If you’ve ever run – or even witnessed – an overnight cross country running relay (such as a Ragnar Relay), you’re probably familiar with the concept of the “road kill”. A road kill, used in the context of such a relay, refers to the passing of another team’s runner by the runner currently on the course. Many teams fastidiously record their road kills with stick figures, check marks, or magnets on the sides of their van.
Although there are various ways of counting road kills, there really aren’t any awards for having the most road kills in a relay. It’s all about pride, baby! Generally, it works on an honor system where the runners on the course simply keep track of the number of runners they pass during their legs of the relay. In most cases, it’s that simple. A fairer form of counting is for the runners to subtract from the total when they get passed by another runner. That way, the team should have an accurate count of just how many teams they have passed along the route. Of course, teams typically start in different waves with the slowest teams starting earliest, so the count is fairly meaningless in terms of the actual race anyway. It’s just fun!
Perhaps the real importance in counting road kills lies in the intrateam rivalries. If team members of van #1 chalk up 17 road kills in their first set of legs, they’ve set the bar for van #2! If van #2 can’t clear that total, then much smack-talk will ensue at the next major exchange point. Van #2 might even have to make up the difference in beers purchased for members of van #1 at the post race party.
There are those who think that road kills are unsportsmanlike, but those people are probably taking the relay a little too seriously. Many runners will chalk up their road kills with much ceremony back at the van, but more often than not, they also offer kind words of encouragement to those they pass on the course. Road kills are really just a party game in the moving celebration that is an overnight cross country running relay!