This weekend I had the opportunity to participate in Reach the Beach, a 200 mile relay race that takes place over two days. It was such a different aspect of the run community, and I had a blast. Read more to learn more about the race, and see some photos!
I joined a team called Calleys Crew, which is a team that has participated in the race I believe for the last 9 years in honor of a runner's mother. I have always wanted to do one of these races but if you are new to it, it's impossible to understand how to organize a team of 12 people to run 200 miles. A friend of one of the team members had posted in a group that I'm in on Facebook that they needed an extra runner and I was ecstatic to join in the fun. I actually had never met any of these people before Friday, so it was a cool experience to spend with complete strangers. The team consisted of 12 individuals of varying abilities of running and two 15- person vans.
At 6am on Friday half of us met outside the city and drove up to New Hampshire to meet the rest of the team. The race start was at Breton Woods at 10:30am on Friday. It was exciting to drive up to the ski resort and see all of the vans, many of them decorated, and even more of them having themes with their runners. We saw one team of cows, another dressed as vikings, one themed like Anchorman the movie. We did not have a theme, but our van was the biggest one and many people stopped us along the way for a "tour".
Our first runner had to run just over 2 miles straight up and down the ski slope, though we couldn't find him at the start and had no idea that he had started until we saw him coming in to bass the baton (a wrist band) to our second runner. From when we started running to the finish we always had a runner on the course, a runner waiting on deck at the next transition point, and two moving vans. On a longer run the van would pull off to the side of the road for moral support and and for the runner to refuel with snacks and water. We then would meet the runner at the next transition area and continued in that fashion for about 30 hours! As you can imagine, it was a lot to coordinate! I'd say we did pretty good considering there was only one point when a runner completed his leg and our van hadn't quite gotten to the transition point yet.
My first leg was an 8.5 mile run but with no van support because of very small roads. Since I'm in the middle of marathon training, I thought I would use this mid- distance run for a test run of my ultimate marathon goal pace for my upcoming New York marathon- that's if my race day is absolutely fantastic, all the stars align, and I pull together every ounce of effort, mental toughness, and physical precision and finish in 4 hours. I did most of my 8.5 miles at an ~8:30min/mile pace, which would accomplish a 4 hour finish in a marathon given varied terrain, so this was a great run.
The greatest part of the race was running through the night for my second leg. Every runner was required to wear a reflective vest, headlamp, and blinking lights on their front and back because the only lighting on the streets for the most part was us, and the lights of any vans driving by. My van started our night runs at about 2am. I was passed out but knew that our first runner had gone out on his leg of about 7 miles on a very hilly course. My night leg was 3.5 miles starting at 5am so it wasn't too early in the morning. I ran this leg as fast as I could and my goal was to get as many "road- kills" as possible. We each counted how many people we passed (and didn't pass us back) on each run- and this is considered a road- kill. I had 9 on this run, though I passed about 5 people coming into the transition point because they had missed the turn sign and I didn't.
We slept in the van while Van #1 was doing their evening runs from about 9pm -1:30pm Friday after feasting on a Dunkin Donuts breakfast (not my first choice). Our last runs were challenging because of the heat and just being tired of sitting in a van and running- I guess this isn't surprising! My 4.5 miles was pretty darn slow given the heat, no support on course, and I was just plain exhausted. I did still manage to pass 6 people, and my only motivation for that was to just be done with running for the weekend.
Our last runner finished her leg running on the beach and both vans met up to run to the finish with her, and receive our medals. We came in 193rd place out of 499 teams with an average pace of 9:07 min/mile and a total time of 30 hours, 34 minutes, and 16 seconds. I'd say to have completed 200 miles at such a pace is a great accomplishment!
The best part of the race for me was doing something I have been doing for years alone, with other people. Even though they were complete strangers, by the end of the two days I felt like I knew the other runners pretty well. Everybody was so supportive within our team, and between teams. We often would offer water to other runners on the course if they looked like they needed it and you could see the excitement of everybody running by when they realized we were cheering for them.
It was also very motivating to be around a lot of these other teams. We saw dances instead of cheering, much like one would do after a touchdown. People honked, yelled, clapped, and had cow bells. Many teams had a theme and their vans were decorated accordingly. Some of my favorite were a team of Vikings, the news team from Anchorman, cows, and many other groups with matching outfits, shirts, and highly decorated vans. It reminded me of my days playing volleyball in high school- we used to paint all over the vans and cars on our way to tournaments!
I'll definitely be back next year, if not with Calleys Crew with my own from Erica Soma Fitness, LLC! If this is something that interests you, let me know! Additionally, if it's something that you think you'd like to work towards, we can do that as well. Runs can range in distance from 2-12 miles so I am confident that with appropriate preparation every one of you could accomplish and experience such an amazing race!