5 Reasons to Run a Ragnar Relay

A runners runs through a cheer tunnel.

Ragnar relays are 50 percent endurance event, 50 percent adventure, 100 percent fun. Maybe you’ve heard through the grapevine that Ragnar races are two days of van shenanigans or camping with some running involved (they’re not wrong). If you love a challenge, want to run with friends and make new ones, and enjoy the great outdoors, here are five reasons to run a Ragnar relay race.

1. Ragnar has some of the best routes for both beauty and challenge.

Runners run past a cheer section.

Whether roads are your jam, or you want to be closer to nature, Ragnar has something for everyone. To up the adventure quotient, both road and trail Ragnars involve nighttime running, and the correct safety gear is required. Running under the stars is a unique experience worth having at least once!

Ragnar Road

Each road relay is about 200 miles, broken up into 36 segments (called “legs”). Legs vary in length and difficulty, and for teams of 12, each person runs three legs. The scenic routes wind through towns, parks, and everything in between. Don’t worry—you’ll have access to an event guide with the route, addresses for transition spots, and specific directions when needed.

Each van must check in on race day with six reflective vests, two headlamps or running flashlights and two blinking LED taillights. Sometimes you’ll be running on sidewalks, but you could absolutely be running on roads, so the vest and taillights help make you more visible to passing motorists.

Pro tip: Bring spare batteries and/or charging cables with an adapter plug for rechargeable gear.

Ragnar Trail

Trail relays are 120-ish miles within large parks with awesome views, and consist of three different loops of five-ish miles. Loops are rated easy, intermediate or hard, and every runner completes all three loops. During down time, runners can hang in The Village, which is where vendors, the bonfire and all the teams’ campsites are.

Sleeping is totally an option, but if you’re too hyped up to catch some Zs, Ragnar Trail relays offer you the opportunity to hang by the bonfire and meet new people, enjoy features within the park (go take a dip in a lake, or take a short hike!), and take in a sunset or sunrise.

Every person—runner, friends, family, crew, etc.—at the race should have a headlamp. Ragnar recommends a headlamp with at least 70 lumens.

Pro tip: Cozy clothes and recovery sandals are key for enjoying your down time.

2. Ragnar races are crazy fun!

As an adult, how often do you get the chance to get creative and show some team spirit? Ragnar relay races are the best time to let your freak flag fly with team shirts and crazy costumes. Will your team show up as the tutu brigade, or will your vans split up to execute a heroes versus villains theme? The options are limitless!

And, yes, it’s totally cool to wear your regular clothes. “Nothing new on race day,” applies to Ragnar, if needed. You’ll still have a blast, and the people watching will be prime. After all, the possibility of getting cheered on by a team of screaming penguins with noisemakers is exceptionally high.

If dressing up isn’t your thing, how about decorating your team’s van or campsite?

Van Decor

A lot of teams rent passenger vans for Ragnar Road relays, and it’s not uncommon to see those big, white vans covered in chalk marker and streamers, or with a giant, inflatable flamingo strapped to the roof. Sometimes, teams get custom magnets with the team’s name made for the doors. A lot of people have their passengers’ names written on the windows with checkmarks for the “kills” they get (every person they pass) during each leg.

Sweet Campsites

Campsites at Ragnar Trail have room for a tent or two full of cozy mats and sleeping bags to catch cat naps, plus a party tent for cooking, games and whatever else. Get comfy with camp chairs and tables, or even a portable hammock. Bring coolers full of your favorite food and drink, and don’t be afraid to make some pancakes for your team on a portable camp stove.

Don’t forget to decorate your temporary home with twinkle lights, blow-up palm trees, or whatever else strikes your fancy.

Pro tip: Your van/tent must have room for snacks. Don’t forget to bring your favorite nutrition for pre-, during- and post-run.

A van camped out during a Ragnar relay.

3. You’ll meet tons of new people at Ragnar.

Ragnar is an excellent way to meet other runners, both from other teams or maybe even your own. Sometimes you’ll know your team when you sign up. If you missed the boat when teams signed up and you’re feeling brave, many teams will put the call out through their networks when they need to replace someone who had to drop out before race day.

When you're in a van or tent with people you've never met before, you're going to get close REALLY fast.

When else can you meet people? Every single transition zone at Ragnar Road is a hotbed of activity. The bonfire at Ragnar Trail is prime for socializing. Even standing in line waiting for a porta potty brings potential to meet new friends (especially if you have a spare roll of toilet paper handy).

4. Ragnar bling is the best.

A team lays down their medals after completing a Ragnar race.

Relay races present a unique opportunity to participate as an individual and still get the benefits of being on a team. Each runner receives their own medal, but it’s just a piece of the puzzle. Literally.

Pro tip: When your team finishes, be sure to lay down your medals for an Instagrammable moment.

5. It's not just a race; Ragnar is an experience.

Maybe it's surviving 36 hours of running on minimal sleep. Maybe it's navigating a large van in an unfamiliar place in the dark and surviving. Maybe it’s all of the high fives you got approaching the transition zone. Maybe it's the number of "kills" you got during a leg. Maybe it's being able to tell people you did something crazy and lived to tell the tale. There are so many ways to enjoy, and be proud of, your Ragnar experience.

Ragnar relay races are a wild adventure for road and trail runners alike. It’s definitely worth trying at least once! If anything, you’ll walk away with bragging rights, knowledge that you’re hardcore and the new title of Ragnarian.

Fleet Feet is the Official Retailer of Ragnar. Learn more and find your next race here.

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