Well, it’s that time of year again, the one that we adult runners look forward to like a bunch of kids … overnight relay time. The two-day, 200 (ish) mile, Hood to Coast style relay has become more and more popular in the last few years and anyone who’s participated in one knows why. If I had to sum it up in three words, well here they are: adult slumber party.
I’m set for two this year, Grand Teton, which I do with a group of high school alumni and have an absolutely hysterical time, and the following weekend I’ll be doing Hood to Coast with some wonderful friends and co-workers, a few of them who will be embarking on their very first overnight relay experience. I’m super excited that I’ll be there to share it with them.
Participating in overnight relays, for me anyway, is a wonderful way to create many vivid memories. As time goes on some will fade of course, but some will be indelibly etched in my mind.
I wrote a short article after a relay I ran in 2011 and since everyone is prepping for CLR, Lake of Death Relay, and others, I thought I’d recycle it and share it on the Run Oregon blog. It involves a fellow runner I think of as, “The Good Job Guy.”
For this particular event five of my girlfriends and I ran as an “Ultra” team. For those of you who aren’t familiar, that means that instead of two vans and twelve runners, we tackled the course with six women and one van. Twice the mileage, twice the challenge and of course twice the fun!
I was running my sixth and final leg. I’d had a difficult go of it on my last couple of legs, especially my fourth, which had been in the middle of the night. I’d felt nauseous and had to walk-run part of it to get through. Lots of things were going through my head during that final stretch. You might say I was on my last leg figuratively as well as literally. I was feeling a combination of intense relief knowing I was so close to being finished, mixed with a certain kind of pride, unique for me, to running in this type of event. I was also feeling sad that it was going to be over again for another year.
I love running with my girlfriends, we have developed an intense and wonderful camaraderie, and in our third year of Ultra running planning our event had become a very smooth process.
In relay running, there’s a term called “road kill.” It’s great or not so great depending on whether or not you are the killer or the killed. Pass someone from another team on one of your legs and… (you rock!) it’s a road kill. However, if they in turn pass you back, or if someone else passes you, you have to erase the notch you only just mentally added to your belt. Many teams have fun with this by creating a scorekeeper on the side of the van. Some keep score by writing on their bodies. One year I applied a cool skull Band-Aid to my leg for every kill. Sadly, they had trouble sticking; even sadder… I had to pull them off at an alarming rate as other runners picked me off.
Even though it was early that day, the sun was already beating down and even with the adrenaline running through my veins I was moving quite slowly. As I was churning along at a snail’s pace, two or three people passed me. For some reason, it has become almost a standard to say “good job” to a road kill…as you pass them. So really, “good job” is a polite way to say “got ya sucker!!” Or “ne-ne-ne-na na-na!
A guy passed me and said, “Good job Lady.” Okay, pretty nice of him huh? You could say he customized the phrase, added a little bit to it by referencing my gender. Just a way to throw out a little encouragement to a woman who, let’s face it, wasn’t looking too good at that point. After all, he was on his third leg, not his sixth like I was. He had barely warmed up, really, and now he was just about done. He had the room, not to mention the energy, to be cheerful. I however was slogging up the hill repeating a mantra a good friend of mine inadvertently gave me once (thanks to a typo.) You’re tough as snails Tina…you got this. Tough as Snails.
Sleep deprived, mentally and physically weary, and sick to my stomach with my legs feeling like lead and the grime from the road sticking to me like dog hair on my black wool cardigan… needless to say I was not happy. Actually I got kind of… mad. Good job…Lady?? All right buster. I may not have much in me, but I’ll bet if I dig really deep that I have a little something left. Oh and by the way you’re not running fast, per se, I’m just running very slowly. And did I mention I’ve ran twice the mileage you have? And on top of that your shirt’s ugly. Okay, his shirt was not ugly; I just made that up.
Right about then, I was gifted with a few shade trees on the side of the road and a light breeze, and suddenly an adrenalin rush came over me and I was able to kick it into gear. For a little while I felt, well, giddy. I sped up. I couldn’t stop smiling. Yeah, I was going to be done, for this year, but there’s always next year, and if fortune smiles on me, many years of relay running to come. As I cross off each relay I want to do I’m creating memories, not to mention bonds that will hold me over to the next summer, and potentially last through a lifetime. As I blew past him that day, and I did blow past him, I absolutely could not resist the urge to say…”good job,” and I meant it. I could never hold resentment against a fellow runner for trying to add another notch to his road kill belt.
As I mentioned before, this year I’ll be running two relays. Next year I’m sure I’ll be at least that many as well as directing the two my husband and I now have.
Here’s to all of us creating some amazing memories this summer with our running endeavors, and maybe even notching a road kill, or two.