Clare getting Ragnarly

A couple of months ago a colleague asked me if I felt like joining the City Sports team to compete in a 24 hour Ragnar Relay in Philadelphia.  “The most fun race you’ll ever be a part of” he said.  It would entail 2 vans of 6 runners running a distance of 202 miles across Philly over a 24 hour time period.  Of course I was in.

I needed to prepare, I needed a list!

Training: it dawns on me that I haven’t really done any ‘proper’ running in quite a while…I decide to dedicate my Sunday morning to check I can still do it and set myself 9 miles around the Charles river as my target.  All in all it’s a decent run…but I’m shocked at my snail’s pace, so several more runs are scheduled before the big day(s)!

Clothing/Equipment: I don’t start un-prepared, since working in City Sports’ Buying office I’ve become much more au fait with the latest and greatest technologies, so my knee is taped for support with KT tape (a niggling problem from way back when I used to clock up the miles running in London), CEP compression socks are on to boost energy and aid my recovery tomorrow (I feel a bit like a Gwen Stefani Hola Back girl) and I decide on Asics GT 2160’s…more support and a nice squishy feel that should keep a spring in my step.

Fast forward a month and on a bright and early Friday morning we head to the race start…chauffeured by our brilliant drivers, Brandi & Kelly.  This is great news as it means we only have to concentrate on the running, but that’s the part that’s worrying me.  It’s funny, we all catch ourselves eyeing up what everyone else is wearing….Brooks & Saucony seem to be the footwear of choice but I’m sticking to my Nike Free’s, they make me feel light, fast and…well…free!

The weather is hot and sunny and we’re deep in beautiful Amish country, it almost feels as though we’ve travelled back in time!  We see off our first runner, Alecia, and now have about 6 hours to prepare, snack on GU energy gels & Twizzlers and bond with our team mates.  Margot, the last runner from van 1, sprints fresh footed into the final exchange of their collective fist leg looking very cool sporting a pair of classic wayfarers!  She says they’re the comfiest sunnies to run in, I decide to take her advice…she’s only right!

Our van (2) starts off strong, there are some amazing runners in our van who are nothing short of inspirational!  I’m certainly the weakest link but no-one cares.  It’s more about completing this as a team, we’re all looking after and out for each other, keeping each other laughing with silly jokes that get all the more silly as sleep deprivation kicks in around 2am!   There’s real camaraderie and I suspect i’m going to come out of this experience with an element of Stockholm Syndrome….i love these guys!  As we settle into our night leg the temperatures have really dropped, it’s time to layer.  In a van mainly full of boys I manage to contort myself out of my shorts and into my new 2XU full length compression leggings whilst in my sleeping bag…I definitely feel compressed…but my legs get an almost instant feeling of relief…heaven!

About 24 hours after Alecia ran over the start line we are on our third and final leg….our muscles are aching, we’ve had no sleep and no “real” food – but the joy is we are together in our tiredness, our achiness, our hunger and, to be frank, our smelliness and we spur each other on and finish strong.  As Chris jubilantly crosses the finish line, we place first in our division, I think to myself “this is the most fun race I’ve ever been a part of”!

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