Overnight Relays, Leg 1: Getting Started

Bourbon Chase
Thinking about an overnight relay? Our guide will help you get to the start line!

It’s that time of year when runners everywhere think about how to fill their race calendars for the upcoming year. Are you intrigued by this whole overnight relay thing, but not sure where or how to start?

Between the two of us, Licorice and I have run a total of five overnight relays… that’s almost 1,000 miles for our collective teams. So follow along as we help you get your feet wet on your relay journey!

Step One: Either Form (or Join) a Team….

This is sort of a chicken-and-egg situation. You can start with the race or the team, who then chooses a race. Totally up to you!

Do you have running friends who you might be up for this adventure? Feel them out on your next run together, send them pestering emails or otherwise try to convince them why it would be awesome!

Licorice advises (and I agree) that a good thing to determine early on is what your team’s goal will be – are you embarking on this relay for fun or for time? Licorice says, “That one thing will determine the vibe in your team vans, and everyone involved will have a much better experience if they’re all on the same page.”

Determine how many people you will need for your team. Do you want to do the more traditional 12 person team, or dive right in as an ultra group? You may even reach beyond your immediate circle. Licorice’s words of wisdom are, “Recruit people that you’ll have fun with and won’t mind spending a LOT of time with, since you’ll be in a van with 5 of them for about 36 hours.” Chances are that you will get annoyed with your teammates at some point during the relay, but better to at least start off all liking each other, right?

Two last things here. First, make sure you have alternates in place. Teams register for relays so far in advance that injuries, illnesses or other conflicts are bound to pop up. Having a few interested alternates in the wings will have you the stress of scrambling down the road if you have a teammate drop out! Also, some races require you to provide volunteers, so be thinking of those folks, too – although you may have the option to pay a higher registration fee if you can’t come up with volunteers.

… or Select a Race

Although the options are more limited than for other types of races, overnight relays are a growing trend! You will find over 50 of them in the 150 mile and above category listed at RelayGuide.com. You may want to stay close to home your first time out on the relay road, or travel to a certain destination.  Consider all of the elements you would when normally selecting a race – size, price, running surface – and on and on. Feeling overwhelmed? Utilize word of mouth (or word of Facebook). Licorice says, “Ask around! If you know someone (or know someone who knows someone) who’s done a relay that you’re interested in, ask them how the experience was.”

Use the web! RelayGuide.com is a great site, but is growing and doesn’t have tons of reviews. Licorice suggests searching for the name of the race with “review” or “report”. Obviously you’ll want to check out the race’s web site, but don’t stop there. Their social media pages can be great sources of information – not just from the race, but from previous runners. And if the race has forums on their site, be sure to visit those, too, when making your decision and even into the planning stages for your race.

Hood to Coast 2010
Hood to Coast. One of the most popular overnight relays around. (Photo credit: keeganmullaney)

Step Two: Have a Team Meeting

Set aside some time where your whole team can meet to talk about race logistics. (If you can’t meet in person, of course Skype, email, FaceTime or anything else will work, too!) Things you’ll want to talk about right off the bat: 1) are you providing race volunteers? 2) What should your team name be? 3) Are you using drivers or getting behind the wheel yourselves? If time allows, consider getting into the relay spirit by watching Hood to Coast.

Step Three: Register!

Click submit on that registration form or enter the lottery and have your entire team cross their fingers and toes!

Have you ever done an overnight relay? What was the most fun thing about it? What was the most annoying?

Southern transplant who loves 90s boy bands, outdoor adventures and college basketball, although not necessarily in that order. Recovering running perfectionist.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.