Running: Ragnar invading south Washington CountyNext week, hundreds of local runners will take part in the The Ragnar Relay Great River race – a 200-mile, two-day team relay event taking runners from Winona to Minneapolis along the Mississippi River. In all, 321 teams and more than 3,400 runners from over 40 states will hit the road.
By: Patrick Johnson, Sports Editor, South Washington County Bulletin
For many Minnesota sports enthusiasts, Ragnar is the bearded, gjallarlhorn-blowing, Harley Davidson-driving mascot of the Minnesota Vikings. However, Ragnar has a different connection for some.
Next week, hundreds of local runners will take part in the The Ragnar Relay Great River race – a 200-mile, two-day team relay event taking runners from Winona to Minneapolis along the Mississippi River. In all, 321 teams and more than 3,400 runners from over 40 states will hit the roads and trails of eastern Minnesota and across the Mississippi into western Wisconsin, running throughout the night over the 200-mile course until they reach the Twin Cities. The event, which is part of the Ragnar Relay Series and presented by Nordic Track, is the largest relay event of its kind in the world.
Four Cottage Grove residents — John Jambor, Dan Weston and Jason and Jenny West — and former Cottage Grove residents - Bob Simpson and Tom Vasterling will help make up the 12-person team “RoadKill Warriors.”
It’ll be the third Ragnar Relay race for Jenny and Jason West.
“It’s just awesome,” said Jenny West, 39. “It’s such a cool event. Granted, we’ve only done it twice, but the enthusiasm is so great from all the teams and you cheer on one another. It’s just really inspiring and a really fun event.”
West is her team’s fifth runner, and will run 18.6 miles in total. She said she runs a number of races during the summer and has always been a distance runner, but doesn’t get overly serious about the Ragnar race.
“Our motto this year is to have fun, get through it without any injuries and enjoy ourselves,” she said. “We’re not in it to set any records. It’s a pretty grueling event so you have to keep your spirit up and have fun along the way.”
The Ragnar Relay was created in 2004 and named for a 9th century, adventure-seeking Norse Viking. For the race, teams of four to 12 runners load into vans and spend anywhere from 18 to 36 total hours together – either running their portion of the race, cheering on teammates or trying to rest up in their rides. The majority of teams often wear crazy costumes to add to the festive atmosphere.
The RoadKill Warriors team created “The 12 Days of Running” — a spoof of “The 12 days of Christmas” — which they’ve been posting to Facebook periodically. The team also made 500 magnets of the team’s Roadkill Warrior logo they’re planning to give to other runners. In addition, the girls on the team are wearing Wonder Woman socks and custom-made team T-Shirts.
“If you’re not decorated people think you must be new,” Jenny West said. “That’s half the fun. Some people come up with some really crazy costumes.”
The race kicks off Friday, Aug. 17, and finishes on Saturday, Aug. 18. Runners split the race into shifts between three and eight miles in length. Teams launch between 6 a.m. and 3 p.m. on a Friday and the majority finish between 25 and 32 hours later. One of the final portions of the race cuts through Cottage Grove and up Highway 61 on the way to Minneapolis. Park High School will be exchange No. 30, where racers can get first aid, coffee, a pancake breakfast and hit the showers.
Mark Tabor of Woodbury is running the Ragnar Relay with a group of 12 people he met working out and running at Woodbury’s Lifetime Fitness. His co-ed team’s name is “From Here to Beer.”
This will be Tabor’s second Ragnar Relay race. After the first one, he got the Ragnar logo tattooed on his ankle.
He said his favorite part of the race is the team aspect of it.
“Going into it, I just heard it was really cool and you did some crazy stuff like not sleeping or getting dirty and stinky in a van,” he said. “But, when I was done with it I thought it was really cool because you have a team and you cheer each other on. It was a change of pace from a normal race.”
Tabor, who said he runs “a handful of races each year,” is the runner No. 12 on his team and he will get the chance to cross the finish line for From Here to Beer. His three legs include a 6.2 “very hard” run, a 5 mile “hard run” and a 7 mile “very hard” leg.
“Our team takes a more relaxed attitude about it,” Tabor said. “It’s more about just having fun and going out and running. But, I think some of the people on the team will push it to see what we can do.”
But, what about that beer?
“There’s a lot of fun involved,” Tabor said. “A lot of people hang out with each other in their vans and with people in other vans. You have to stay on top of it and support each other, too. But, at the end there’s definitely a big party.”