Training Tips
  • How to Prepare for a Multi-leg Race
  • Final Tips from "Coach Joe"
  • What we do:  Most of us are marathoners and end up simply following a more lenient version of our marathon training plans to train for a long distance relay.  I commonly hear people say that half-marathon training plans work well.   Our training for relays is as varied as our athletic goals.  However, I highly recommend choosing two days to run 3 times a day about 3 weeks before the event.


Carefully follow all rules outlined in the guidebook of a relay race.  Ignoring even one could jeopardize the future of that race.  I'll highlight some here:
  • Wear safety gear from dusk 'till dawn:  Bring headlamps, reflective vests, and attachable blinking lights
  • No headphones:  I too love wearing headphones while out for a run because, frankly, Champaign, IL is not very scenic.  However, races often have insurance policies specifying that runners don't wear headphones.  So, even if you swear your hearing is acute while listening to your ipod during a relay race, you're putting the future of the race at risk!  Please note that I've seen teams disqualified for wearing headphones. 
  • "Camp" out only in designated sleeping areas:  Yes, the designated sleeping area at Hood-to-Coast was an absolutely noisy mess of teams blasting hip hop and parading their themes.  However, parking in off-course residential areas in the middle of the night, opening and closing van doors, and conversing with your teammates is an unfair disturbance to locals.  Doing so in business areas could create antagonism between local businesses and the race organization.  It could be bad enough if a van simply snooze in off course areas, but what's worse is that I've heard of team camping out on private farmland and lawns.
  • Do not sandbag:  As captain, I am extremely nervous about submitting any kind of estimate of my team's finishing time.  What's worse is that we often do hilly events, sometimes at high altitude, while most of us live in extremely flat areas at low altitude.  Given this, I fear I can't accurately estimate how much we'll slow down on terrain for which we can't adequately train.  Most races ask for 10K times on a flat course and claim to have a formula to predict our finishing time on their course.  I always ensure that we give the race accurate 10K times, and generally the race director's formula has been accurate.  (In the Bourbon Chase, organizers guessed our finishing time to within 3 minutes!)  Many teams sandbag because they either (1) fear of not performing at their best or (2) desire to secure an early starting time, complete the race early, and spend more time celebrating at the finish.  Unfortunately, lying destroys a race director's ability to accurately predict a finish and have a manageable wave of teams finishing around a specified time. Given the tendency to sandbag, many races have a rule that they will either hold back or disqualify teams that are ~2 hours or so (varies) ahead or behind their predicted pace.  Again, race directors will enforce their sandbagging rules.
  • Do not leapfrog:  Leapfrogging, or having your van meet your runner at multiple points along his or her leg, is extremely tempting.  Teams may want to offer their runner water at multiple points, help with directions, or do it as an act of safety.  Some races allow it.  I don't recommend it when it's not allowed.  Leapfrogging vans may pass particular runners multiple times, forcing them to breathe in unpleasant exhaust fumes an unnecessary number of times.  If you're driving slightly off the road to go around runners, you blast them with gravel or dirt.  If the roads are narrow yet accept two-way traffic (e.g. Bourbon Chase), you could be forcing runners into ditches multiple times.
That being said, most teams follow the rules and are fun to meet!  (Fine, even the rule breakers are fun to meet!) I love long distance relays because it's a nice change from the loneliness of the long distance runner to actually collaborating in a team sport.

  • Our team keeps costs low by renting 2 minivans rather than 12-15 passenger vehicles.  (The Wild West Relay secured an excellent deal for teams on 15 passenger vans, so we rented one then.  Though it was fun to get to know the whole team, it was impossible to keep the vehicle well organized with 13 people's belongings).  2 minivans work extremely well.
  • We always bring designated drivers.  We've been lucky enough to have friends and spouses willing to drive during our races.
  • We coordinate our flight arrival times so that we can carpool for airport pick-ups and drop-offs.  This both keeps costs low and is inline with our values on environmental friendliness.  

Time Keeping
  • Clipboard, pens, and a stopwatch or cell work just fine
  • A more technical approach can help better predict when the inactive van will need to become active again:
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