For some, running is a way of life. For others, it is a form of exercise only attempted when one's belly is showing or the scale is screaming for a little relief.
But whether it's the joy of sharing 192 miles with 11 sweaty friends, seeing the scale in your bathroom jump back five pounds, dressing up in crazy outfits, or winning the shiny medal and enjoying the humongous after party, the Ragnar Relay: Wasatch Back has something for you.
What is the Ragnar Relay? Some call it a slumber party without sleep, pillows or deodorant. Others call it crazy. To put it simply, you and 11 of your closest friends run/walk/jog 192 miles of the most scenic and treacherous terrain Utah can dish out, from Logan to Park City.
The relay has been going on for eight years and a portion of the proceeds goes to the American Cancer Society. Each team has six to 12 runners. Each runner has three legs of the race to complete, and each leg is ranked easy, moderate, hard or very hard depending on the distance, terrain and traffic. Runners get to pick their route so, whether you are a jogger, beginning runner, or a professional, there's a route for you.
At the Ragnar, you will not be surprised to see a giant bra strapped to the hood of a van, a flashing wire-frame reindeer driving into the sunset, or Superman running in his tights. Each team can dress up and decorate their van and the team with the most decorative van gets a prize.
You might think a journey such as this requires many hours of sleep and a healthy diet but, on the Ragnar, it is almost prohibited. While the race is taking place, fast-food restaurants better be stocked to the max, because running works up quite an appetite and runners aren't giving up their unhealthy habits for this event.
Sleep is also carelessly thrown away as your team runs through the night and into the morning. Runners are only allowed the occasional nap in the car and a few hours of sleep in a school gym between the second and third van exchanges.
I took part this year, on June 17-18, and last year and let me tell you, it was a blast! My team this year was a ragtag bunch of runners, joggers and walkers. We called ourselves "This Fat Guy Can Run" and while only two of us sported Santa outfits, both vans had a wonderful assortment of Christmas lights and a wire-frame reindeer which made it easy to pick out the vehicles in the dark. Most of my team members were adults and before the race started we hardly knew each other. By the end of the race, we had all become close friends.
This year I was assigned to legs 10, 22 and 34. Leg 10 was a flat and easy 4 miles that I quickly brushed through; Leg 22 was a cool and steady 8-mile night run that felt quite refreshing as the chilly air brushed past my weary body.
But Leg 34 was the run of all runs, the hardest hill the Ragnar's got. It's such a challenge that race officials decided to name it "The Ragnar" and time it separately as well as with the rest of the race. The leg is 4 miles long, nearly all uphill. It is so difficult that even college cross country runners have been found walking it.
I'll admit that I did walk parts of it but, with a full van of people cheering me on and supporting me with enough water to keep my mouth moist, I finished it in record time, 22nd in the mixed gender division at 39:41, and managed to pass 33 people while I was at it.
By the end of the race, I was completely worn out but, the feeling of accomplishment and excitement I experienced as I crossed the line with the rest of my team, rid me of all exhaustion. Overall, the Ragnar Relay: Wasatch Back is a memorable experience that anyone who wishes to lose weight, get a good workout, and have fun, all at the same time, should attend. Whether you are a member of the volunteer staff, or a runner, you will make memories and have the kind of fun that no other experience could create.
Shane Goudy will be a senior at Northridge High in the fall and loves writing and running. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.