Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Ragnar After Dark

When I opened my eyes, I didn’t quite know where I was. Dark waves swallowed the flat gray light and sleeping bags dotted the beach. It started to come back to me slowly. Ragnar.

I’d finished my first run some six hours ago, a brisk nine miler that at the time I clicked my watch left me wondering how I could possibly complete a second one after the sun went down. But I reminded myself that I always felt this way after the first leg and had come to rely on the power nap. I clung to my belief that the second Ragnar run always proved the best.

I rolled up my sleeping bag and widened my eyes, willing myself awake. My teammates stirred, in various stages of sleep, some completely wrapped in their bags like burritos, others with their heads poking out and a t-shirt to cover their eyes.

Vans rolled in and the once empty parking lot teemed with 12-passenger vans. Hmm, someone could get the wrong idea. Christmas lights outlined van doors and runners crept alongside to tag them with magnets, markers, and even gummy monkeys.

I read over my leg while our van filled with groggy runners, everyone groping for some sort of food, the life suddenly returning to them.

Finally, in total darkness, we moved to the exchange point. The steady roorsh! of the waves replaced by the chatter of runners and a volunteer crying out numbers. A random cheer rose above the others when a runner came in. I used the porta-potty twice, unable to relax and eager from the anticipation. The night felt coldish but the air muggy with the ocean air. Even if I wanted to put on more than my singlet and short-shorts, I had nothing with me.

“163!” rose up above the crowd. I shed my jacket and pants and hurried to the exchange. The bracelet slapped on my wrist and I bolted from the gate, nearly side-swiped by another starting at the same time. We matched strides for 10 meters before I bolted in front of him.

The noise disappeared behind me and my headlamp cast a soft halo around me. The world grew silent as I settled in. My breathing, my footfalls, my arms pumping fell into a steady rhythm and I melded into the night. I didn’t worry about pace, but rather ran by feel and listened for my watch to beep to tick off the miles.

When I neared the first turn, the street names didn’t sync up with what I’d remembered so I cautiously carried on hoping to see the reassuring strobe of another runner’s butt blinky ahead of me. I spotted one and called out. “Are you leg 18?” “Huh? I’m runner…I don’ t know…seven?’
“Ok, thanks!”

Good enough for me. I surged on through the Cape Cod neighborhood streets. Some houses had lights on, while others had retired for the night. I wondered what they might think of the steady string of runners going by at all hours.

A man with a dog crossed the street opposite me and asked, “Where are you running from?”
“Plymouth,” I breathed.
“Damn! Have fun!” he yelled back, as I disappeared under the street lamps.
When I came upon other runners, I tossed a wave and a “Looking good,” hoping not to startle them. It didn’t always work.

The sidewalks rose and fell unevenly and roots and potholes offered an agility challenge for my ankles. I missed sighting a pothole and misjudged my step and felt the tendon running from my hamstring to my knee stretch a little too far. I cursed and made for the shoulder on the road to avoid the broken pavement.

At seven miles, my breath plumed in front of me. The night air felt cool on my hands yet the air was thick and my body slick with sweat. My vanmates drove by with an adrenaline infused whoop that carried me the remaining two miles to the exchange.

The lights of the main state road glowed ahead and I knew I had to be close. I took a pull on my water bottle, For courage, I told myself and quickened my turnover. I made the final turn and saw the row of vans in the parking lot a half mile ahead. Two laps, I told myself, meaning around the track. My leg felt tight but I was near done now. I turned into the parking lot, nearly missing the turn, and handed off to my teammate. I blew out hard and put my hands on my head.

The night run is always the best.

Check out my Ragnar Cape Cod Redux on the Ragnar Relay Blognar.


  1. I'm running as part of an ultra team in Ragnar Chicago. I have a couple night legs. I do worry about directional issues but am hoping to just keep following somebody "in the know". Great job!

    1. That's awesome! I've always wanted to try doing an ultra. You will have a blast. Enjoy!


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