A few months back the running group I trained with decided they were going to send some teams to go run the Pettit Indoor Marathon Relay. I somehow got swept up in all of the excitement and put my name in as well. I was able to convince my old college friend Christine to join us also. If anything, it would give us a chance to catch up while we do the relay. Spots seemed to fill up quick and before we knew it, the BWRC was sending enough runners for 11 teams.
Each team can have up to 4 runners and would collectively run the distance of a marathon on the indoor track – which ended up being 95 laps in total. If you have a full team of 4 runners it ended up being between 6-7mi per runner. The active runner ran with a velcro strap with the timing chip around their ankle. After their leg was done, we’d transfer the velcro strap to the next runner. Along with Christine, we were matched with Emily who is one of the site leaders for BWRC and Nolan who was a last minute replacement for someone else who couldn’t make it. From the very beginning we told each other we were not trying to hit any specific time or pace, so that took some of the pressure off. I brought my wireless Bose speaker and we had music the whole time so it was pretty clear we were in it to have some fun.
The last time I ever did any kind of relay was when I was in high school. In the second or third to last event of the track meet, there would sometimes be a race called the “Weightman’s Relay”. It was a 4x100m race for shot-putters and discus-throwers. That’s right, it was the big guy relay. A lot of times this race was just an “exhibition” race – also known as “watch the fat guys run”. In all honesty I really enjoyed when I was able to run it, because just for 100m I could pretend I belonged out there on the track with the rest of the runners.
I’ve known Christine for over 20 year now. Is that right? I can know people for that long? Man I am old! We were cheerleading stunt partners in college so our shared fitness goals started early on. After that we stayed friends and eventually started running around the same time. She even helped me finish my second marathon. I knew having her on the team would help me mentally just like it did when she ran in the marathon with me.
Out of the four of us, Nolan was clearly the fastest. He is 11 years old and on cross country at his school. It was pretty amazing watching him run so fast and so effortlessly. I didn’t care about finishing fast, but with him on the team, he could cancel me out since I was the slowest.
I haven’t known Emily very long, but one thing I do know is that she absolutely brings the positive energy. She is one of the site leaders and pace group leaders for BWRC and I was happy to find out she was on our team. I wish I was faster so I could run in her pace group too.
The race started promptly at 1pm and we set the order of our runners – Christine, Nolan, Emily, then me. When Emily became our captain a few weeks back we decided to do 4-lap legs. After talking more on Facebook we decided to shave it down to 3 laps. We had no goal or strategy, so we just wanted to see how things would go.
After each of us completed our first leg of 3 laps, we quickly changed our strategy to running 2 laps per leg. Since the track was a little longer than the standard track at 445m (.28mi) it messed with our pacing. We worried that we would get tired faster. “It’s a marathon, not a sprint” could not be more true at this point. We figured, if we knew we only had to do 2 laps at a time, it would be much easier to manage throughout the rest of the race.
I had my Marathon Relay playlist rocking the entire time at our pit stop so we could pass the time waiting for our turn. Now with the shortened legs, there really was not that much time to wait around for your turn. One thing I did not consider was how quickly I would tighten up waiting my turn. The running track is secondary at the Pettit arena to the two hockey rinks and the olympic speed skating long track. The temperature felt like it was in the 50s the entire race. I would absolutely love this climate during an outdoor marathon, but not during an indoor marathon relay.
One by one, the length of this race was starting to wear on us differently. First Nolan’s foot started hurting him and he was running out of energy. He was still clocking pretty quick splits, but you could tell he was not quite enjoying himself any longer. He ended up swapping his shoes out with some shoes he had broken in. Next my ankle started stiffening up and then eventually Christine started hurting also.
The Finish Line
Just like my marathon experiences in the past, we just had to keep chipping away at the miles. I refocused on the task- run 2 laps, rest for 6 laps, and repeat. At around mile 20, I caught a second wind, which was the opposite experience I have had running a marathon. I had three more legs to run, told Christine “I am feeling good, I am going to do these fast”. These last three legs were my fastest of the race. Christine was hurting bad by the end, so Emily and I picked up an extra lap to cover Christine’s last leg. That left Nolan to finish the last leg and the race for us. We wanted him to cross the finish line for our team, and the math of the of all the laps made that happen. We finished just under 4 hours, so now I can say I finished a marathon under 4 hours.
I definitely underestimated what it would take to finish this relay. Normally, a 6.5-7mi run is something that seems absolutely doable, but when you pair that with constant cold temperature, and stopping and waiting a majority of the time, it gets a little more difficult. Next year I will be more mentally prepared for the race and hope that we will get a better time…as long as Nolan is back on my team.