I'm not talking about a 4x100 relay on a track in high school. I'm talking about an adult relay. And I don't mean it's "adult" the way an adult bookstore is adult. I mean it's for grown ups.
There are a couple flavors of relays. The most popular is the "point-to-point". That means your team starts at one point, takes turns running a bit, and ends somewhere else... somewhere way the hell far away from where you started. And unless you all want to run from the start to way the hell far away, you need a van.
There are A LOT of vans
It's fun to decorate your van
These are our kind of people
You also need some rules.. like No Butt Baton*
The van takes the team, minus the one team member who happens to be running at that time, from one handoff location to the next. Usually, these exchanges are in the middle of nowhere.
The middle of Southern Illinois' nowhere
Everyone piles out of the van, the next runner takes the baton from the just-finished runner, the team cheers, and then everyone, minus the new runner, gets back into the van. This happens many times because everyone runs 3 or 4 or more times during the race. Eventually, you and your teammates start to get a little loopy...
My friend Joe is actually quite brilliant and normal. I swear.
I've done three of these. They are a total blast.
It takes a lot of work to pull off a point-to-point relay. Depending on the distance, these relays can take 10-24 hours to complete. The logistics are complex. If you don't have a veteran in the van, one who knows the course and the stops and the best places to park the van, and someone who happens to own a big-ass van, then you're in for a long day. And no matter what you do, your van will smell like funky runner for the long ride home.
Again, these relays are totally worth the time and expense and travel.
There's an alternative.
There are the rare "loop" relays that cover the required distance one loop at a time. Instead of a everyone minus the current runner riding from exchange to exchange stinking up the van, the team members who aren't running get to hang out and socialize with the other teams until it's their turn to run. When it's your turn to run, you meander to the one common exchange zone, take the baton, your team cheers, you run your loop and return to the same spot where everyone welcomes you back.
It's essentially a big party disguised as an endurance relay. The real beauty of the loop relay is that it's ultra low maintenance. Anyone can do it. Seriously... anyone.
Sounds like fun, right? Excellent... I have a proposition for you.
On Sunday October 23, the good folks at Back on My Feet are putting on a 42K relay in the unfairly beautiful setting of White River Park in downtown Indianapolis.
I'm tellin' ya... beautiful
The loop is a 2.2 mile course that runs along the river on sidewalks and asphalt paved trail, crossing the river twice (via bridges... they don't make us ford the river), with the start/finish right by the NCAA headquarters. It's gorgeous, with fantastic views of downtown, just the distraction you need to make a 2.2 mile loop effortless. Each team member will run just 3 loops, with about an hour in between to hang out and meet new running friends.
You can run 2.2 miles, right? Sure you can! And I assure you, no one will care how fast you run. As soon as the gun goes off (or someone says "Go!" since I doubt there will be an actual gun going off) it's not about winning, it's about having a great time.
Plus, the total distance covered by your team is only 42K, which is 26.2 miles, marathon distance. So even if you take your sweet-ass time, you'll be home for lunch, unless you and your team stop off at a nearby pub, or dinner, or other such social venue to celebrate your heroic efforts. Still, home by 3:00pm, easy. Plenty of time to mow the lawn. Or nap. I'll be napping.
So here's my proposition. If you can field your own 42K Relay team, you are awesome! Here's the link: Back on My Feet 42K Relay. Get your team together, sign up, and come find me on race day. I'll be the guy in shorts that are too short for 2011 fashion norms. Better yet, drop me an email (firstname.lastname@example.org) or post a comment below with your team name and I'll come find you. We'll high-five, or fist bump, and acknowledge our mutual awesomeness!
However, for those who are interested but don't want to go through the hassle of recruiting 3 other runners, then drop me an email (email@example.com), or post a comment, and I will find you a team. What a great way to meet new running buddies! I promise you will be on a team that will be thrilled as hell to have you as a teammate.
*Butt Baton is the ill-advised practice of shoving one end of the team's communal baton down the back of one's shorts. Carrying it traditionally in one's hand, or in any other no-fecal-transfering method, is highly preferred over Butt Baton.
Images from me and my past relay teammates here and here.