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10 Tips for Running an Ultra Marathon Relay

It’s just a couple of days away until my relay team, We’ve Got Balls, participates in the Great Midwest Relay. You’ve already been told about the benefits of running and juggling a relay race. Now, here are some tips you might consider to make the experience smooth and enjoyable.

10 Tips for Preparing a Group Relay Team

1. Pick a good captain. This is the most important. This person will have to coordinate everything from registering, organizing transportation, food, knowing rules, etc. You’ll look to her to keep in constant contact with the rest of your team, so pick a good communicator. She’ll also have to be able to work with a dozen different personalities who have all sorts of different needs. We’ve got an excellent captain. She was even valedictorian of my high school class. Great work Carla!

2. Have a team meeting two months before the race. Doing a big race like this sounds like a great idea when it first comes up, especially right after an event like the Shamrock Shuffle. But pull people away from the glow and glory of an 8K conquest and they may not be as enthusiastic. Having a team meeting will let you know if you’ve got a committed crew or a mootable mob.

3. Assign team members to handle different tasks. At the team meeting, you’ll want to have a plan for all of the key tasks. The team captain can coordinate but each team member should be assigned responsibility for some task. Things you’ll need done include, transportation, food, entertainment, t-shirts/uniforms, registration, and race day plans.

4. Determine a realistic pace & assign legs. Your team is going to think in terms of how fast they can run the relatively short distances. They will ignore the fact that they’ll have to run multiple times. First get a sense of what everyone believes they will run and add at least 30 seconds to that. Our team first thought we’d average an 8:30/mile pace. We signed up for a 9:00/mile pace.  Each person is assigned specific legs that they will run.

5. Register for the race. This should be done right after the team meeting. Don’t give people time to think about it. It would be much harder for them to back out when they know other people are depending on them. And make sure everyone pays the captain. It could be a lot of money. The Great Midwest Relay costs $700 for a team of twelve.

6. Learn the Rules. Most races are simple. You sign up, get your packet, and line up for the run. The only rule is to follow all the faster runners in front of you. But a relay is a bit more complicated. People need to be assigned legs they’ll run, the van they’re in, and the times they’re up. You’ll also need to know what to do at night (lamps, escorts, etc.)  and to let people know if they’ll be running in the dark.  Additionally, you’ll need to know when you start, where the vans go and where the exchanges happen. It’s almost as complicated as a triathlon.

7.  Figure out the transportation.  For a team of 12 people you’ll need more than one car.  Actually, you’ll need a van.  Figure out before race day who will pick up the vans, who’s driving together and what time you will leave.

8.  Schedule your day.  The team captain should get the message to everyone on the team with regards to when and where each team member should meet.  Each person who was assigned a task like getting food, t-shirts, headlamps, and safety vests should let the captain know whether they did it or not.  On race day, you don’t want to have to think about what you’re supposed to do or whether you have all the equipment or not.

9.  Plan what you’ll do during the off-time.  When running a relay race most of the runners will be sitting in the van waiting for their turn to run.  Bring games, books, and juggling equipment to keep yourselves amused.   As a joggler, you can spend some time teaching the other people in your van how to juggle.  Of course, you can also spend time updating your blog.

10.  Celebrate when you’ve finished the run.  You’ve finished the run so go out and party.  If you’re the last juggling runner (or the only one) put a smile on your face as you cross the finish line.  Your team is counting on you and you don’t want to disappoint.   Get everyone on your team together and take lots of pictures, share stories of the road and have a blow-out.  It may be the last time this team ever gets together again.  Enjoy it while it lasts.

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