4 Relay Races You Need to Run

Relays offer a race experience unlike any other

Relays offer competition, camaraderie and, quite often, a party-like atmosphere (most teams decorate their vans and wear some form of costume at least part of the time). And there are no other races quite like them. You often spend upwards of 24 hours alternating between riding in a van with your teammates, jumping out to run a section, noshing and sipping on energy foods between your runs and, occasionally, catching a few minutes of snooze.

They’re exhausting, exhilarating and a helluva way to spend a weekend exploring a new place. Herewith, four of our favorite relays across the grand ol’ US of A:

Hood to Coast Relay

Date: late August

Start location: Mount Hood, OR

Finish location: Seaside, OR

If you’ve heard of any running relay (outside of the Ragnar series), you’ve likely heard of this one. That’s because it’s one of the largest relay races in the entire world. The race, which started in 1982, sees nearly 20,000 people at the startline each year (1,050 teams). Attempted signups top out at over 50,000.

The just about 200-mile course starts in mountainous Mount Hood, OR, and ends at the coast in Portland. Most teams consist of 12 people, and the race has an eight-person minimum.

Not into the full relay? The event organizers also host a shorter walking relay.


The Blue Ridge Relay

Date: Early September

Start location: Grayson Highlands State Park, VA

Finish location: Downtown Asheville, NC

The Blue Ridge Relay is a staple for runners in the Southeastern US. In fact, a longstanding rivalry exists between runners from Charlotte, NC, and Asheville, NC. So much so that some competitive runners focus their entire year of training around the event. ... And for good reason: it's beautiful.

The 208-mile course weaves through picturesque Blue Ridge Mountains along the famous Blue Ridge Parkway and briefly through small, mountain towns that connect the pastoral landscapes.

While most teams consist of 12 people, you can run with as little as four (a six-person team is a common “ultra” team). With a 12-person team, expect to run anywhere from 12 to 25 miles.


Red Rock Relay Zion

Date: Early to mid-September

Start location: Brian Head Resort, UT

Finish location: Zion National Park entrance

Fall in the desert is unquestionably spectacular. Cool mornings and evenings contrast the dry heat of midday and the last holds of summer. At sunrise and sunset, red rock seems to almost light up in various shades of burnt orange. And the Red Rock Relay Zion race captures the beauty with every leg.

The race is 186 miles of pristine, Southwestern desert backcountry. And, even though it starts at a lung-busting elevation of 10,500 feet, it’s mostly downhill (so make sure to bring your compression socks and massage roller to keep your quads and calves in good working order).

Run on a 12- or six-person team from high in the mountains to the desert floor.


Ragnar Relay Northwest Passage

Date: mid July

Start location: Blaine, WA

Finish location: Langley, WA

July is perhaps the perfect time to meander through the deep green, tall-tree forests of the Pacific Northwest. This around 200-mile relay starts near Canada and travels through farmland, pockets of small coastal towns and past the glacial Cascade and Olympic Mountains, Deception Pass and the Puget Sound. Run with a team of 12 and expect to complete anywhere from 14 to 22 miles (depending on your leg).