There Are No Comfort Zones at Ragnar


On Friday, I’m going to take turns running 205 miles across the desert with 11 total strangers. I’m so excited!

That is, I’m running Ragnar Del Sol, a two-day, 24/7 relay race from Wickenburg to Mesa, Arizona.

And I say I’m so excited, but I’m also uncomfortable. Sometimes, discomfort is part of the appeal. I’m not talking nagging-foot-injury discomfort. I’m talking way-out-of-my-comfort-zone discomfort.

Physically, I’m feeling good. I’ve trained well, and I’m particularly amped up for what awaits me on the desert roads.

How Ragnar Works

Each team comprises 12 runners, divided equally between two vans. Runners 1–6 take turns getting out of the van and plodding a predetermined distance (a segment or leg), anywhere from 2.3 to 13.5 miles each. When one runner finishes, a baton is passed and the next runner begins. On the sixth exchange, runner 6 in van 1 passes on to runner 7 in van 2, and runners 7–12 take it from there. Eventually, runner 12 in van 2 passes to runner 1 in van 1. And so on. (Ragnar explains it much cooler than I do in this 60-second video.)

My three legs are 7.1 miles, 7.6 miles and 9.0 miles. I’ve run all those distances. I’ll be running these legs around 7:30 a.m., 9 p.m. the same day and 7:15 a.m. the next day, respectively (depending on the collective pace of my team). I’ve run at those times.

When I say I’ve trained well, I mean I went so far as to simulate my legs, running this past Saturday morning, Saturday night and Sunday morning—not the whole distance, mind you, but enough to give me an idea of what I’m in for.

The conditions are nothing new. The race is on an open course and will consist of sidewalks and shoulders and side-stepping traffic. Been there, done that, got the technical T-shirt.

The question is …

Can I lighten up and just have fun?

Given my affinity for comfort zones, I’m a wee bit anxious about joining a whole team of people I’ve never met. Literally, they’re all flying and driving in from out of state today and will return from whence they came after it’s all over.

Given my respect for prerun regimen—like eating certain things at certain times, warming up, cooling down—I’m preoccupied with being at the mercy of five other people in my van who probably have their own prerun regimens.

Given my inclination to keep to myself, I get twitchy thinking of all the high-fiving and other close-quarters bonding that is to come.

Given my desire to look into something as much as possible before I leap, my answer to a lot of questions about this weekend has been “I think” and “Actually, I don’t know.”

One common denominator I have with my teammates-to-be is we’re all crazy enough to do this thing. I need to give myself permission to have fun with these 11 strangers. Based on everything I’ve been told, they won’t be strangers for long—36 hours cooped up in a car has a way of breaking down the walls of personal space.

So I’m trying to loosen the reins a bit and be OK not knowing all the answers about my Ragnar weekend. As long as I’m at the start line on time (alarm goes off around 3 a.m., BTW) and have my running gear on, everything else—well, a little mystery never hurt anyone.

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