In its own right, racing solo (and by "solo," I mean, you're probably sharing the road with anywhere from five- to forty-thousand other runners), gunning for an individual record and crossing the finish line all by your own doing are unique aspects of the road race.
But relay racing is an event of shared camaraderie and teamwork; an experience many runners never get to experience simply because running is such an individualized sport.
However, the relay race sector of running is growing quite rapidly, and while there’s no official organization that tracks data for participation, in a story last year Fortune.com helped to shine a light on just how quickly it’s gaining steam.
“Ragnar had 72,000 participants last year, Hood to Coast had 20,000, and Reach the Beach had 7,600; then there are scores of smaller relays that tend to get 2,000 people each. The web site Relay Guide lists 59 different relay-type events in the U.S., ranging in distance from 25 miles to over 200, and SFIA (Sports & Fitness Industry of America) says 1.2 million people in 2011 participated in “adventure racing,” which it defines as any kind of racing “in extreme temperatures or unconventional settings,” including mud runs and obstacle races.”
And while some American relay races, like Alaska’s Klondike Road Relay, have been around for upwards of 30 years, many are now just seeing a significant increase in participation levels. This year the Klondike race, which covers a historic, 110-mile gold rush route from Skagway to Whitehorse in Canada’s Yukon Territory, hosted a record-breaking 180 teams (1,661 participants in total).
Never thought you'd want to run a relay race? Been thinking about it but aren't sure it will be worth the time and money?
Here are a few reasons why shouldn't think twice about signing up.
1. Shake up your normal running routine.
Like I said, there's no doubt you'll have fun running any traditional road race. But if you're in search of an event that will seriously up the excitement factor, then look no further than the relay race. Think about it; how many road races have you run over the course of your running career? Aside from the distance and location, how many of them have pretty much been the same? If you're ready to shake up your routine and try something new, a relay race will provide you with an entirely new and exciting running experience.
2. Be part of a team.
Many runners love their sport because it allows for alone time; a rare chance to quiet the mind (or, for some, let it ramble on and on) and just run. With relay races, you won't lose this cherished aspect of running (you'll be running your leg of the race on your own, with a support vehicle in tow) but at the same time, you'll gain the chance to be part of a team that will work together to reach the finish line. Not only will you have the chance to bond closely with other runners (most relay races cover long distances and last overnight), but you'll likely end up learning new things about the sport from them, which is a truly invaluable aspect of the entire experience.
While relay races are growing in popularity, they're still not quite as abundant as traditional road races. It's not likely you'll find one hosted by your hometown. But that's OK, because participating in a relay race gives you a great excuse to do some traveling. Not that you can't travel for other types of races, but with a relay race you'll get to visit a new place and explore it in a highly unconventional way. Not to mention, most relay races are hosted on exquisitely scenic routes; it’s a chance to see new sights unlike any you've ever experienced before.