I’m not sure where I’ve been hiding for the last few years, but apparently this Ragnar thing is huge. When Melissa first asked me to fill in for her at Ragnar So Cal this year, I was only vaguely aware of the name. I assumed that Ragnar was acronym, meaning something fierce (Runners Are GNARly), explanatory (Really Amazing Great North American Race) or silly (Runners Are Great, Never At Rest). Apparently though, Ragnar is the name of a Norse hero who was the scourge of France and England during the Viking era. Which, assuming that the original Ragnar was a tough ass explains why the organizers chose the name.
Knowing the meaning of the name doesn’t begin to explain the culture of Ragnar though. Yes, there is a culture. That is the draw of this 30-36 hour relay race, in which 12
crazy runners team up to continuously run about 200 miles (or if they are really crazy tough, they form a six person ultra team to run the same distance). Most people, especially non-runners (but many runners too), will look at you, shake their heads and pray for your recovery. So what is the culture of an event whose tagline is “Run, Drive, Sleep? Repeat” and why is it so addictive?
For the most part, each team is made of of 12 runners who come from varying backgrounds, experience, locales, and fitness levels. Some teams may be made up with friends and families, but many, like ours, are strangers meeting each other for the first time. Each team gives itself a name (sexual innuendo runs rampant in the team names), and uses it to identify itself throughout the event.
Our team, the Dirrty Dozen, was made up of 12 women, mostly bloggers, who met briefly at Fitbloggin’ last year. After several dropouts, other women including myself, were brought in to fill out the team. Some of the other team names included the Ragnafarians, Mamas on the Run, Sole Train, Team Tough Chik (my blend Tina is on that one), and the naughtier ones including the Third Leg is the Hardest, Red, White, and Boobs, My Third Leg is Longer Than Yours, and my personal favorite, Ten Eggs and Two Sausages.
The vans are the most vital part of Ragnar (except the runners of course). Each team has two vans, with six runners in each. The runners in van one start off the race. After runner one takes off for her leg, the van needs to move on to the next exchange, hopefully finding time to stop and cheer for their runner along the way. Meanwhile van two has time to eat, rest, drive ahead to the next major exchange, etc.
Each team decorates their van. We used car crayons and added our team name, twitter handles, and a few other things. Some of the vans are decorated to the hilt with lights, stickers, magnets, even mannequins.
We saw runners dressed in costumes that ranged from tutus to superheroes and everything in between. Those that weren’t in costumes wore matching gear. We had shirts that had our team name and even our first name on the back.
Oops, that isn’t Carrie in costume! She’s just keeping warm in the early morning of day two.
Kills: When Jamie first told me she had 74 kills on her first leg, I thought she said “hills” and thought she had a really hard route. No, in Ragnar a kill is when you pass another runner. The idea is to keep track of your kills, mark them on your van, and glory in the awesomeness of the feat. I’m not sure how many total kills Jamie had (maybe she’ll comment and tell us), but she was pretty speedy. Gillian one of our other speedsters had around a million! I had about 20 total (fortunately you don’t have to subtract when you get killed yourself).
Tagging: When we got back to our vans after the race started,we found that someone had drawn a pair of breasts on them. We soon found that this type of tagging is part of the culture, with teams drawing their team name or logo, sticking on a magnet or some other type of toy on the side of your van.
While we didn’t tag anyone (this year), we had one funny experience when we were actually in the van on Saturday morning while we were waiting for Gillian to finish her final leg (she was the 6th runner in van one). As we sat there, a young man with a “Students Run LA” team shirt came to our van and started tagging it. The windows were tinted so I guess he didn’t see us. I rapped on the window and he jumped back, startled. Kat, our driver, who just so happens to be a CHP officer, said in her best cop voice, “What are you doing?” She then felt bad because she scared the boy so badly he almost cried. Now that’s a good cop voice!
It is hard for me to express in words the feelings that I have about the friendships that we created during Ragnar, especially with the women in my van. Usually when people first meet, you talk a little bit about yourself, where you’re from, what you do for a living, things like that. Throw those same people in a van with no shower, no sleep, no real food, in situations where they are there to totally support and cheer for each other, suddenly you’ve got the makings of lifelong friendships. Either that or they’ll never speak to each other again. Fortunately team Dirrty Dozen experienced the former situation. I can truly say that I love these women, even after only a few days. I want them on my team for my next Ragnar.
My teammates: Carrie from Family, Fitness, Food, Gillian from That’s G, Amy from It’s All About the Journey, Melissa from The Valentine RD, Jill from Tree Fitness, Jamie from Sweat Guru, Jillienne from Chasing Raspberries, Kia from Bohdi Bear, and the non-bloggers, Kat, Lizzie, and Jenica.
If you just can’t get enough Ragnar, my next post will be a more detailed recap of our race. If you missed my first post (which was not really part one because it was mostly pictures and I was still too exhausted to write coherently), click here.
If you were to run a Ragnar Relay, what would you call your team?