Marathon relay races are a fun and exciting challenge that all runners must try at least once. If you have runner friends or are part of a runners group, you will definitely enjoy this experience like none other; and will sign-up for a relay year after year.
I have participated in a dozen relays and have enjoyed each of them to the fullest. My favorite is the marathons that allow you to run in unique conditions, such as across the woods or over the mountains. The midnight marathons are also a beautiful experience.
Whether you are a regular marathon runner or just starting up, you will find this comprehensive guide on these races to be useful. I have compiled all the information about relay marathons and even curated a list of the top 8 relay races across the country that you must not miss. In the end, I added some of my tips for training for these types of relays.
What is a marathon relay race?
A marathon relay is a race that spans a long distance; however, it allows two or more runners to participate as a team and split the length amongst themselves. There are different rules for different relays.
However, usually, a group of two or four or six runners is allowed to take part as a team and tackle the long distance. In relays that span long distances such as over 200 miles, a group of nine or twelve members is typical.
Top 8 Relays You Must Go For this year
If you have decided to register for this type of relay, you will find this list helpful. I have curated a list of the top 10 relay marathons, in no particular order, which you must not miss –
The Hood to Coast marathon relay is a prevalent race. It, in fact, reaches its capacity each year within a few days of opening registrations. Known as the 'Mother of all Relays,' the Hood to Coast Relay sees participants from over 40 countries each year. You can register for the race with a team of 8 to 12 members.
They have two relay options of 199 miles and 130 miles. The former is for runners while the latter is for walkers only. If you wish to enjoy a picturesque run from the top of the mountains to the coastlines, you must sign-up for the Hood to Coast Relay.
The Ragnar Social is a fantastic relay that attracts thousands of runners each year. It is a 200-mile race that is well-known for its beautiful course. The highlight of the marathon is the night run along the ocean lines and the run through the groves of Orange County.
However, unfortunately, due to the COVID pandemic, the marathon for the year 2021 has been canceled, keeping in mind the health and safety of runners. Keep an eye out on their site for new race updates.
It is a great relay marathon that you can enjoy with twelve of your runner friends. A two-day event, the race spans a distance of almost 200 miles from Gettysburg to DC. The relay race is well-known for curating different food and drink experiences throughout the route, especially at the transition points.
The highlight is the famous Boy Scouts Pancake Breakfast at transition 24. However, unfortunately, due to the COVID pandemic, the marathon for the year 2021 has been canceled due to health concerns.
The Reach the Beach relay is a beautiful experience of close to 200 miles that spans mountain slopes and runs all the way down to the beaches. It has been conducted for years now and is well-known among the runner's community.
If you are intimidated by the idea of a 200-mile race, the Ragnar Reach the Beach relay has a great solution. They have created a small, one-day event of 55 miles for beginners along the sidelines of the primary race; you can register for this smaller version of the race with a team of 6 runners.
If you are looking for a wild adventure in the mountains, then the Smoky Mountain Relay in the mountains of Western North Carolina is just what you need. It is a great adventure that you can enjoy with a team of six or nine or twelve runners.
The entire distance of over 200 miles is divided into 36 legs, and each runner runs a set number of legs. It is a pleasant experience that all runners must try at least once. Plus, they offer a 20% discount for active or retired military persons. There are discounts for all-female teams and collegiate as well.
It is a unique running experience in itself and very different from the usual marathons. Especially due to the COVID restrictions, the Ragnar Sunset Miami changed its relay format to make it more challenging and fun.
A course of 1.75 miles will be divided between teams of 2 or four members. The goal will be to run the maximum number of rounds within 5 hours. It is a different, one-of-a-kind race.
The Wawayanda Lake relay, now known as the Ragnar Trail New Jersey, is a beautiful adventure in the wild. It is a combination of a running relay and a camping experience. When you are not running the race, you will find yourself enjoying a bonfire, camping near the village, and sleeping under the stars.
It is a two-day, one-night event that promises a lot of fun and adventure for all participants. The running trail in itself is gorgeous and transitions from wild woods to running by the calm, serene lakeside. It will definitely be one of the best weekends of your life!
The Lake Tahoe Marathon is a big event that has a number of small events spread across three days. It includes relay races, events for kids, 5K, and more. The best part is that you and your team can enjoy a variety of races and marathons across the three days instead of just taking part in a relay race.
The highlight of the event is the 72 Mile Midnight Express ultra-marathon which offers the chance to run a unique course at midnight. If you want to challenge yourself, you can also take part in the Tahoe Triple Marathon, which is basically like doing a marathon each day and finally concluding with the exciting 72-mile marathon.
5 Tips to Train for a Running Relay Race
A marathon can be a challenging task indeed, especially a relay marathon where you need to work in tandem with your team members as well. Each member of the team must be able to perform their level best. If you train hard and right, it is not as difficult as it sounds.
Here are a few tips that can help you train for this type of relay race –
1Train for the time of your run -- Usually, a relay marathon requires you to run one of your legs at an odd time of the day – it may be very early in the morning or at midnight. While training for the race, ensure you practice running for the time of your run. It will help adapt your body to the time of your run; and will also mentally prepare you to be at your best during that time.
2Learn to run without warm-up -- One of the trickiest aspects of a relay marathon race is the fact that runners need to be ready to run without much warm-up. You will be spending a significant part of the day in a vehicle or just waiting for your leg to begin; there will not be enough time for a proper warm-up. Therefore, try to train yourself to run without a warm-up. You can also add some high-intensity stretches or a quick warm-up routine to your daily practice, which can be easily replicated on the day of the race. It will help your body get accustomed to running without a proper warm-up.
3Practice on a similar terrain -- A marathon is conducted on a variety of terrains. Often a running relay is performed on a combination of road and trail. Trails can also vary; for example, a lot of marathon races combine road and rocky trails. Several relays also have a substantial run scheduled on the beaches. Try to prepare yourself in advance to run on similar terrain. If you have never run on a trail before, make sure to practice at least a few times before the race.
4Coordinate with team members -- A relay marathon is all about coordination. It is all about teamwork, after all. Plan with your team. Look at the course map together and decide who will run which leg of the race. Plan out all logistics, such as booking a van and stocking up on food and energy drinks. Keep checking up on each other and encourage each member of the team to perform their best.
5Go for a practice run or two with all team members -- If time and circumstances permit, you must plan for at least one practice run with all the team members. It is one of the best ways to ensure a great run on the race day!
Prepare for the best outcome and just have fun
While a marathon running relay is definitely a competitive race, it is also a great chance to have some fun and test your own capabilities. You get to meet like-minded people, make new friends, and enjoy a day of unlimited pleasure. It is a awesome experience in itself.
Most Frequently asked Questions
I am sure you have a lot of questions about these relay races, and, understandably so. A relay can get confusing for beginners and first-time runners since there are many rules and aspects to keep in mind.
To make it easier for you, I am answering some of the most asked questions about relay races –
A marathon relay is very much like the track and field sport. It consists of a team of runners that split the miles amongst themselves. It can be very long, sometimes well over 200 miles as well.
The entire distance is divided into different legs (usually long marathons are divided into 24 or 36 legs), and each team member runs several legs of the race. A relay marathon often uses a baton that needs to be passed on from one team member to another. The team whose runner first crosses the finish line with the baton in hand wins.
Different races have different rules regarding team members and other things. However, generally, a relay allows teams of two to twelve runners.
It is pretty simple. You need to log on to the marathon's website and register your team. You will be asked to provide specific basic details and maybe a medical declaration as well. A certain fee is also payable for most marathons. Some of them offer an early registration discount as well.
Again, this is a subjective question; different races can have different rules. However, the classic marathon relay has six stages and encourages a team of anywhere between six to twelve runners. It allows each runner to run several legs of the race.
A marathon relay is definitely a challenging experience. However, it would be wrong to say that it is ideal for only advanced runners. Even beginners can enjoy this type of relay race since the distance gets split up; for example, if you are a team of six, each might need to run a short distance only, and there would be enough time to recover before the next leg as well.
It can be a fun experience for beginners, also provided that you are fit and have some running practice.