Articles Comments

Facebook Link Twitter Link
Pace Calculator

Digital Running Club » Articles » Van Magic

Van Magic

by guest author Amy Clark

It’s true. Before we even celebrated the autumnal equinox, large swaths of our Ragnar Great River/Digital Running 2012 team already signed on for 2013, not even one month after they first ran together. Why? What makes us, as the craziness of work, school, and time-crushed schedules closes in, reach one small part of our mind back to hot, night-time August? It’s the siren call of Ragnar — the desire to lose ourselves in something bigger, crazier, more indescribable than our individual needs, coupled with the fact that once you’ve done a Digital Running Ragnar, there’s just no turning back.

A Ragnar relay race, for those who have never done one (or been subjected to hearing about it, in REALLY minute detail, from someone who has just returned from one) is two parts glorious running/bonding experience and one part quite intense logistics. You see, there are two vans, with six people each – and they run the legs of the relay in sequence, handing off a slap bracelet… and one van rests while the other runs, then they switch… and somewhere in there you grab a few hours of sleep or a plate of pasta, but really you don’t sleep because even though it’s 2:00 in the morning and you just ran 7 miles, you’re really fired up and you know you’re running again at 6am… and then you all meet up to go over the finish line together the following day… It’s fun. Truly. It’s indescribably fun.

However, without the Undaunted Darrows of Digital Running (Brian and Raffi) leading the charge of van/life/runner management, it would be, well, kind of a headache at times. The headache factor is removed if you join a Digital Running team, where all the logistics/finance/reflective gear/tsuris is taken on by the Darrows, freeing you up to just drink in the whole Ragnarian universe.

Our particular universe was made even more noteworthy by the fact that we selected the team name “Running in the Bluff” (there are many hills/bluffs in Winona, MN, where the race starts), which is of course a play on “in the buff”, and we interpreted this literally by wearing–well, not much (see photo). This garnered us many admiring stares, laughs, and photo ops (including one for the sweet Prairie Home Companionesque lady manning the check-in station, who wanted to show her Bingo group). Of course, we got a few grumbles from anonymous, crabby Ragnarians who stuck hostile notes on the van, but we like to think they were just having a bad day, and perhaps need more hobbies – like CrossFit.

And while Ragnar during the day is beautiful and kind of amazing (all of these tiny towns taken over by sequential herds of runners galloping hill and dale over the landscape, and eating them out of house and home), Ragnar at night always takes on a completely otherworldly quality. Perhaps it is the ET-like vision of all of those headlamps and back-of-the-vest lights glowing in the pitch-black farmland, the sound of footfalls broken only by the cowbell-wielding van occupants yelling encouragement out the windows. Or perhaps it is simply the notion that there you are, at a time when not even the farmers are up, running–running fast–and feeling, inexplicably, like you can run like this forever, like you have wings on your feet, like you are riding the currents of wind and vague moonlight and it just doesn’t hurt the way you thought it would. You have entered–however briefly–this strangely powerful, nocturnal world, and it’s arrestingly beautiful.

And when you’re done, you can hurry into your cozy van for the essential change of clothes, the ridiculous treat of gummi cherries or granola bars, the hope of coffee and hot chocolate at an upcoming exchange. Yes, you’ve got one more run, but it will be in the daylight, and you know when you finish that one, you’ve had your last hurrah, other than the group finish-line trot. So why rush it? Wrap yourself in a blanket and savor this crazy moment as the dawn starts to break.

You’ve bonded completely with these 5 previously-strangers, made bawdy jokes, shared food, virtually undressed in front of each other (hey–you’re running for two interconnected days–“Friturday,” as the Darrows call the blend of Friday into Saturday–so really, there’s just no time to be Victorian), you’ve urged each other on and bucked each other up. When you reconvene–much, much later that night, after beers and celebrations and showers and dinner–you emerge into the plush hotel lobby, clean and dressed, blinking as if you are leaving a dark, intense movie to step into a bright day.

Did you really just do that? Run 200 miles on crazy terrain one after another with your instant best friends, no sleep, and nothing but Clif bars and Digital Running team love to keep you going?

Yep, you did. And It was wonderful! See you next August. Countdown starts NOW.

Written by

Amy Clark (the one chick in her Linden Hills hen house) lives in Minneapolis with her three beloved children, ages 8, 12, and 15, and her two ultra-chill, nonrunning cats. She firmly believes that with the right combination of Brooks running shoes, family, weightlifting, Wallace Stevens, iced mochas, James Joyce, RadioLab, and viewings of "Local Hero," most grievous ills can be at least partially rectified.

Filed under: Articles · Tags:

Leave a Reply


You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>