Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Endurance Relay Tips

I enjoyed participating in the latest Runners Round Table episode focusing on endurance relays. Dr. Dave ( hosted, as he'll be running RAGNAR Florida Keys. I co-hosted along with Colin Hayes (, Chris Russell (, and Amanda Lanza (

In advance of the show I put a few top-of-mind thoughts tapping my two prior years experience running the Texas Independence Relay (in 2009 and 2010). If you're looking for a unique racing experience you should give an endurance relay a try!
  1. Thoroughly study the Race Director's (RD's) provided instructions, as you will learn nearly everything you need to know by doing so. Links:
    1. Texas Independence Relay (other Lone Star Relays' info can be found here)
    2. RAGNAR Series:
      1. Florida Keys
      2. Northwest Passage
      3. New England
      4. Wasatch
  2. Study your RD furnished handbook to determine the number of allowed vehicles on the course, as knowing this will determine much concerning your flexibility and options. Note that for TIR and RAGNAR relays there are permitted a maximum of two vehicles per team, with only one vehicle allowed at an exchange area. Example links:
    1. Texas Independence Relay 
    2. RAGNAR Key West
  3. Communications and Navigation:
    1. Prior to the relay race the team leader should circulate the names of all team members along with their cell phone numbers. Request that each runner stores the names and cell phone numbers of other runners into their cell phones to facilitate communications. 
    2.  It is absolutely imperative that the vehicle drivers remain fully awake and aware. Thus, the "shotgun" passenger should remain awake to serve as a navigator and to field all cell phone communications.
    3. To facilitate navigation it is recommended that all vehicles have a GPS device, preferably one with updated maps, and that the navigator be fully familiar with its use. As most exchange points are not at an intersection it is very helpful in advance of the relay race to store each exchange point into the GPS. This can be done through via the "Send To GPS" and "Send to Phone" functionality. Ask the Race Director if you are uncertain how to obtain exact location (possibly including the latitude and longitude) for each exchange point location. 
  4. Safety:
    1. As previously noted all vehicle drivers must remain fully awake and aware, and thus the "shotgun" passenger should remain awake to serve as both a navigator/assistant to the driver, and to field all cell phone communications.
    2. Especially in the evening, dusk and dawn hours it is essential that all runners wear reflective clothing and/or reflectors, and at least two sources of illumination (typically a head lamp and a blinker).
    3.  All runners should study their assigned leg in advance of the race so-as to be confident in their ability to navigate. DO NOT simply follow the runner in front of you as in many circumstances one errant runner caused a number of other team's runners to find themselves miles from the course.
    4. While not yet required in most relays it is highly recommended - especially in the evening hours - that runners carry with them a small fully charged cell phone in a waterproof container. The phone should have pre-stored in it the cell phone contact numbers of others should it be required in an emergency.
    5. Runners should run on the left side of the road well into the shoulder lane, and should remain continuously observant of approaching vehicles, and prepared to quickly jump off the shoulder into the adjoining field in the event of any aberrant or unusual driving behavior.
    6. Under NO circumstances should a relay runner wear an MP3 player or in any way inhibit their hearing or vision.
    7. Each driver should have accessible to them a list containing each participant's cell phone number, and their emergency contacts.
    8. Teams should not utilize a bicycle to 'pace' the runner.
  5. Weather and Clothing:
    1. Each participant should be prepared for the full range of weather conditions that they are likely to encounter during their run. Note that the majority of the time you will be in the vehicle so have towels and a change of clothing and shoes such that you're comfortable.
    2. Bring your running clothing within large Zip-Lock gallon-size bags so that it will be easy to figure out what you'll wear next and where to put the stinky, sweaty clothes afterward (thanks, Jen, for the tip!)
  6. Sleep:
    1. Depending upon the number of runners and vehicles on your team you may or may not have the ability to access a shared hotel room for the two vehicles to rotate access to for a brief (typically ~3 hours) of sleep during the race. Alternatively, for those teams with full size vans at their disposal individual team members can take cat-naps within the vehicles - but as previously noted it is critical that the navigator riding "shot-gun" remain awake throughout the race to assist the driver through assisting with navigation, communications and planning. 
  7. Food and drink:
    1. Each vehicle should have sufficient food and drinks - plus extra - to accommodate those runners.
    2. Poll the runners in advance to determine any dietetic needs, allergies, etc. 
    3. Under warmer conditions additional electrolyte-containing fluids should be brought.
  8. Miscellaneous logistics:
    1. For planning purposes a spreadsheet should be pre-populated by the Race Leader defining the order of participation by each runner. For estimating purposes this spreadsheet should contain each legs' distance, and via knowledge of each runner's approximate pace an estimated time of exchange can be determined. There should be at least one copy of this spreadsheet print-out accessible to each vehicle driver/navigator.   
That's simply the initial brain-dump; I'm sure I'll think of more and will edit this post as I do. The most important thing is to study the RD-furnished materials and to talk with other more experienced team leaders so-as to get the benefit of their experience and have fun!


  1. Sounds like some great advice - but you forgot about making the relay sound fun! :)

    I'll click on the links and see what they are all about - you have at least piqued my interest!

  2. Andrew - Sorry about that! Check the far more talented Colin Hayes' award-winning video following his team's RAGNAR NW Passage to see why all the planning and logistics are as fun as they are:

  3. I've run the Wasatch Back Ragnar Relay twice now and it is the most fun I've ever had while running. It contained the most challenging runs of my life as well as formied some great friendships.
    The tip I thought was the best was putting each outfit in gallon ziplock bags so that it was easy to figure out what I was wearing next and it was a good place to put the stinky, sweaty stuff after.
    I'm sure this will be a good roundtable!

  4. Jen - Glad you had a great time on your RAGNAR! Thanks for the tip - which I've incorporated.

  5. After reading Colin's post and watching the video I really really want to do one. I have this idea of getting 10 Blogging friends to do one together. But, I know myself enough to know that I'll flake on organizing it.