I am now three weeks past my Ragnar Great River experience and already looking forward to Ragnar Chicago next June. When I signed on to run Chicago this year, it was a “bucket list” item. I have several running related bucket list items. I have ticked a few off the list in the past eighteen months – Tough Mudder, a full marathon and Ragnar. I have to say that going into each of these I felt like they would be “one and done” races, but I somehow managed to fall in love with the Ragnar experience. That said, thinking back over the summer there are a few things I wish I would have known going into the Ragnar experience.
- You might be alone on your nighttime run. The nighttime run was my biggest unknown (okay, let’s be honest – fear) going into my first Ragnar. I had several people tell me “You will never actually be alone out there.” Liars. All of them. At my first Ragnar (Chicago), I saw maybe 5-7 runners in total. Much of that leg was at least through a rural neighborhood so you could see some signs of life and civilization in the form of lit up houses. (Still, not my idea of “lots of people around”.) Then came Ragnar Great River. I saw one person. (Unless you count the handful of drunks leaving the bars after closing in some rural downtown.) One. I slowed to chat with her for a minute just to have some human interaction before passing. The roads were rural, the night was dark and I was alone. But guess what? It was not awful. In fact, in both my Ragnar experiences I would have to say that the overnight runs were my favorite legs. There is something strangely peaceful and awesome about being completely alone in the world doing something you love. And even if you are alone, you know your crazy team is only a short drive away and they will come check on you if you don’t turn up when they expect you. Do not fear the nighttime run. Get yourself some awesome light up gear and embrace it!
- You will not need all that extra stuff you think you need to pack. On top of that, your teammates will thank you if you leave it home and have some extra space in your van instead. My first Ragnar I didn’t want to leave anything behind that I might need. While I may have been prepared for anything, I really just ended up frustrated. I kept “losing” things in my bags. I lost my wallet no less than three times sending me into a sleep-deprived panic. I just had too much stuff with me. The second time around I packed much lighter (in part because I was flying up to the start), but I had all my essentials and no panic of losing of things.
- You will not sleep as much as you hope to. I did (kind of) know this going into it, but figured I’d get 3-4 hours. Try 30-40 minutes. The second time around was a little bit better — I got a couple hours. Sleep will not be glamorous. You will either be smashed in some uncomfortable position in a van crowded with your teammates, sleeping on a hard gym floor, or sleeping in a field under the night sky. I chose the last of those options both times, and as much as I love being outside, I do not love sleeping outside. Ragnar is the closest I have ever come to camping! My main sleep advice is to do the best to get a good night’s sleep the night(s) before Ragnar. Do not sleep six to a room crowded on a hotel floor. Sleep in a bed and try to get your eight hours. It makes it semi-manageable to get through the next night. When you are done with Ragnar, prepare for one of the best night’s sleep of your life. I actually looked forward to this after my second one. I am a somewhat lousy sleeper and actually craved this amazing post-Ragnar night of sleep.
- The team aspect of this race is so much more than you can possibly imagine. This is especially true within your van. You go into this experience as friends or aquatances (or total strangers in my case…), but you leave as true teammates. It doesn’t matter if you have absolutely nothing in common outside of your love of running. You will have each other’s back by the time you cross that finish line. You will likely have continual contact for several days after the event finishes rehashing every little detail and laughing about all your inside jokes. My advice here is to choose your van-mates wisely. You will be getting to know them really well. But if they do happen to be total strangers, go into it with a “team before self” attitude and you will likely leave with some great new friends!
Have you run Ragnar before? What do you wish that YOU knew prior to your first one?