Have you heard of the epic adventure that is the Ragnar Relay? Imagine you and 11 of your closest friends running 200(ish) miles, day and night, relay-style, through some of the most scenic terrain North America could muster. Add in crazy runners, inside jokes and a mild case of sleep deprivation. The result? Some call it a slumber party without sleep, pillows or deodorant. City Sports calls it one of the most fun and unique team bonding experiences around.
Having been lucky enough to participate in numerous Ragnar Relay races, some of City Sports own can attest to the infinite experiences to be had. Our favorite of which: the nighttime runs. There is nothing quite like going out to Battle The Dark in the middle of the night, so long as you have the appropriate gear. To learn more about this and other elements of this overnight race we caught up with Steven Aderholt, Safety Director for the Ragnar Relay Series.
Can you explain what the Ragnar Relay race entails and your role with the organization?
I am the Director of Safety for Ragnar Relay, which is a crazy, fun overnight running adventure that covers 200ish miles. Teams are made up of 12 people in 2 vans or 6 people in 1 van. Each participant runs 3 times (each leg is anywhere from 3 to 8 miles). It’s a relay, so as the each runner begins, the crew in the vehicle drives ahead, cheers for their runner, and meets them at the exchange point to pick them up and drop off the next runner. After the first 6 legs, van 2 picks up the slack and repeats the process This leapfrogging pattern continues day and night all the way to the much anticipated finish line.
What specific gear do you require runners to have prior to registering for the race and why?
Ragnar Relay requires every runner to have a reflective vest prior to getting on the course. In addition, each team must have 4 headlamps and 4 blinking LED tail-lights. We require each team to check in with the required gear before getting their race bibs and attend a 10-15 minute safety briefing.
Beyond what runners must wear, what are the safety requirements that teams must adhere to during the race?
Night Time Hours: Each runner starting a leg after nighttime hours (nighttime hours are designated before the race) must wear a reflective vest, a headlamp, and a blinking LED tail-light. Any participant (not just the runner) who is outside of their team van during nighttime hours (nighttime hours are designated before the race) must wear a reflective vest.
Crossing Flags: Any participant (not the runner) who is outside of their team van and crossing a road, must do so with the aid of an orange crossing flag. Ragnar Events provides (4) orange crossing flags to each team before the race, free of charge.
No Van Support Legs: Certain legs of the race are designated as NO VAN SUPPORT legs. This means that participants (not the runners) are not allowed outside of the van to support their runners along this leg.
Safety Officer: Each Ragnar Relay van is required to have a safety officer/navigator that is awake at all times. The safety officer is responsible for making sure that the team always has safety on the brain.
How much more visible is a runner donned in full HiViz (high-visibility and reflective) gear than a runner wearing non-HiViz
In street clothes at night, you are only visible to drivers up to 200 feet, in dark conditions. Most reflective vests make it so runners become visible to drivers up to 1200+ feet. Adding headlamps and flashing LED tail-lights provides increased visibility and safety.
Other than wearing HiViz gear, what can a runner do to stay safe when they are out logging miles in the dark?
We recommend that runners run against traffic. Running against traffic ensures better visibility for automobiles, cyclists, and runners. Whether they are training for a Ragnar or any other race, runners should wear a reflective vest, headlamp, and blinking LED tail-light if they are running at night. Listening to music with headphones while running can be dangerous. Runners need to be alert and aware of their surroundings at all times. We encourage runners who do run to music to listen without any headphones or just use one ear piece. It’s a good idea to carry a cell phone while running and runners should always carry their ID while running. This helps authorities respond quickly if there is an accident. An ID tag which states medical conditions/history is also extremely useful.