I just got home from finishing another Ragnar race. We ran from Madison, WI to Chicago, IL. If you know anything about Ragnar races, you know there are usually 12 members to a team and you take turns running the entire time. There is always a runner “in the field”, even throughout the night. There are exchange points where you swap out runners and can change clothes, use the stinky port a potties or gas up, but you are continuously moving, no stopping until you reach the finish line in Chicago. You should google it or watch some videos on You Tube. It’s a one of a kind experience and a ton of fun. I find it addicting also, I am already planning next year’s Ragnar.
This year we decided to do an Ultra Ragnar, which means we have 6 runners instead of 12 and we are twice as crazy.
We run twice as many times, double the amount of miles and twice the insanity. With 2 vans of 6 runners each, when you run your 6 legs and the next van takes over for their 6 legs, you get a little break (could be 6 hours) to eat some food, sleep in a field or on the lawn of a school and if you are really lucky, find a shower before your van takes over again. With an ultra, there is never a break. You are constantly running, dropping off a runner, picking up a runner or driving to the next exchange. Everything is done in the van. Eating, resting, rehydrating, changing clothes, rolling out muscles. You run and when you are picked up, you get in the van and sit so you have to roll out your muscles with a stick in the van so you don’t stiffen up. It’s a physical challenge and a mental challenge.
Mentally, you have to push through exhaustion, nausea, soreness, and most of all, the little voice in your head telling you to quit, that you can’t do it. That you are tired and can’t run one more mile, much less 10 more miles.
So, why do this to myself? And where does the fun part come in? For me, the fun is in the challenge, the experience, the people I do it with and the feeling of crossing that finish line 30 hours later. And this…
Upon returning home, I experience “Ragnar depression”, a condition many of us go through. When you are lucky enough to love your teammates so much you miss them, when you crave running multiple times in one day, when it’s a bummer to get your gear from a drawer instead of a duffel bag buried under 5 other duffle bags in the back of a van, you have Ragnar depression.
As I was wallowing in my Ragnar depression, the awesome people of Ragnar were busy posting videos, photos and race results. Scrolling through photos, I was thrilled to see they had captured a very emotional and special moment for me.
This was my last run, around 30 hours after beginning. I was passing the slap bracelet to Christy who was about to run her last leg. Up to this point, I had never felt like a “real” runner. I had never felt strong or athletic. I would look at other runners and think I could never be like them, my body looked different, maybe I wasn’t as fast. But guess what? I AM a “real” runner. I am strong. I am athletic and my body performed for me. I had my fair share of “kills” (a Ragnar term meaning how many runners you pass.) I pushed through tired legs and a weak stomach, spasms in my intestines and came through the other side. I am an Ultra Ragnar runner. Christy and I shared a very special and personal moment for me and I feel blessed she was there. I finished my last run in a lot of pain from a knee injury but I finished on pace and I was so happy I was done.
It was rainy and cold when we crossed the finish line together as a team. We received our medals and noticed the backs spelled something when put all together.
Our medals don’t tie us together. Our bond comes from sharing a common goal, working together to achieve that goal, sharing experiences along the way and sharing a love for running that only a “real” runner could possibly understand.
And of course, Steve….