While you’re sleeping, these New Yorkers are running 200 miles

The Ragnar Relay has become the country's premiere overnight running relay. We meet some of the adrenaline junkies taking part in the New York race.

woman runner in a hoodie

Later this week, while you’re snoring away at 3 a.m., teams of intrepid New Yorkers will be wide awake in the Catskills—running.

The Ragnar Relay, named for a Norse king and explorer, leads 214 teams nationwide. Each team has 12 runners, who cover 200 miles of terrain. The New York relay this week is from Bethel (Woodstock Festival’s true home) to Westchester County. “Some call it a slumber party without sleep, pillows or deodorant,” the Ragnar website reads. “We call it the Ragnar Relay.”

Here’s how it breaks down: One team member runs at a time, churning out between three and eight miles, while the rest of the team follows (or rests) in one of two required support vehicles. Runners are on the hook for three segments each and “a day, a night, and a day later, the Ragnar site loosely reads, “you’ll have made it all the way from start to finish.”

So just who are these crazies, running through all hours of the night?

Turner Roach is captain of team “Double Knots,” which trained for its first New York City Marathon last year, before setting its sights on the Ragnar. (The teammates christened themselves “Double Knots” in homage to their coach, who was always telling them to, well, double knot their laces.)

West Coast Ragnar Team
A West Coast Ragnar Relay team (Photo: johnnyandkara.blogspot.com)

The especially inspiring thing? Before last year, none of the teammates had competed in a marathon and many had never tried anything beyond a 5K.

“To a crew that ran a marathon together, running almost 200 miles was a natural progression in our minds,” says Roach. “Now we’re just a bunch of adrenaline junkies who are always looking for the next badge of honor to add to our running repertoire.”

Jessica Green is the leader of a team formed out of the Lululemon Brooklyn showroom. Nearly all of the runners on team Hot Bird (named after her coaching business) are relay neophytes, too. Green says that the great things about relays is that they let people really focus in on specific, attainable goals.

Another benefit? Fun.

“The Ragnar brings people together and reminds us that being silly and athletic and part of a sports team is something we can all do,” Green says, adding, “It’s magical!” —Catherine Pearson

The Ragnar Relay New York is May 13–14. Visit www.ragnarrelay.com for more information on joining or registering a team for the next relay.

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