To an outsider, sports like swimming and running seem very much individual sports. However, for those of us “in the know,” we realize that at times it can be a very individualized sport, but at the same time, highly team oriented. As someone who puts a lot of pressure on themselves and is intrinsically competitive, swimming was the perfect sport for me growing up. I was able to race against myself and the clock, but at the same time contribute to a team and a common goal. So after I graduated, it was really no surprise to myself or anyone I know that running was the sport I decided to take up next.
Relays were always one of my favorite parts about swimming. I always swam the shorter relays (200 or 400), meaning it was anywhere from 25 to 60 seconds of pure “give it your all.” Or, as I fondly referred to it, going balls to the wall (almost literally). Swimming isn’t much of a spectator sport, but walk into any meet, and you are guaranteed to see people up on their feet, eyes glued to the pool when it comes time for the relays. Sometimes the hardest part about being on a relay was not your actual leg – but standing nearby, either completely out of breath or having near heart palpitations before your turn, knowing there is only so much you can do, and the rest falls into the hands of three teammates.
So obviously when I saw that there was a 10k relay at a park basically 5 minutes from my house on Sunday, I knew I had to sign up. The concept was simple: find a partner, and you each run a 5k, broken in half… meaning 1.55 miles twice. The event was put on by a local running team, so the field was fast. I decided that my best plan of attack was to treat it like a speed workout. Even though running 1.55 miles followed by a 10-ish minute break isn’t ideal, I figured it would be a good general test of my endurance. Plus, I was pumped to see that the race swag was a pair of gloves, instead of yet another boxy race shirt.
The best part of the race was the start – I generally start too fast and have to try and pull back in the first half mile or so, but since I was only running 1.55 and then getting a break, I didn’t pull back as much as normal… but I also didn’t feel like I was trying nearly as hard as a 7 minute mile usually feels. Since the field was full of legitimate high school and college runners, I kept on my merry way as people flew by me. After the first leg, I was definitely tired, but felt like I could have kept going, finishing with a just around 7 minute pace average. I tried my best to keep moving on the muddy grass, but I wanted to make sure I didn’t miss my turn, so I didn’t move nearly as much as I would have liked.
By the time I started my second leg, my legs were definitely feeling it but overall I was comfortable. And then I got annoyed. Some dude decided that he was going to use me as a wind shield and draft off of me for the next mile. I considered slowing down, and even at one point as he was breathing heavily down my neck ask him if he was going to continue to draft off of me for the remainder of the race, or if he wanted to grow a pair and run his own race. Of course being much meaner in my head, I refrained and carried on. I came around the bend to hand off my baton, and was slammed by someone coming in behind me not paying attention. Not really the way I wanted to end my part of the race, but I was pleased with my overall 22:12! Unfortunately there wasn’t any water near the hand-off area, so I jogged in circles until the hubs finished, with our respectable time of 43:50.
I did about a mile cool down, and waited to see the results just for fun. We came in 55th and 11th in our division (co-ed open). Then we booked it to Old Man Rafferty’s in downtown New Brunswick for brunch with some other friends that ran the race as well. It was a perfect ending to a fun morning. The weather was perfect, the running was speedy but not too difficult, and anything that ends in cupcakes is good if you ask me.
Overall I’m really happy with the race, and the way I’ve been running in general. My last few runs while nothing spectacular, have felt good, and have been in the low 8’s. I’d really love to PR at my next half marathon in April, so if I can keep up the mileage and incorporate some more speed work like Sunday’s race, I think I’ll be in good shape. Now if only I could find more relays to do!
Have you ever run (or swam!) a relay? Love or hate them?
Do you have a favorite post-race food?