Five Reasons To Run A Relay Race

Multiple friends. Countless miles. A smelly van. What's not to love about relay races?

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You almost can’t go on social media without seeing it: a friend (or multiple friends) who participated in a multi-day relay race sharing pictures of their fun-yet-exhausting experience. Relay races have become incredibly popular among all types of runners, and events are popping up for competition, entertainment, charity…and sometimes even a combination of all three.

Their popularity may leave you wondering what all of the fuss is about, or more importantly, it may leave you wondering what you are missing. Here are five reasons to run a team relay race.

Run Far! But Not Too Far…

Relay races allow runners to participate in multi-day stage events without having to run the ultra length distances many multi-day stage events typically require. In a relay race, runners on teams of 4–10 (or sometimes even more) cover 100–200+ miles. The distance is typically split up into multiple legs for each runner, making the distance more doable for everyone.

With that said, you typically still have to run a significant number of miles, albeit spread out over multiple legs. Thus, relays often provide much more of a challenge—and bragging rights—than your average road race.

Bond With Friends

Nothing brings friends closer together like being trapped in the small confines of a relay van, covered in sweat, and smelling like a gym locker room. There is something special about sharing your hard-earned accomplishments—as well as your raw and vulnerable low points—with your friends. These are the types of experiences that truly strengthen a friendship.

Make New Friends

Skip the small talk and pleasantries and instead go right to the “could you please pass the Bodyglide? My thighs are rubbing.” Again, nothing brings people closer together like being trapped in the small confines of a relay van, covered in sweat, and smelling like a gym locker room. Bond over blisters, commiserate over chafing, and share stories over countless miles in the van.

Get Silly

When I posed the question to my Facebook friends “what are your top reasons for running a relay race?” I was inundated by countless comments that included back and forth banter and inside jokes between friends. And of course, none of it made any sense to me or anyone else who wasn’t a part of their relay team. But apparently chaos ensues during the middle of the night when a group of runners are deliriously tired yet full of caffeine and have some significant mileage to cover.

Relay races are also known for their participants’ willingness to don costumes, decorate their team vans, or deck out campsites in elaborate themes. It truly can be one big, running party.

See New Sights, Explore New Places

Traditional road races typically require a ton of planning that can be limiting to sights and scenery. But with a relay race, more distance is covered with fewer logistics in the way of road closures, ensuring the course circles back to the starting area, etc. This opens up a whole new world of opportunity to cover roads and trails that might be missed by a traditional race. Further, many relays are point “A” to point “B”–style races. While one runner is covering their leg on foot, a van full of the rest of the team drives to the next transition zone. Therefore, even though you aren’t running all 200+ miles, you still get to see most of it.

Relay races can be a once-in-a-lifetime, unforgettable experience for you and your running friends, both old and new. But you won’t know until you try! Gather your team, find a course, and run!