Let's get one thing straight, I am not a long distance runner. I have run great distances in the past because coaches, instructors and superiors have told me to. I run to make weight, I run to pursue and of course, I run when chased. I have never run in a foot race of any kind after the 7th grade until today. 30 years later, my instinct to never back down from a challenge and to always say YES may have flipped my sorry ass from the frying pan into the fryer.
Enter the RAGNAR RELAY. A 175 mile race that was started in 1980 by a guy named Steve Hill who is obviously a sadist at heart and probably not to be trusted. The race is named in honor of Ragnar, a Norse King who is known for pirating and pillaging as only good Vikings do. I don't know what the connection to the race is other than Ragnar was crazy and the maniacs who run this thing are even crazier.
The Ragnar Relay is a 175 mile race over a 24 hour period. The 175 miles are split up between 12 team members. Some teams have 6 but those groups should be ashamed of themselves for being able to run that far and that fast without dying.
Each team members is responsible for 3 legs of the race for a total of 16 miles. The legs are rated from MODERATE, HARSH to VERY HARSH (notice there's no "EASY" if there is, I wasn't assigned one). We're running in the May 15th relay from Woodstock, NY to Bronx, NY. We start at 8:00am and will probably finish up around 9:00am the next morning. So that means running in the middle of the night and at all hours, depending when you're scheduled to run.
12 people in 2 vans, sweating, smelling and eating a lot of prepackaged, complex carb supplements that taste like cardboard and old socks. I can smell the body order NOW! Just like training camp, another memory I would rather leave in the far reaches of my mind with other memories like losing my 4th grade girl friend to Gary Fransiconi.
I started training in February. 3, miles, 4 miles, 5 miles, 8 miles, 10 miles, I've been cruising and thought I was doing great, until our first team practice last Sunday.
Our team of 12 consists of 3 old guys (one of which I am) and 9 young bucks: 20 somethings who have not yet felt the effects of the harsh life, endless hours of torture that can only be attributed to violent hobbies, dangerous job obligations and plain old lack of judgment.
Last Sunday we all met for the first time at our team leader, Joe's house. Incidentally, Joe is the one who asked me to run the race within 5 minutes of our meting for the first time...I should have known better.
We started to get to know each other (read feel each other out). In addition to Joe, two of the guys Joe's son Tom and his friend Nick, seemed to be the ones with the running experience. Of course Nick was the guy who hasn't worked out in a while. NOTE: when someone tells you this, be prepared to be sandbagged. People ho train a lot will tell you they haven't been training while people who don't train, tell you they train all of the time.
At this point I know I'm not the fastest in the room. But I'm thinking, I've been training since February, how bad can it be?
We start our 6 mile work out. Tom takes off like a shot, he's so far ahead he can only be tracked by satellite. The two old men of the group me and Joe started side by side (Joe has about 10 years on me but to be honest, the way I ran, you wouldn't know the difference). After a few hundred yards I decide to make the novice mistake of going faster, a decision I will live to regret.
At 2 miles we've spread out a bit. I'm in second and I'm so far in second that I can barely make out Tom's figure on the horizon. Meanwhile I pick up a little red dot in my peripheral vision.
Mile 3, the red dot can now be identified him as Nick "the guy who hasn't run in two months." By mile 3.5 Nick is knocking at my back door and I'm maintaining my pace. At mile 3.75 he passes me and I have a startling revelation...
I don't know how to run!
This kid cruises by me like he's walking, I means as he pulls away he looks like he's literally gliding. I on the other hand am feeling every bump in the damn road.
Ignorance exposed. I realize that I have no long distance running technique whatsoever. 42 years of walking, sprinting, climbing, repelling, fighting and all of the other F words, I can't run.
At this point I come to my second revelation...
I have 2 miles to go and I've been trying to keep up with the marathon man.
As Nick fades in the distance I bare down for the final 1/3 of training.
The last mile sucked, it was all up hill. What pissed me of about this hill is that it wasn't a steep, kick your ass and make you throw up hill. It's a subtle incline that makes you feel like its not really a hill at all. It's just a steady stream of gravity weighing your body down. Like a millstone, pulverizing your body and your will to run.
I'm thinking I should maybe walk.
Just as I'm going to submit, Joe comes out of nowhere and is at my side. So much for stopping. The former Ranger was exactly what I needed to kick it into high gear and finished the Godforsaken workout.
So how fast was I running? Try 8 minute and 59 seconds per mile for 6 miles. That's my est time for 6 miles. Too bad that time paled in comparison to the young bucks 7 minute mile times.
Like I said, I'm not a runner but hell, it's never too late to start new things and meet new challenges. Accepting new challenges is the secret to youth. Learning is the key to being young. Getting out of your comfort zone is humbling but it allows you to understand what it's like to be a beginner, to learn and look awkward doing it. As an instructor, mentor, teacher or supervisor It's important that you do things that take you completely out of your element.
Now I'm off to do another 8 miles...more to come.
To learn more about the Ragnar Relay go HERE
Damian Ross is CEO if The Self Defense Company and founder of The Self Defense Training System.
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