Why I’m retiring from overnight relays

Teammates are one thing I will definitely miss.

Like most avid runners, I’ve run my share of relays, including Rainier To Pacific three times, Cascade Lakes Relay five times, The Prelay, Epic Oregon Relay, and 16 Hood to Coasts. I’ve run on fast teams, slow teams, competitive teams, “fun” teams, teams that have been meticulously assembled, and teams that have been thrown together at the last minute. Every team and every relay was a great experience, but I’ve decided it’s time to end my overnight relay career.

For one thing, after running the Twelve Bridges Relay back in May, I’ve caught the one-day relay bug. There’s a lot to be said for a six-person, one van, two-legs-each race that starts early in the morning and ends that same afternoon. You get all the fun of the “big” relays without any of the stress, digestive misadventures, dead legs, and lack of sleep. And it’s only a one day commitment, while the overnight relays require at least three days (four if you’re in Van 1 and have to make a significant trip to the start).

There are at least 11 stages of the overnight relay:

Stage 1 – Excitement, when you are first recruited or assembling the team, and discover the roster.

Stage 2 – Apprehension, as you begin to anticipate the effort required for the legs you were assigned

Stage 3 – Stress, when you start to wonder when you’ll have time to pack and get everything ready, and if you’ll remember everything.

Stage 4 – Anxiety, when you leave your house empty for at least three days.

Stage 5 – Acceptance, when you realize you’ve prepared as well as you can and it’s time to load up and head to the start.

Stage 6 – Exhilaration, as you set off on your first leg.

Stage 7 – Discomfort, as the weird diet, unusual meal schedule, and lack of sleep begin to catch up with you.

Stage 8 – Delirium, as the rest of the relay plays out in a blur.

Stage 9 – Happiness, when you cross the finish line with your teammates.

Stage 10 – Relaxation, as you hang out with the team post-race.

Stage 11 – Zzzzzzzz

There are plenty of things I’ll miss about overnight relays, and many I won’t.

I’ll miss wearing my skull-and-crossbone socks on my final leg.

Things I’ll miss:

• All my teammates, past and present.

• The creative team names and van decorations.

• The enthusiasm and support of all the runners, friends and strangers alike.

• Wearing my “Death March” skull-and-crossbones socks on my final leg

• The constant stream of fit, cheerful women passing by the van window.

• Being cheered on by fit, cheerful women.

• Having fit, cheerful women in my van.

• Sharing my Funyuns with my van-mates.

I won’t miss Satan tying knots in my intestines!

Things I won’t miss:

• Thinking I’m in the final stretch of my night leg, then looking at my watch and realizing I’ve only been running seven minutes.

• No matter how carefully and methodically I pack, once the relay starts whatever I’m looking for is inevitably hidden somewhere in the nethermost regions of my duffle bag.

• Changing clothes in a sweltering Port-a-Potty.

• Doing anything in a sweltering Port-a-Potty.

• All the cliches you hear at every exchange: “Who has the clipboard?”, “Is that him/her?”, “Oh I guess not, it’s another runner who looks nothing like ours, and is wearing completely different clothes.”

• Hearing myself uttering those same familiar cliches.

• Having to choose between two or more teams of fun people, and regretting not being able to run with all of them.

I’ll miss sticking to a 24-hour diet of Sun Chips and Gummi Bears; I won’t miss the sensation that Satan is making macramé with my intestines and playing the bagpipes with my bowels – simultaneously!

I won’t miss other teams’ vans rolling into the exchange blasting their insipid, obvious, and unimaginative musical choices; I will miss our van rolling into the exchange blasting our inspired, classic, and universally beloved tunes.

I won’t miss the stress and anxiety, but I will miss the people. And I’ll miss writing about it all for Run Oregon, so it may end up being a short retirement after all 😉

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