sad truth about the sport I love so dearly has been challenged.
As of late the hot trend in running is relay races. I had the fantastic opportunity to join a team and run my first long distance relay race recently. I quickly learned why this is a growing trend in the sport. Running should be a team sport, always.
Relay races are happening all over the country. Some are hundreds of miles and take multiple days. Others are much shorter and can be accomplished in a day. I participated in one of the oldest relay races around last month – The Brew to Brew Relay. It is one of the most talked about running events in the state of Kansas. The nearly 44-mile race is appropriately named as it begins at the Boulevard Brewing Company in Kansas City, Missouri and traverses the countryside to The Free State Brewery in Lawrence, Kansas.
The attitude at this relay race, as it is with most relays, is very jovial. When beer is being served just after sunrise and participants can be found dressed as beer bottles or donning fake pirate mustaches, it’s hard to find the stone expressions you’ll see as elites toe the line of a marathon. Despite my previous “hard-core” attitude toward running, I now see that running can be very fun and non-competitive as well. And if I hadn’t accepted this truth before, the man in skin tight leopard pants representing his team, “Animal Print Pants Out of Control,” really drove that point home.
To add to the fun atmosphere, my team of eight was named “Sweaty and I Know It,” a play on LMFAO’s hit song. Our shirts had an animal print running shoe on the front along with the song quote “I work out” on the back. We were a hit the second we got out of the car and headed for the starting line.
I had the pleasure of running the first leg of our 10 leg relay. I took off through the outskirts of Kansas City and ran a few miles along a levee and happily passed our baton, a Spiderman slap bracelet, onto one of my teammate’s wrists at the first station. She took off, I jumped in one of the team vehicles, sweaty, and forged on to the next station. This pattern continued for the rest of the day. As the race progressed each station got more and more crowded and took on the feel of a small party along the Kansas countryside. Additionally, we all took a turn or two running for our team and really bonded as we stunk up the team cars. The experience was so fun, and I never smelled a thing.
As I ran up the notorious Kansas/Missouri hills on my second leg in the 90-degree heat, I had no time to fret because I was greeted with horns honking and teammates cheering each time they passed. All I could do was smile and sweat some more.
I think I smiled more that day than I had in a long time. I smiled as my team turned in impressive times, smiled as men in banana suits ran through the course, smiled as my friends let me take “baby wipe baths” in front of them, smiled and laughed as strangers sang the lyrics “wiggle, wiggle wiggle” as I ran by, and smiled because relay racing is pure joy.
Team “Sweaty And I Know It,” comprised of Brad, Bob, Bill, Jason, Mike, Dave, Elaine, and myself, placed 21st out of 344 teams in our division. We traversed the 44 miles in 5:40:46. We were already using the words “next time” and “next year” as we shared a post-race meal, sweaty. We all agreed running should always be a team sport. A sweaty, team sport.