By Sara Buechler

To all the runners or running beginners out there, if you enjoy teamwork, are okay with running at night and are on the lookout for a unique marathon race experience, the Ragnar Relay might be just what you are looking for!

WHAT IS IT?

A Ragnar Relay race is about 200 miles (320 km) in length, which is divided among a 12-person team. For the ultimate racers, there is also the ultra-team, which only consists of six runners. The race itself lasts two days and one night. The race is run relay style, from start to finish, and is divided into 36 sections called “legs” and has three loops. The first runner in each team will run the first leg or loop, then will meet the team at the first handoff point where the second team member will then take over, and the process will continue until everyone on the team has run three legs/loops.

WHAT TO EXPECT

Local Gainesville resident and newly appointed Ragnar ambassador Amy Hester ran the Ragnar Zion back in 2014. She said the race was well organized and the staff and volunteers were kind, and competent. They also made sure the runners were safe during the snowstorm that hit in the middle of the night. The exact mileage varies by each race, so participants will run somewhere from 12 to 25 miles in three sections. Ragnar requires that the team has an overall pace of 11 minutes a mile. So, if one team member runs a 14-minute mile, another team member should run an 8-minute mile to average it out to the required 11-minute average. This means anyone is allowed to run in Ragnar as long as you train. Also, expect to have at least one leg of the race to be at night. This means runners will be required to wear a safety vest and headlamp before heading off into the night. If you’re still nervous about the night run, you can always bring along your phone or a pacer. Hester says her favorite part of Ragnar is in fact the 8-mile leg she did at night.

“I remember running so hard I felt like I was right on the edge of danger. Barreling down a mountain with just the small circle of light in front of me was freeing and reminded me of the bliss that comes with running,” Hester said. Ragnar recommends practicing at least one night run to be prepared for what to expect. Throughout the entire 200-mile course, there will be reflective signs attached to bright orange cones or posts in which you’ll run up to it and touch it, then run in the direction it’s pointing toward. If you choose to bring along your phone, you can download the Ragnar app which shows you a map of the course and blue dot indicating where you are.

Ragnar’s training partner, PEAR sports, has come up with a specific training program to prepare you for the race. Training should typically start about 12 weeks prior to the race, if you are generally an active person. Hester said because she runs consistently, she didn’t need any specialized training for Ragnar, besides adding stadiums to her routine for the hills. She said that first-timers shouldn’t worry because the Ragnar Relay is for everyone. The organization thinks of everything, so the runners don’t have to. They offer training plans, to all-inclusive camping gear and a friendly staff. Ragnar has got you covered, Hester said. “The experience of camping and running with your friends over a weekend will provide you with incredible memories,” she said.

WHERE TO FIND A RACE

There are multiple races across the nation and even internationally, such as Europe and Australia. There is one location in Sprint, Florida from Pompano Beach to Virginia Beach on February 9. There is also a location in Atlanta, Georgia at the Georgia International Horse Park on April 12. For more information go to runragnar.com or B3 Gym, located on NW 6th street. B3 gym has formed teams to participate in Ragnar Relays in the past.