Every now and again I receive an email that makes me literally squeal with excitement. In this instance it was Reebok inviting me to be part of a team running Ragnar Tennessee. As a part time blogger, part time student, money is something I worry about, however I still value amazing experiences over finances (sorry Tom) and so I didn’t think twice about saying yes to this amazing opportunity.
Ragnar has been on my bucket list for years, since seeing some of my fave bloggers take part in relays over the years – for those that aren’t as far down the internet rabbit hole as me, Ragnar is a relay race that involves 12 runners in two vans that run about 200 miles between them over a 24+hr period. Each person runs three times during that period, usually of distances between 3-10 miles at any stage.
(The full vlog is made, ready to go and taking HOURS to upload thanks to Youtube and the slowest internet known to man but I’ll let you know as soon as it’s live – I just don’t want to wait any longer to share this blog post! Don’t forget to subscribe to my channel here so that you’ll get an update when it’s finally finished processing!)
Our team was to be Team Floatride Europe, made up of 4 Brits, 2 French, 3 Swedes and 3 German bloggers. We stayed at a house in the one-horse town of Normandy, Tennessee (quite near the Jack Daniel’s distillery) to meet our team, and more importably, decorate our vans! Apparently this is of quite the importance as part of the Ragnar experience so we set off to Walmart without a plan…and bought about $800 worth of novelty ‘crap’ to stick to our van, as well as costumes and paint (as well as crucial snacks for the weekend).
When we arrived at the start line in Chattagnoo we discovered that we had infact gone totally overboard and were the most highly decorated vans in the car park.
Undeterred, we registered, watched the safety videos and I pinned on my bib, ready to start us off. As runner number 1, I ran the first, 13th and 25th legs of the race (5, 4 and 5.5 miles respectively).
I had chatted with Mary about sticking to marathon race pace throughout the weekend, which is around 8.30 min miles for Boston… and I did stick to it for the first mile, however then the competitive spirit took hold. For most of the Ragnar relay you are spread out, not knowing quite who you’re ‘racing’ against…except for that first mile. The starts are staggered, so our 11am wave had about 20 people all trying to get to the changeover first.
We ran along the river in Chattanooga which was beautiful in the sunshine (although I immediately regretted the long sleeve top), and where I handed over to Sam, our second runner, in fifth place. 8.06 average.
Sam’s first leg was only 3 miles so we jumped straight into the van and headed to our second changeover point to cheer him in, and see him hand the wristband to George… and so on through our six runners – George handed to Matthieu, who handed to Anne-Laure and onto Tashi. (Click on their names to check out their instagrams and more photos from our epic weekend).
Matthieu had the hardest leg of the day, leg 4 and earned a separate medal for his achievement!
After our sixth runner, Tashi, had completed her speedy 2.5 mile run and handed the wristband over to the first runner in van 2, we hung out for a while at the changeover before heading in search of proper food. Trip Advisor recommend Big Marv’s BBQ which we were a little apprehensive about upon arrival, but turned out to be awesome. I opted for a loaded jacket potato with pretty much all the toppings.
My next leg was originally planned to be just before 8pm, however both vans were running ahead of schedule, so I ended up getting the sunset run! Just as well as the route was an undulating 4 miles along a main road…super boring so I was glad that it was at least a nice time of day to run. It seemed to have warmed up too and I was drenched in sweat upon finishing. I had 3 ‘roadkills’ during this portion, which you tally on your van as the people you passed during your run. 7.42 average.
I babywiped in the back of the van and changed into my pjs for the night – an attractive pair of Avengers pj bottoms and an oversized Tennessee jumper I’d bought at Walmart – ready to cheer at the next couple of changeovers before trying to get some sleep in the back of the van. Our van became a total tip – anyone that knows me is probably unsurprised by this – however everyone in the van was also the same so it became part of the challenge to find your socks/shoes/head torch etc without stepping on a pack of cookies or a water bottle. It was quite hilarious, especially when compare to the German/Swedish van, which was immaculate.
Somehow I snagged the back row and slept a solid 3 hours before being woken to get ready for amy third and final leg… a pitch black 5.5 miles. I know a lot of people are curious as to how this night run felt, but it was actually a lot easier than I thought it would be. Firstly, I am very used to running very early in the morning so this was only a little bit earlier than I usually run, secondly and probably quite relevant is that we were still jet lagged and operating on a time zone 4 hours ahead!
But even if you aren’t benefiting from jet lag or are naturally an early runner, you are hyped up by the excitement of Ragnar so you quickly snap out of your tiredness.
My first mile felt slow, my legs felt tired and I struggled to adjust to the darkness. I was overtaken by a couple of people during that first mile and it left me feeling deflated and like I was letting my team down. But then, after about 10 mins, my legs switched into gear, I focused on my form and managed to pick up the pace a little, overtaking 8 people on my way to the exchange zone. 8.29 average pace.
It was still really muggy out there so I ended up stripping off my long sleeve top at the side of the road and just running in my reflective vest – benefit of it being dark!
Another question that came up was ‘did I feel safe the whole time’ – there was never a point that I was running on my own for any length of time and I could almost always see a headlamp up ahead of me, additionally there were frequently other Ragnar vans passing me on the road so I never really felt scared. I also ran with my phone just incase. One of our teammates did unfortunately get lost during his leg which would have scared the crap out of me, but he wasn’t the only one to take a wrong turning so again, wasn’t alone – but would have been very worrying. The routes were mostly well signposted though – there were signs when you had to turn, otherwise you had to assume you kept on the straight. My second and third legs were practically just one straight road which made it easy!
Unfortunately, Sam wasn’t quite ready for me in transition but he quickly arrived, grabbed the bracelet and headed off for his 6 miles.
I was buzzing after my run… a little awkward when everyone else in the van is still trying to sleep. I cheered the others through the next two checkpoints, and took full advantage of the great facilities (proper loos, free coffee and bagels) at 2/3 exchange. It was here that I met some ladies from teams that had started at 5am and 6am the previous day, a solid 5/6 hours before us and realised we must be doing pretty well.
Sunrise was a highlight for all of us, especially our runner 3 George, who deemed it one of the best runs of his life. The sky was stunning, considering there had been storm and thunder warnings, we were so lucky with the weather.
The shoes we were all wearing for the race were the brand new (out on April 1st) Floatrides, they are the new distance shoe from Reebok and reminded me a lot in style and fit of the UltraBoost. They come up a little narrower in the toe but the knit upper fits in a very similar way. They are really light weight and bouncy, and easily saw me through my 15 miles over the weekend. (Happy to do a full review if you guys want?)
We arrived at transition 31/32 with plenty of time to get into place to cheer Tashi in for our final leg and to treat ourselves to a (very dry) sausage biscuit… look how tired we are. It tasted so good (loved Sam asking for a receipt from the volunteers at their trestle table… he was met with blank faces).
And we were done… we handed the bracelet over to van 2 and arranged to meet them at the finish line in Nashville. We all agreed that a Starbucks stop on the way to our hotel was crucial – we looked like a complete state waiting for our triple shots!
After one of the best showers of my life – I even washed my hair twice – we headed down to the finish line to cheer Daniel, our final runner down the home straight and cross the line together.
200(ish) miles done in 25 hours and 26 minutes, and apparently we came 18th out of 200 teams. Not too shabby.
Every team that finishes can claim a free pizza per van, we demolished both van’s pizzas (van 2 went back to the hotel quite quickly to shower and nap) plus some beers in the fun finishers area, as well as taking advantage of the free massages – so painful!
That evening we had the chance to celebrate over dinner with the rest of Team Reebok including the American team – which Theodora and Dorothy (bloggers I’ve followed online for ages and met in real life too). A couple of us even managed to enjoy some of Nashville’s infamous Honky Tonk nightlife at some country bars… it was a lot of fun!
Thank you so so much to Reebok for hosting us this weekend and in particular to the amazing crew with us – Dana, Julia, Benny, and Sam. Thank you for inviting me, for looking after us, driving us, cooking, cleaning the van and being the best cheer squad around.