With that in mind, I'd have to add that if you want to have a blast while feeling like a rock star, you need to run a relay! Long or short, stomach flu or healthy I've never regretted a single relay I've done! Not that I've done many (yet) but I do plan to do more of them in the future!
I'm offically a Relay Junkie. I realized this over the weekend when I drove some 500 miles, climbed into a van with people I'd met literally 10 minutes before and then proceeded to spend the next 36 hours sweating, laughing, crying, puking and running with them.
Every time I tell my mother-in-law I'm running a race, she makes a face and asks, "WHY?" But when I tell her I'm running a relay she goes off on a tirade about how I'm going to kill myself and running's so hard on my body. She really gets upset when she finds out I'm running with total strangers in someplace far away. She insists I'm going to get killed (or worse) by some psycho in the middle of nowhere that I just met. That is of course if I don't keel over and die from the running first.
I've tried to explain to her why I love running and especially the relays, but she just doesn't get it. I probably won't have any luck explaining here either (especially considering I'm still in that haze of "relay hangover" so I probably won't make any sense anyway) but I'll give it a shot.
In my experience, any race, no matter of the distance will give you a confidence boost. There are always people there cheering you on, congratulating you on completing the race. It feels good. The bigger the race, generally the bigger the cheers (and the better the SWAG.)
What makes a relay special is the team. You're part of something bigger than just your personal best in any distance. In addition to all of the other great stuff about races (medals, t-shirts, SWAG, cheers, etc) you get to be a part of the cheering section for other runners. You do your best because you don't want to let the team down and it's just an added bonus to have the team with you and supporting you every step of the way. They lift you mentally (and sometimes even physically) to performing your absolute best. And then you get to turn around and support them right back. When you are 30 hours into a race like this with no sleep at all, and your final runner is has covered more than 15 miles and is climbing a mountain in 100 degree heat, he can get a little discouraged. Between the fatigue and the heat and the lactic acid build up in his muscles it would be so easy to quit, but then he passes by and you cheer and ring a cow bell so loud even Christopher Walken would be impressed, you get to watch him perk up and start moving a little faster, and then he KILLS the last 2 miles at a pace you didn't think would be possible! It's a great feeling to know you were a small part of that!
Plus, on a completely vain note, it's total validation to be able to tell people that you spent your weekend running 18 miles over a period of 30 hours on zero sleep. Most of them regard you with a mixture of awe and "are you freakin' crazy!" looks. (And the truth is yes. Yes I am. And your point?)
I love so much about doing relays. Staying up all night to run. Bonding with amazing people you just met that morning. Running obscene distances in remote places. Pushing your body past what it thinks is possible (fatigue, soreness bah! I can do anything!). Seeing some of the coolest terrain on earth fly by, not in a car or plane, but by being out in it. Trying to sleep cramped up in a van or on a church lawn or whatever. Eating out of a cooler for two days. (And eating junk food without that feeling of wanting to kill yourself afterwards.) Getting to write clever things on your car and decorate it like it's Christmas. Share private inside jokes that only a handful of people will ever understand. Cheering all the other runners on to their very best. Wearing a wig or ringing a cowbell just to make people smile. The night of sleep when you finally crash, (sometimes 40+ hours since you've slept at all. You'll sleep like the dead.) The relay hangover when you wake up the next morning and even your brain hurts. (But you're smiling because you have a headful of happy memories.) There are so many more things!
But my favorite thing about doing relays is coming home to my babies! I never feel bad about leaving them for a night or two, but I always miss them and I LOVE seeing their faces when I get home!
Parker cut another tooth while I was gone this weekend and when she saw me get out of the car she actually started clapping for the first time! It was pretty much the cutest thing I've ever seen!
I have some great pictures from the race and the team captain said he'd get his put on a drive and sent over, so I'll post actual race pictures and the "story" of this particular relay later. My brain is far too mushy to think straight right now anyway. Since Thursday I've spent better than 1000 miles in a car, a good 600 of that driving, so I'm going to head for my bed now. It's really the only safe place for me at the moment.