Three Lessons I Learned From Running Across Iowa
If you’ve ever been to a track meet, you know there’s a certain mystique about relays. The camaraderie, the excitement — it all collides to create some very exciting minutes (or seconds) of circling the track. Overnight running relays (like Ragnar) take that exhilaration and up the ante. The rules vary, but there are usually lots of team members (six-runner ultra teams or 12-runner regular teams for Ragnar), and lots of miles.
In June, I ran across Iowa for the Relay Iowa. The event covers 339 miles and crosses the entire state from Sioux City to Dubuque. It’s the longest overnight relay in the world, and the only two-night relay. It’s like a Ragnar relay, but much longer and with less rules. Running the bluffs along the Mississippi, watching the sun rise after running through a late-night downpour, and joining up with people I barely knew (or didn’t know at all beforehand) to conquer an audacious goal made Relay Iowa an epic (and unforgettable) experience.
Here are a few lessons I learned from running across Iowa:
Running is the Glue
Before Relay Iowa, my 10 teammates were acquaintances or strangers; by the time we reached Dubuque, we had become close friends. We bonded over miles of hills, cornfields, and cheering on other runners as we creeped across Iowa. The same thing goes for the running community in general.
The person sharing 20 miles with you on a marathon long run might not have a lot in common with you other than a shared love of running, but that alone is enough to create a bond that can endure the miles.
Resiliency is Contagious
On May 10, a tornado ripped through Lake City, Iowa, a tiny town of 1,700 in eastern part of the state. A month later, Relay Iowa came through on a Friday night. In light of the recent devastation — the roof of the local high school was ripped off during an awards ceremony — it was amazing to see the town come out to support us. Seeing that gave everyone a little extra motivation as we crossed the state.
Audacious goals don’t have to time-related
Before Relay Iowa, I had always thought of audacious goals as somehow being time-related. The thing is, you can challenge yourself in a lot of ways that have nothing to do with finishing time. Running across a whole state sounds a little crazy (some would argue it IS crazy), so simply making it within the time limit and having fun along the way would be quite the accomplishment.
Are you preparing to run Ragnar Great River (or another overnight relay)? If so, here are a few tips:
1. Zip lock bags are your friend.
Pack a complete running outfit (including socks, sports bra, etc.) in a ziplock bag. The rest of your van may make fun of you for your Type A tendencies, but you’ll appreciate the extra packing effort when you’re searching for clean clothes at 3 a.m. in a dark van. After you run, you can put your clothes back in the bag and seal up the sweatiness.
2. Eat and sleep when you can.
An overnight relay will throw you off your regular eating, sleeping, and running routines. You probably won’t get a lot of sleep during a relay, but even a short cat nap will help. Similarly, bring some snacks along that you know will sit well in your stomach.
3. Embrace the craziness.
When you’re getting ready to jump out of your team van and run a few miles on a dark highway at 3 a.m., you might think “This is crazy.” Embrace that feeling and just have fun!
Have you run an overnight relay before? Do you have any tips? Share them in the comments!