This past weekend I did my first-ever relay. However, if you count other types of relay, it isn’t exactly my first. I did the 4×8 my last year of high school. This, my friends, was a bit different. Where the 4×8 was four girls running half a mile each, this baby was 8 (7 since we lost one) people running what added up to 116 miles. The race went from Paris, TN to Pickwick, TN.
What led me to do this, you might ask? I didn’t look the event up and then decide to do it. About two months ago Jan and I went to support fellow runners/nab free food 😉 at a race. A mutual runner friend walked up and was chatting with us, and asked if we might want to join this race he was doing if someone dropped out.
I didn’t think much about it after that. A week ago, I got a text from a former teammate from college and then I got a message from the friend Jan and I were talking to in February. Once I cleared it up that they were on the same team, I looked up the event. This was the first year that the Tennessee River Relay has been held. The event didn’t yield many results on my search, and though it had a facebook, the website for the actual race didn’t have a lot of information. Nonetheless…Jan and I got set up to join, as more people dropped out of the team and were replaced by us. The day before, someone had to drop out. By the time of the race there were seven of us instead of the race director’s preferred number of eight members.
I didn’t sleep very well that week, and the night before the race was no exception. I got an hour of sleep. One of the team members, Kent, picked Jan and myself up in his vehicle. He and Brandon rode over together. We met up with my former teammate Tracee nearby. Next we all rode over in our respective cars to Paris, Tennessee, where the race was set to start. Here we met our remaining two team members.
There weren’t many teams signed up. For a second I was disappointed, but then I thought about how we could win. I wasn’t alone in my thoughts, as the rest of the team started talking about how we wanted to do really well.
We ultimately decided to do evenly measured distances for everyone, until we got tired or needed to adjust our strategy. Ultimately that worked better than Jan and my initial plan of having one longer distance in the middle of two shorter race legs.
Someone proposed our team be called Team Terminus. The ‘Terminus’ part comes from the last half of Walking Dead season 4, in which the characters keep seeing signs for a “safer” community called Terminus. The name stuck. After Brandon, the team leader, wrote the team name and drew a zombie on the car, I started drawing too. We covered the side windows of both team cars with drawings from the show.
The race proved to be pretty exciting. Another team had a back and forth with us early in the race. They even passed us. We changed up our strategy after that, and were able to pass them again.
Much of the day was spent munching on food and driving to stopping point of the runner running the current leg of the race. We changed our strategy as necessary if someone got fatigued or we needed to extend our lead over second place. Ultimately, I ran 7 legs. 5 of them were 3 miles, and the last two were less than 3 miles. I ran nearly 17 miles in total, Jan ran even more.
I hadn’t met 2 of the people on our team before. I enjoyed getting to know them as the day went on. For the entirety of the race, we were on roads like the ones pictured above. We were rarely in the downtown areas of where we ran. For the most part, we did have a shoulder to run on, except for a few scary times when we did not. There were a few times when we ran past barking dogs. We ran past roadkill and litter. Kent had a hurting foot, but otherwise the only injury any of us got was a sunburn.
The race was such a fun time. As the race neared to a close, we started worrying that second place was closing in on us. Though they were nowhere in our immediate sight, we acted as if the threat were real, and kicked it in for the end. We started doing shorter distances or taking breaks. All of us were pretty tired by this point. In the end, we won!! Well, kind of. Though we beat the second place team by well over 5 minutes. (We finished in 15:23 and they in 15:29). The race director considered the second place team the true winners since they had a full team of 8 members and we only had 7. We disagreed, but none of us was going to cause a scene.
After taking pictures and talking to the other team, we went out to eat. We had originally decided to camp out in tents after the race, but thankfully we decided against it. I don’t think our bodies would have responded favorably to sleeping on the ground after the exercise we we put them through. We got hotel rooms and called it a night after that.
The next day we ate breakfast and said some bittersweet goodbyes.
I have a feeling that may not be the last time we all see each other. I think they were great people to meet and I am glad I got to run with such a fun and energetic group of people.
I really enjoyed this race, mainly because of having the people that were on my team. I also liked the competitive nature of our run. I think the race itself could have some improvements in communication and resources for the runners.
I am thankful I was asked to run on this unexpected adventure.