My fellow Operation Kids colleague Don Stirling and I just returned from representing Operation Kids at the Ragnar Relay New York race. This first-year event was a rousing success. More than 75 teams competed in the Kingston (just south of Albany) to New York City race, running through some of the most beautiful country imaginable. The Friday start was a gorgeous day; then clouds and cooler temperatures rolled in overnight for the remainder for the race. The runners said they actually preferred the cooler temperatures.
Don and I had the opportunity to talk with many of the runners both during and after the race. They couldn’t stop talking about what a great experience they were having, and how they couldn’t wait to run again in next year’s race. Many also planned to run in other upcoming Ragnar races in New England and Washington, DC. Those sentiments came as no surprise; in every race we’ve attended we hear the same things from the runners. And then the race grows exponentially the following year.
What is it about running a Ragnar race that makes it so cool? Is it the physical challenge of the race – each participant running 15-20 miles, divided up into three legs, with a few hours of rest between legs? Is it the unique experience of running at night? Or getting to traverse 200 miles of some spectacular country?
It’s probably a little of all of the above, though I suspect the biggest single factor is how fun it is to do an all-nighter with 11 friends in a crazy running experience over several hundred miles. Being together at the end, running across the finish line as a group, often in costume, to celebrate having conquered the event definitely provides an adrenaline rush unrivaled in other races. For many teams, where they finished in the standings is inconsequential. The fact is that they finished and had a great time together. It’s no surprise they keep coming back.
We are there because Ragnar runners are encouraged to donate to Operation Kids as part of their race experience. We, in turn, forward all the funds we raise to local charities in the race community that provide health and fitness programs to underserved children. It’s a great opportunity to fund effective programs serving needy and deserving kids.
Many Ragnar runners are still just learning about the Operation Kids connection, but every time we tell the OK story, the runners are interested in the opportunity to help. We look forward to taking more opportunities to explain the great programs we support, and to giving runners another great reason to run.
For Don and I, our most cherished memory from the race may be the opportunity we had to serve as volunteers. I staffed Exchange 13 in front of the local Baptist church in Highland, New York until 1:30 am., while Don was a few miles down the road at Exchange 14. It was great meeting and assisting the runners while making sure that our section of the race was working smoothly. It was a great time – I can’t wait to do it again next race.
We’ll see you at Ragnar Relay Wasatch Back in 4.5 weeks!
Here are some experiences Ragnar Relay New York runners have posted on their own blogs: