Annual 24-hour Ragnar Relay takes teams of runners from Copper to Aspen on Aug. 6 | SummitDaily.com

Annual 24-hour Ragnar Relay takes teams of runners from Copper to Aspen on Aug. 6

Leo Wolfson
Special to the Daily
A Ragnar Relay team celebrates at the Aspen finish line after finishing in 2014. The 24-hour team-running event pits crews of 12 against a 200-mile course between Copper Mountain and Aspen.
Special to the Daily |

2015 Ragnar Relay

What: A 200-mile team running event from Copper Mountain to Aspen, with legs of 3-8 miles split between teams of up to 12 runners

Where: Copper Mountain starting line

When: Thursday, Aug. 6 at 5 a.m.

Cost: Sold out

The Ragnar relay comes to Copper and the Lake Dillon rec path from 5 a.m. to noon on Aug. 6. The race is sold out, but spectators are welcome on the race route. For more information on the 2016 Ragnar, along with course information and volunteer opportunities, see www.ragnarrelay.com or call 801-499-5024.

The Ragnar Relay, a two-day race between Copper Mountain and Aspen beginning Aug. 6, combines elements of endurance, teamwork and bravery for a running battle like no other. In regular Ragnar divisions, teams of 12 run three legs of 3 to 8 miles each. In the ultra division, however, only six team members run six of these legs. In total, 181 teams will participate in this year’s grueling adventure.

“It’s just a down and dirty race,” said Morgan Whitehouse with the public relations department at Copper Mountain Resort. “It’s not like running a marathon by yourself. You’re running through day and night together.”

Running warriors

To complete the Ragnar, competitors must be more than just a runner — they’re crazed warriors at heart. By the time the Ragnar comes to an end in Aspen, relay teams will have run through the night, which is one of the most exciting (and challenging) aspects of the race. Ragnarians dressed in headlamps and reflective vests run from sundown to sun-up, conjuring up the image of modern-day Paul Reveres.

“Fearless nature is a must,” Ragnarian Regina Case said. “You are running at night by yourself, you might stray off the path, you are without cell phone coverage for parts, and the wildlife can always add a spectacle.”

She is a two-time Ragnar vet and is competing again in this year’s installment. While running with teammates in the 2014 race, she had a humorous encounter with a bear cub.

“We saw … (the bear) run across the path,” she said. “We were all sleep deprived, so no one said anything because we thought we imagined it. Finally, minutes later, someone pipes up and goes, ‘So did anyone else see that bear?’ Everyone yells, ‘Yes!’ yet we still finished out our legs, no second thoughts.”

Simply finishing the race is a testament to endurance, but even more so, it’s a testament to slight insanity. By the time the race is completed, teams will have run for 24 to 32 hours with no rest.

Yet, being an expert runner isn’t required, as individual members on each team run 9 to 22 total miles. This format gives runners of all levels, novice to advanced, the chance to share in the glory of a 200-mile race together. During the Ragnar, every member is as important as the last, and one missing link means a loss of the race — or war, if you will.

“What’s really unique about the relay format is the ability to bring a wide spectrum of people to running,” Ragnar Events CEO Chris Infurchia said in a 2012 Summit Daily News article. “For a novice runner to participate with their friend who’s an Ironman … is really cool. The engagement with friends is unparalleled from a camaraderie perspective.”

Toughest Ragnar in the nation

When not running, teams travel between exchanges in vans. Here’s how it works: After a runner begins, the crew of 11 drives ahead, cheers for the runner and then waits at the next exchange point. When six of the 12 runners have completed a leg, those runners drive ahead to the next exchange stop and rest, while the remaining six teammates complete their legs.

A van filled with sweaty, sleep-deprived runners may not sound ideal to most, but for a Ragnarian, it’s just another part of the journey. Like a Humvee taking soldiers to battle, these vans unite the runners for a single purpose: the mission Aspen.

“You spend 24-plus hours straight with barely any sleep, and that’s when you really get to know people,” Case said. “You share memories of sleeping on the floor together, laughing at things that make no sense and rooting each other on.”

The Colorado course is easily the toughest of 13 Ragnars across the country, according to Ragnar Events. After peaking out at 10,662 feet on Vail Pass, teams descend west along the Interstate 70 corridor. After making their way through this passage, runners then connect with the Colorado Trail in Glenwood Springs for the last few legs to Aspen.

Ragnarians in the Summit County portion of the race run from Copper Mountain to Lake Dillon, circle the lake, then head back to Copper again.


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