I have been a lifelong fitness student and enthusiast ever since winning the gold at conference in the 100 butterfly and 200 IM back in my “glory days.” I am also a writer and the marketing wizard here at My Top Fitness.
I have an ever-growing list of interests, including swimming, running, golf, bowling, speedcubing, speed running (old Nintendo games), locksport, cooking, chess, tournament poker, fishing, hiking, camping, and sleight of hand, just to name a few. On some platforms, you can find me as the self-appointed “Jack of all Hobbies”
I am a proud husband and father of 2 children, a.k.a. gremlins, and I am super excited to help as many people as possible on their individual fitness journeys.
Perhaps you’ve heard of the Ragnar Relay, know someone who is a full-fledged Ragnarian (completed a Ragnar), or the thought of running in a relay event has peaked your interest. Whatever your reason for considering Ragnar, this guide will walk you through the basics to understand what a Ragnar Relay is, how to join one, and make the most of your Ragnar experience!
What is the Ragnar Relay?
The Ragnar Relay is an approximately 200 mile relay race where runners formed in teams take turns running varying distance “legs”. The race itself lasts overnight, spanning two days as teams of runners pile into vans to run their legs, support teammates, or get some much needed rest and food. Those who complete a Ragnar earn the “Ragnarian” designation, but gain a much greater experience!
Where it gets interesting is that Ragnar is all over the United States, run on the road or trail, and varying team sizes are available to increase difficulty (including an “Ultra team” where each runner tackles 6 legs for 26 plus miles of total running).
Ragnar Everywhere and Different Types
Instead of having a relay in one place once a year, akin to the famed Hood to Coast run, Ragnar Relays are highly inclusive per their location. This allows opportunities for reduced travel costs to participate and easier planning given the range of dates, locations, and race types.
Per race types, there is either Ragnar Road or Rangar Trail, each offering a distinct challenge, diverse terrain, and intriguing areas to explore. While each Ragnar adheres to a general structure, the local culture adds a lot of flavor where it’s conceivable for runners to participate in Ragnars like those who “collect” Marathons.
Teams differ in size, composition, and divisions starting with the traditional 12-person team for a regular Ragnar where each person covers between 11 to 24 miles, while an Ultra team of 6 runners covers close to a marathon (26 plus miles) each. For Ragnar Trail, the teams consist of either 8 (Regular level) or 4 (Ultra level) runners.
These teams may be all men, women, or mixed competing in the Open (at least 1 runner under 30 years of age), Masters (40+ years of age), Submasters (30+ years of age), Corporate (consisting of 9 employees), Public Service (9 service personnel usually military, law enforcement, firefighters, etc.), and High School (runners 14-18 years old).
Beyond the structure of the Ragnar is the experience. In fact, many run the Ragnar not to compete for personal and team goals, but to enjoy the unique atmosphere that is Ragnar. It is an event in the truest sense of the word, with a party-like atmosphere spread along the relay.
Many meet new friends or strengthen older friendships, as you can’t help but bond as you cram into a van (body odor is a side effect of Ragnar runner bonding) and cheer your teammates on. In the end, a Ragnar Relay is what you make of it. If you want to be competitive, you can do so, but don’t feel like you must be in order to enjoy a Ragnar.
How to Join a Ragnar Relay
Signing up for a Ragnar may seem like a daunting task, but there are many options for joining in on this one-of-a-kind relay. Specifically:
- Sign up using the Find a Runner feature on the Ragnar Website. As teams look for members, they will review your profile and Ragnar desires (ex. Pace and Ragnar Relay or Ragnar Trail) to determine if you are a fit for their team
- Talk to your local running store or running club to see if they are forming Ragnar teams
- Be bold and create your own Ragnar team! If you are concerned about getting a full team of 12 for the traditional Ragnar, don’t worry, as you can form a “6 Pack” to be merged with another Ragnar “6 Pack” to constitute a full team. Make sure to use the Ragnar Find a Runner feature and plan for a few drop-offs or other last-minute challenges for fielding a full team. This is especially important in smaller number teams, like an Ultra
How to Train for a Ragnar Relay
Training for a Ragnar should not be taken lightly but approached with an eye towards endurance and recovery. As you will be running multiple legs over a two day period, it is critical to have a strong running base. This running base should be complimented by a workout that incorporates strength, endurance, and recovery…. and for this purpose, Fartleks are hard to beat.
From an endurance standpoint, while you will be covering 11-24 total miles, you don’t need to be able to run 24 miles all at once, but rather aim to complete a long slow distance run of 50-75% of your total Ragnar mileage (ex. If your total mileage for the Ragnar is 20 miles, you should be able to complete a long run of 10-15 miles). Fartleks compliment this endurance by surging, then maintaining during the “off” periods of the Fartlek training session, increasing strength and the ability to “bounce back”.
You will also need to consider if you are training for the traditional Ragnar Relay or Ragnar Trail. Use our extensive [trail running guide] to get up to speed on the important considerations for trail running. Here is a list of running guides to assist you with preparing for your Ragnar:
- How to Start Running – Tips for Beginners and Joggers
- Trail Running – Tips for Beginners and Outdoor Enthusiasts
- Top Running Workouts – Long Slow Distance (LSD) Runs
- Top Running Workouts – Fartlek Runs (or Fartleks)
Ragnar Relay Tips
The Ragnar Relay requires caution before attempting and awareness while racing in this unique running experience. Specifically:
- Consult with your doctor before attempting a Ragnar or any intense running training session/program
- Build a strong running base before attempting a Ragnar
- Never static stretch before a Ragnar leg as this can lead to pulled muscles and other injuries. Instead, perform dynamic stretches to gently warm up your muscles. After your leg is complete slowly stretch and rest your muscles. Make sure that you follow the same routine for each leg
- Pre-hydrate (ensuring that your urine is clear) before the Ragnar and stay hydrated during the race itself, with plenty of fluids post the race to compensate for not only running but lack of rest
- Make sure you have plenty of digestible food, such as; peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, Power Bars, bananas, and gels to consume between your legs (and maybe a few gels and a water bottle during the longer legs)
- Bring a neck pillow and try to get as much rest of possible between legs. While it is tempting to continuously cheer for your teammates, make sure you balance it out with rest in the van
- Don’t go out too fast the first few legs but concentrate on running even and negative splits per mile, as this easier on your body and it’s better to leave plenty of strength and endurance for the final legs
- If you get injured, don’t feel pressured to continue running, but address the injury even if it means pulling out of the Ragnar
- Check for ticks, especially true if running Ragnar Trail, as Lyme Disease can be devastating to your short and long term health
- Cheer on your teammates, make new friends, and have lots of fun! Ragnar is part race, part party!