At the end of 2018, I made a decision that would make me step out of my comfort zone. I decided to run a Ragnar relay in another country – in the UK. With strangers, naturally!
So what's it like running a Ragnar Relay in another country?
I jumped on a team and started counting down the days. Unfortunately, not every adventure ends up a fairytale. The team I was on was proving itself to be a really bad fit, so I made the difficult decision to quit. I watched my bucket list race start to slip through my fingers. Then, one night scrolling on facebook I found a team looking for someone, and I had a good feeling about this one.
This incredible team captain made me feel right at home, valued, and she even made plans to hang out with me during my sightseeing time in London prior to the race.
On my first night in London, I took in a "multisensory dinner experience” with my team captain and her husband. Then the next day I met up with my teammate Michael, and we toured the city together, from Tower Bridge to afternoon tea. I learned taking that tube (subway) inside and out!
On Friday, we all made our way back to Heathrow to pick up the vans for the trip. On our team “Mad as a box of Transatlantic Frogs”, there were 7 Brits and 3 of us from the US. International Ragnars only have 10 runners instead of 12. We hit M&S for supplies and headed out to our hotel in Sittingbourne. We had dinner together and were bonding quite well.
Our lineup was:
I was in van 2, but I’m a morning person. So I went with some of my vanmates to see van 1 start the race.
After a short workout and breakfast, I was ready to roll. Praise the Lord that we had Brits with us and I didn’t have to drive. Besides the obvious steering wheel being on the other side of the car, driving on the other side of the road – there were other challenges. Our Mercedes van was a stick shift (haven’t even touched one since the 80s) and roads were super narrow. Even the Brits felt intimidated by the roads. It was harrowing at times.
Anyhoo, the exchange where we were starting was one of the prettiest I’ve seen. It was like being at a beach party. I had to literally pinch myself.
I’m at the beach.
Running a Ragnar.
Just look at these views!
After finding some goodies at the tiny gear tent, eating a pizza, watching the safety video and drinking tea (there was tea at EVERY major exchange! – those Brits know whats up!) it was finally time to get running. I was runner 9. My first run was 4.4 miles. Mostly along the water. I loved it!
I was impressed at not only the free coffee/tea at major exchanges, but the incredible amount of free snacks. There were tons of baked goods to choose from, laid out on nice trays. Sweet!
The farther we ran, we started coming into white cliffs territory. So cool! We made a quick pit stop at the White Cliffs of Dover before it got too dark. You can see the lights of France at night from Dover!
After getting some dinner, ,we were ready to take on our second set of legs. There was the threat of rain, and it would be my longest leg at almost 7 miles. My night leg was fairly uneventful but I felt relieved to get it over with – and no rain! Sometime around dawn while we were trying to sleep in the van it started pouring. Luckily it did not last long. Fueled up with more tea and porridge (oatmeal), and got ready to take on the last round.
The scenery on the last 5 legs was beyond words. Stunning cliffs and sea views. I can’t describe it, so I’ll just share pics!
I headed out on my last run of 4.5 miles. Within a half mile, it started to rain. It pelted me in the face. Right after that, two of my van 1 teammates came out to cheer me on. It was so nice of them to tag along for our last set of legs instead of going straight to the finish and relaxing.
Before I knew it, it was over and our last runner was out. We hightailed it to the finish right by the pier in Brighton. At the finish area in Brighton, there were more free snacks, a small gear tent, a food truck, a bar where we had some local beers to choose from and everyone got a free half pint. The one thing I was hoping to see but didn’t was the bonus medal tent. International Ragnars don’t qualify yet. Disappointing, as this was my 6th Ragnar this year. We finished in around 29 hours, not too shabby!
We loved taking all our finish pics. Such a great group, honestly. So friendly, everyone communicated so well, and the usual "competition" between vans was noticeably absent. Everyone cared about one another. What a pleasant surprise!
When it was all over, 2 teammates drove back home, and the other 8 of us stayed at an air bnb nearby. Our amazing team captain hired a local chef to come cook us a traditional Sunday Roast with all the trimmings. We had salad, roast beef, potatoes, carrots, Yorkshire pudding, gravy and capped it off with sticky toffee pudding. It was absolutely delicious! We enjoyed wine and very lively conversation during dinner.
Here's a few fun facts:
- I heard there were around 120 teams participating
- Although you would think everything would be in kilometers, everything was in miles.
- The terrain was a mix of road and grass. Many sections were tame, but some were straight up and across steep rugged cliffs.
- Porta Potties were called Porta Loos...and they flushed!
- Nobody used magnets for tagging
- Ragnar offered trackers to each team. Runners would pass the slapband and tracker in each transition. Teams could keep track of their runners via an app on their phone. It actually looked pretty cool. We declined since it required a hefty deposit.
The best part of this trip was spending the time with this group of people. The immersive experience gave me a million new expressions I want to start using in my everyday life from “blimey, bloody hell, gobsmacked, taking a lie in, nip in to the store", and so much more. I got to see how they really live. I feel beyond blessed to have taken this trip and to have been a part of this team. An epic trip that will never be forgotten!
Hi, I'm Emily! I'm an avid runner in Arizona with a passion for travel and racing around the country!