Guest Blog by Ann Alegnani
Van 1 arrived at Exchange 18, after having a 2 hour lightening delay, around 2:00 AM. Someone asked the question, “So, whose brilliant idea was it to sign up for this race?” The response, “Well, Amanda wanted a Ragnar jacket. It is a really cool jacket.” Reply, “So we are running this race so Amanda can buy a Ragnar jacket?!” Yep, that is pretty much why we are in a strange parking lot at 2:00 in the morning. The things we get ourselves into being a part of a running group!
It was on a December morning, in 2015, drinking coffee in our local Starbucks after our Saturday run when we decided to pull the trigger and sign up for the Madison to Chicago Ragnar Relay Race. Amanda’s Ragnar jacket envy hit its peak when a fellow runner came into the Starbucks that morning wearing one. Everyone sitting around the table agreed to run the race not even really knowing what was involved. One thing we did know was that we had a great group of people and no matter what we would have fun…hopefully!
Ragnar is a long distance running relay race. A regular team, which is what we would do, is composed of 12 runners while an ultra-team consists of six runners…definitely not us! Each runner on our team was responsible for running three legs with each leg ranging between 3 to 10 miles. The 12 runners are divided into two vans and only one van will be active at any given time. Once all the runners from Van 1 have completed their legs, the slap bracelet is handed to the first runner of Van 2 and on it goes until you cross the finish line 200 miles later.
Our one disappointment from the race was that you don’t really see your running mates in the other van. You meet up at the 6 major exchanges but only for a short time. We did keep each other informed of our escapades through videos and pictures which got more interesting as the race went on. One of my personal favorites is a picture of Richard, who is from England, in a Piggly Wiggly t-shirt. Van 1 discovered that Richard was never in a Piggly Wiggly so, of course, this needed to be corrected and off they went to fulfill this major gap in Richard’s life experience.
Our first decision for our newly formed team was to come up with a team name. Since we all enjoy the occasional cocktail we picked the name, Drinking Team (With a Running Problem)…this name pretty much sums us up. We printed the Ragnar Race Bible and began our months of planning. We educated ourselves about what we actually signed up for, rented vans, assigned the running legs, designed t-shirts and magnets, booked hotels, etc. was a coordinated effort by all members of the team.
Finally our race weekend arrived and we started it in a bar! Great hydration for what was going to be a scorcher of a weekend. One of our teammates, Traci, is from Madison. Her wonderful mother, Virginia, not only fulfilled our volunteer requirements but she hosted a spectacular dinner that was a highlight of the weekend.
Van 1 had to be at the starting line around 7:00 am on Friday morning and their first order of business was to decorate the van…no wait, they needed to check-in and listen to the safety video then decorate. Our team was determined not to look like the novices we were. Only one member of our team, Eric, had previously done a Ragnar. Van 2 slept in, had a leisurely breakfast and, of course, decorated our van. We were blessed to have a driver for each van, Marty and Ed along with an RV as a support vehicle that was manned by Mark. Having the RV at all the major exchanges was like living in the lap of luxury.
As we embarked on this journey there was a lot of nervousness. We have spent many hours together pounding the pavement mile after mile and we have supported one another through difficult runs, but this race was going to be different. Hours would be spent in a van, anticipating the next run, while being sleep deprived and longing for a decent meal. Would we get on each other’s nerves? Would someone get lost at 3:00 in the morning on some remote trail? None of those worries materialized; what did materialize is a weekend of memories that will not be forgotten.
The Find My Friend app became our best friend except, when as the runner, you decided to walk for a short time due to the heat and was worried about your dot stopping. Iced cold wash cloths, which were thrown into the vans on a last-minute whim, became a priceless gift, given by your teammates, as you finished your run. The nighttime and early morning runs which were initially dreaded turned out to be our favorite runs because of the cooler temperatures and the darkness, being given light, by all the runners on the trail wearing headlamps, light vests and blinkers.
Finally, as a team, we crossed the finish line together and, of course, celebrated with a cocktail or two. And Amanda is finally able to get her jacket!
Ann Alegnani was our Ragnar team captain. We are so grateful to her for coordinating such an unforgettable, incredible, fun-filled weekend! Thanks Ann, we love you!