By: Jessica P, CR OG
A couple of weeks ago, I participated in the Napa Ragnar Relay where a group of 12 runners ran 200ish miles from San Francisco to Napa. It was a lottery and out of the 3 groups that signed up from CR, my group was selected. I was assigned team captain and as a group, we decided to be in one van (versus two) to be cost efficient and ecofriendly. Legs were assigned based on people’s requests/paces and assigned myself as the 12th runner as I wanted to finish the run at home (Napa is close to where I live). The legs I had to run (legs 12, 24 and 36) were considerably moderate. However, I was asked by my close friend and fellow CR OG, Deborah, if I wanted to run her first leg of 9.7 miles and she’ll run my 6.0 miles in return. I gladly accepted and was definitely up for the challenge. Just a few days prior to the race, one of our runners needed to back out of the race due to an injury. Finding a last minute substitute added a lot of stress but luckily we found a runner in time.
The night before the race, I had a glass of red wine and took melatonin because there was no way I was going to sleep – I was too anxious. On race day, I was cheering and motivating the others, keeping track of time and who was up next to run, who was driving/navigating. I was fine throughout the day until it was almost time for my run. My stomach was in knots, I have used the bathroom several times, and I wanted to throw-up. After I started running, I felt fine and got my groove quickly. I started at around 5:00 pm so it was mandatory to wear night gear (head lamp, reflective vest and tail light). I passed up two runners (and of course, I was passed up by several fast runners) and was running alone. Running alone and running inclines weren’t the problem. I was more worried about (1) running on a two lane road and oncoming vehicles not being able to see me and (2) running into animals. As soon as I got to my exchange, I was greeted by the CRew. I was so relieved. I figured that if I can run this, the rest would be easy. My second run was at around 5:00 am. Even if it was a short run, I knew I was running this alone. At around the .05 mile marker, I entered into a residential area. I started to worry when I hit a bike trail. I watch a lot of Dateline and 20/20 so the fear of someone hiding behind the trees/bushes and grabbing me settled in. If you know me, I always run w/ a pocket knife so I knew to bring it w/ me. Throughout the rest of the run, I ran w/ it at hand and ready to attack. Of course nothing happened. My final leg was at around 4:00pm. My goal was to complete it in 45 minutes. I knew there was a trail in this run but I was not worried. As soon as I hit the trail on mile 3 I knew I was not going to finish in 45 minutes. The trail was rocky and at an incline. Several of the runners were walking I’m assuming due to fear of injury. Anyway, at the .10 mark, I saw my CRew waiting for me so that we can cross the finish line together. And as we were running to the finish line, I saw my kids and husband waiting for me.
It’s hard to put into words how I felt about that race because I can go on and on. But I can honestly say that Ragnar Relay was one of the best running experiences of my life and I highly recommend my fellow CR to at least try it once in their lifetime. For me, the running part was easy; the hardest part was not getting enough sleep. Other teams have asked how it was like having all 12 runners in one van or why didn’t we have two vans. I can see the advantages of having two vans (sleep, rest, eat), but being in one van allowed us to cheer each other on and experience the race together. I also heard other teams say “how come we didn’t create a tunnel for our runner” or “I love their spirit” or “who’s Concrete Runners” so it was nice to hear that other teams noticed us and our camaraderie. And it wasn’t so much the race, but it’s the special bond I now have and share with the 11 runners that no one outside this group will ever understand and know. Not only are they Concrete Runners but they are now my family. The motivation, encouragement and team work drove us to finish this race together. I love every minute spent w/ them and I will cherish them always.