10 Tips for Running Your First Ragnar

Running a Ragnar Relay was definitely a big highlight of my running life! It’s about more than just the running though as being part of a team is what really makes the adventure so exciting. With my first Ragnar under my belt I’m already daydreaming about the next one! Looking back on the experience I realized just how much effort goes into the planning and execution of such an event. Ragnar tips marontherun.com

Ragnar DC itself had to deal with a hurricane and other damaging elements for their thousands of participants and volunteers. Now that I’ve had a few weeks to reflect I thought I’d offer a few tips for any first timers considering participating, based on my own lessons learned. We were fortunate enough to have a handful of experienced Ragnarians on our team which made things go a lot smoother!

Having a strong Captain is key. Our captain, Lisa, was amazing. She has done several Ragnars and relay events so knew how to manage a lot of the logistics for this event. Beyond that she is extremely organized and detailed. Even if no one on your team has done this before, put someone in charge who is a strong leader, has thick skin and can manage details well. 

Communicate, communicate, communicate. This point cannot be underscored enough. From the moment we started discussing putting a team together we created a private Facebook group so we could share information. With half our team traveling from all parts of the country it was essential to communicate arrival and departure times, checks-ins, exchange cell phone info and pick up logistics. During the event cell phone communication was just as important to ensure prompt arrival at the exchange locations and knowing your runner was ok on the course.  

Buy Ziploc Bags. I could hug whoever started this trend. Organizing your clothes and gear into Ziploc bags is a life (and smell) saver. I was fortunate in running Ragnar DC that I was close to home so had an opportunity to take things home and redistribute items but before that, particularly in rainy conditions, having separate and labeled bags for each leg and necessities was so essential. 

Slap Baton. Passing along my newbie mistake, when you exchange with the runner before you they slap the baton onto your wrist while in the chute. There is no need to carry it like a stick (unless you wanna of course). I learned that the hard way in the middle of the night when I accidentally slapped it on myself and went “OHHHHH!” #Eureka πŸ™‚ 

Lesson. Learned.

Lesson. Learned.

Details are everything. Much like communication is key, so is the coordination factor. There are so many details and moving parts that if you are not moving in a coordinated effort, things can go wrong. I mentioned the simple need to organize travel logistics for our team who traveled from both coasts. Ragnar also publishes a “Race Bible” with just about everything you need to know from safety to maps and precise directions to and from each leg. Our captain printed the entire thing and put in a binder for both Vans and it was beyond useful. When one person drove, another served as co-pilot and the Race Bible led the way.

Be Flexible. It is not easy to please 12 people unanimously. You are going to disagree about some things and that’s ok. Ragnar is a team effort and sometimes you might have to bend a little for the good of the group.  

Safety in the street. I was extremely impressed by the volunteers, staff and sheer level of coordination of this race. Ragnar does everything in their power to keep participants safe but you are at times running with traffic. You must adhere to stop lights and city street signs and you must be respectful of residents in the community. There were no talking zones particularly late at night where teams in vans couldn’t yell or cheer for their runner. 

Reflective Gear required. A lot of runners are early risers and start at zero dark thirty. If this is you, it’s likely you own a head lamp or reflective gear of some kind. Every single runner is required to have a reflective vest and each van needs to present 2 head lamps and rear lights of some kind. Lights can be shared but vests are required any time you are outside of the van at night. 

Hotels come in handy. Each team is different in their approach to a Ragnar event. Some like the idea of no sleep, catching cat naps in the van or camping out. While our team wasn’t unanimous on the idea of getting hotel rooms, they were welcomed after a rainy and cold weekend! We booked two double bed rooms at a place 40 minutes from our last exchange and a mere 15 minutes to the next one. When our van was done with legs 1 we checked in and were able to shower and nap for a couple of hours. Then we handed off the keys to the next van so they could enjoy the same amenities. Best $10 I ever spent! Ragnar Team marontherun.com

Are you considering running a Ragnar? Any veterans have an essential tip or lesson learned to add? Which Ragnar should I do next? πŸ™‚ 

53 thoughts on “10 Tips for Running Your First Ragnar

  1. YAY! I love Ragnar!!!! I’ve done three and every single team opted to go the sleeping bag and ground route but we usually stayed up talking all night so ya know…I will say on all three I froze my big butt off (2 TN runs and 1 KY) So glad you had a great time though! The hotel sounds sweet lol
    Kels @Blonder Side recently posted…Small Town Fall FestivalMy Profile

  2. I love ziploc bags for packing, so handy! We always take some empty ones with us on vacation too just in case. They’ve definitely come in handy when we’ve been caught in rain with electronics. The ragnar logistics definitely sound complicated so I can see that a great captain and strong communication would be vital.
    Chaitali recently posted…Run Disney, take my moneyMy Profile

  3. great tips! one of my girlfriends is really into these and does a couple a year. i’ve yet to do one (the whole running at night in the middle of the woods with nobody around scares the bejeeezus out of me, i can’t lie), but i’d definitely consider it at some point!
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  4. You should come up and do Reach the Beach NH which is now a part of Ragnar. It is an awesome event with great scenery and tons of fun. Ziploc bags are a definite necessity to keep the van from smelling super stinky! Great tips!
    Sandra Laflamme recently posted…Rowing for RunnersMy Profile

  5. I think the hotel capabilities are definitely lost on the newbies. My first Key West Ragnar we just camped and tried to sleep outdoors. It was terrible. Then for North Cal Ragnar, we shared a hotel and voila! Instant Energy and Refreshment! The shower was the highlight of the trip for me! lol
    From here out, I’ll always get a hotel along the route.
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  6. Ragnar races are a lot of fun. I think your tips are excellent.
    We actually rented vans that had much more room than we needed, so we could stretch out and sleep:) We lucked out and when were were coming down one of the mountains it ended our vans stretch so we camped out on my sisters trampoline for the night. If runners don’t want a hotel, I’d say look for campgrounds around.
    I also think it’s fun to find hidden gems to eat in along the way when it’s not your vans turn to be running:)
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