“Wait, you willingly signed up for this?!!” Pair that question with a look of disbelief and you have the common reaction of most friends, family and co-workers once they learn of your plans to complete a 24 hour relay. On May 6th and 7th, I had the pleasure of sharing a 189-mile journey with 13 remarkable friends under the handle “Slow Motion to the Ocean”. Appropriately hailed as The Cape Relay, this adventure took us from Borderland State Park in Sharon, MA to Truro, MA at the tip of Cape Cod.
For anyone unfamiliar with how a relay works, here’s a quick breakdown:
- A team of 12 runners (or 6 if you’re on an elite team) are split into 2 vans. Runners 1-6 make up van 1; van 2 is composed of runners 7-12. (Note: I mentioned that I shared this experience with 13 friends. That’s because in addition to our 12 runners we also had 2 drivers, or “team moms” if you will.)
- Each runner completes 3 inconsecutive legs of the race.
- Individual legs can cover anywhere from 2-10 miles (typically), requiring each runner to cover a total distance of 12-20 miles during the race.
- Van 1 starts the race with each runner taking their turn on the course. When the first 6 legs of the race are completed, runner 6 passes off to runner 7, and it’s time for Van 2 to shine. This rotation continues until all 36 legs of the race are covered and your team crosses the finish line!
Slow Motion to the Ocean or SMO, as our endearing fans refer to us, kicked things off at 7am from Borderland State Park. For many of us, that meant rising from a slumber at 4am – let the sleep deprivation begin. I had the honor of crossing the start line for our team as I found myself playing the role of Runner 1 (we’ll chalk that up as a perk of being the team captain). The weather was perfect as the warmth of the sun took the edge off the crisp morning air. Thankfully, I had remembered to pack my Smith Parallel sunglasses to protect my baby blues from harmful UV ray and debris along the course. My first leg covered 6 miles that snaked through gorgeous park trails before hitting the pavement and reaching exchange 1 where my teammate, Alexis, was anxiously awaiting my arrival. A quick pass of the slap bracelet and she was off!
Each member of Van 1 had their moment in the spotlight before we turned things over to Van 2, allowing their 6 runners to dominate the course. This process was rinsed and repeated a total of 3 times before the race was over. I know what you’re wondering – how does one pass the time while they wait for their turn to run? Fortunately, I have compiled a list of the top 5 SMO down-time activities:
- Decorate your van. Luckily, we had Tana on our team; not only a solid anchor in the Runner 12 position, but an incredibly talented artist to boot!
- Stretch. With a physical therapist (Beth) and massage therapist (Amy) on the roster, we had all of our bases covered. Now who was the genius that put them in the same van… oh, right…
- Sleep. Let’s be serious, between the 2500+ runners along the course, ambitious neighborhood watch programs and cramped living conditions, no one is getting more than a catnap until this thing is over.
- Eat. You must fuel the machine. All the while, keeping in mind that at any time you are never more than 5 hours away from your next run. This led to many of us employing a “grazing” technique. Fortunately, our vans were stocked with the essentials- peanut butter & jelly, pretzels, apples, bananas, Clif Mojo Bars & Shot Bloks, gummy bears, trail mix, GU and plenty of water & Gatorade.
- Entertain. I know of many relay teams that recruit members based on their pace, cardio endurance or PR’s. Although there was no shortage of talent on team SMO, personality was the attribute that determined if you made the cut. Between the power mix cd’s, yoga practice, dance off’s, joke telling, story time, hi-5 tunnels, slow clap sessions and making friends with fellow teams I find myself wondering how we had time to run 189 miles.
The hours that were spent on the road are peppered with experiences that challenged me as a runner, but at the same time provided the opportunity to understand what it truly means to have strength in numbers. I have many “favorite moments” from the race, but the highlight for me was being reunited with my teammates in Truro and crossing the finish line together. After claiming our medals and posing for the paparazzi, it was time to celebrate!