181 Miles. 12 Girls. 1 Journey

Contributed by April Blogger of the Month, Katherine Mason

This past weekend I ran in a relay race in Southern California called a “Ragnar Relay.” Ever heard of it? Ragnar Relay races are all over the nation and consist of teams with 12 runners split up into 2 vans. As a team they run nearly 200 miles from one city to another and split up the mileage by 36 legs, or 3 legs each runner. If you love to run and have never tried a Ragnar Relay before, I highly recommend you look into it. My team consisted mostly of fellow Washington College graduates, so naturally, we call our team “George’s Girls.”

This particular Ragnar started in Huntington Beach, CA and ended in San Diego, CA. For my 3 legs, I ran 4.1 miles on Friday night, then 6.5 miles around 2:00 a.m. on Saturday morning, then a final 5.4 miles on Saturday afternoon. So within 30 hours, I ran a total of 16 miles on about 90 minutes of sleep, plenty of bananas + peanut butter + cliff bars, about a million gallons of water, and straight adrenaline.

Sounds totally weird, right? Well…it is. It’s totally weird. But it’s also an unforgettable experience that can quickly become addicting because of what your mind, body, and soul goes through. I look back on each of my 3 runs and am so grateful for the time I had to work through my own physical and mental challenges as I climbed hills, fought through exhaustion, wrestled with muscle pain, and forced myself to see the beauty all around me when frustration and fatigued started to take over. I won’t run you (hah!) through every single leg that I ran, but I do want to share my favorite run – Leg 1, to get a sense of what it’s like to do a Ragnar:

As the sun began to set the Southern Cali air grew chilly, cranking both my adrenaline and nerves up high for my 1st leg. My teammates stood with me as I prepared for runner 11, Megan, to tag me into my turn for the relay. I did one final check for all my gear as I prepared to head into 4.1 miles of the evening’s course.

Headlamp – on, blinkie lights – on, iPhone’s running app + music playlist – ready,  reflective vest – nerdily in place!

Katherine Mason

We cheered as Megan made her way into the exchange with a smooth, confident, and fast paced finish despite her challenging leg. Cheers, big smiles, and a slap-bracelet exchange later – I was off! AHHHH!

With my adrenaline pumping, Pharrell Williams’ song “Happy” guided my first few minutes into the course. I couldn’t help but smile as wide as the sky those first few miles, because after climbing my first hill I lengthened my stride, charged downhill, and took in the most beautiful sunset accompanied by a portrait of scattered palm trees and the breathtaking Pacific Ocean. “Classic California,” I thought to myself. What a gift this was. I legitimately teared up while taking it all in. Before I knew it my running app was already reporting my time, mileage and pace into my ear – I was under pace so far! Slowing down didn’t even cross my mind because I was having way too much fun.

Remember this….take this in.” I thought to myself. And so I did. Throughout the run, here’s what I noticed:

– the feeling of the soft, ocean-side mist embracing my every move.

– the sight of that view that brought me to emotional tears mid-run; of an orange sherbet sunset, of Spanish style roof tops, of perfectly shaped palm trees, and dozens of bouncing headlamps from other runners illuminating the dark night.

– the sound of my playlist serenading my left ear only (I definitely need to by new headphones), of heavily breathing runners from other teams waiting with me for lights to change at various crosswalks, and of my girls cheering me on at the finish line of my 1st leg.

– the scent of a beachside campfire as I approached the finish and re-joined my team.

I really couldn’t have paired a better experience with this month’s theme, “renew.” To feel truly renewed we first have to come from a place that craves improvement, right? A personal sense of renewal, to me, is the betterment of oneself mentally, physically, and spiritually. This past weekend’s race gave me the challenge to renew my mind, body, and spirit through all sorts of adversities like heat exhaustion, enormous hills, join pain, my own self doubt, sleep deprivation, and even strategic coordination, but the fact that each of us as a team overcame such obstacles was unbelievably fulfilling.

Katherine Mason

Though I’m flying home tired, sore, and still a little dehydrated…I’m completely renewed thanks to this experience. I remember now what I’m capable of. How inspirational my friends and fellow Washington College alumnae are, and truly…how lucky I am.

So…what next adventure are you considering? Are you up for a renewal?

April blogger of the monthKatherine Mason is the owner/freelance writer for Newlie Creative, LLC and author to her blog, “Newlie.” By day she works in Admissions at Clary Sage College in Tulsa. She was born in Charlotte, NC, grew up near Philadelphia, PA, and is a proud graduate of Washington College in MD.

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