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Relay Racing 101

Since I'm fresh off of a relay race I thought it would be a fun thing to talk about today! I've only relay raced twice and both times were super fun and made the race day experience a lot different than I expected. There's good and bad to relay racing so I'm going to talk a little about both and then wait by the phone for you to ask me to partner with you.

The Good:

For anyone who isn't so sure about longer distance races, relaying can be a great option. Marathons are scary but a lot more doable when you split the work. My first relay race was at the Indianapolis Marathon almost 2 years ago. I was back into running and playing with the idea of another marathon. I had a few friends who were also looking to race but not taking things too seriously. I'm not sure when I came up with the genius plan to relay this race but once I had the team on board it was relatively smooth sailing.

Running the last 7 miles of a marathon is also a great self-esteem boost! After hours of waiting around I hit mile 19 fresh as a daisy right when the full runners were ready to crack. That meant for the first time in my racing life I was actually passing people! And then, not even being passed back! I also made it my civic duty to be that butterfly of positivity as I fluttered through the course. "Keep it up!" "You're doing great!" "Hang in there!" All of those things you absolutely hate to hear when you're on the brink of collapse and a few wheels have fallen off of your race but then are really grateful for later suddenly became my responsibility to say.

Motivationally (which is probably not an actual word), being part of a team is just awesome. When you hit that "I don't wanna play anymore" point in a race you have to remember it's not just about you. Other people are depending on you to either validate their own experience in the pain cave (or "the suck" if you're a military type) or allow them to create their own race adventure. You can't quit on other people, especially if you're the one who put it all together. I suppose that's why people often race for causes.

Before we even knew we'd be relay partners someday!

Most importantly, at the end of it all you have friends who contributed directly to your finish right there with you to join in on the celebration. There's something about celebrating with people who have done it that just makes things a little better. Not to discredit the support of family and friends at all! In fact another perk about the relay team is it can let your support system off the hook from long car rides, early wake up calls and hours of standing around alone. The Colonel has never come to a relay race because I have people there with me but I think he is really happy about that misses me.

The Bad:

Waiting, Stress and Unnecessary Pressure. That's pretty much it. Regardless of which leg of the relay you are (I was the first leg of the Muncie Relay and last for the marathon), your day will consist of a lot more waiting around than you may realize. As the first leg you get to go through the starting line and have all the jitters and butterflies and have all of your friends see you off. It's awesome! Your race is over quickly and you pass the baton and breathe a sigh of relief, right? Very very wrong. You're still actively racing. You're still nervous and jittery because now you're waiting on your friends and you (ideally) care very much about them. So between your own leg, worrying about the current leg and maybe even being with someone in a subsequent leg there's a lot of emotion going on. When I ran the anchor leg of the marathon I also put a lot of pressure on myself. My teammates each had their own struggles and as the "healthy" member I felt this pressure to perform really really well. I wanted to pick people off and make up tons of time and really do a great job for them. I definitely race harder when others are involved than when I'm racing for myself and that can be a good or bad thing. As the one who has suggested relay racing and gotten the team together I also place the responsibility of their enjoyment of a race on myself. If they tell me it was terrible I feel like it's my fault so the whole time anyone is out on course I'm just quietly praying that they're having a good time. Ridiculous? Probably. But it's just how I am and I think when you're racing with others you want everyone to have a good experience.

So what are some key points to remember?

  1. Relay racing is super fun!
  2. Find teammates that share your same goal. Are you just aiming to finish and have fun? Then don't pick the semi-pro to be on your team. If you're out to break a record, don't call me.
  3. Be prepared to play the waiting game.
  4. Find a way to manage stress. As a spectator I make signs and study maps so I can go see different spots on the course and that's really helpful to pass the time, have fun and make even more new friends!
  5. Give your usual sherpas a break. They might appreciate it and maybe be even more excited about your solo endeavor!
Now I'll commence waiting for my team invitation.


  1. I would love to do a relay race... but I'm so scared I'd slow everyone times down so much, I'd get thrown out of the group. I see that marathon relay teams in the mini & think how cool it would be to be a part of that.


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