Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Ragnar Etiquette: Dos, Don'ts, and Please Dont's

When my dad and I were preparing for our first marathon in the spring of 2010, I told him that we were starting an expensive habit.

"Expensive.  How is it expensive?  You buy a new pair of shoes a couple of times a year and you're good."

"The running gear isn't the most expensive part of it.  It's the registration fees and travel costs."

All of this was before either of us had run our first Ragnar.  We weren't even contemplating the following types of costs:

  • Van Rental Fees
  • Fuel
  • Hotel rooms
  • Massive amounts of snacks
  • Painkillers - the legal, over-the-counter type
  • Digestive aids
  • Van decorations
  • Running costumes - (This one's not bad for us--we just dress up like runners)
On top of these monetary costs of running a Ragnar, there are the short and long-term psychological costs of being in a van with family, friends, and strangers in extreme and smelly circumstances for hours on end with little to no sleep.  There's also a steep psychological cost of being a team captain, which I've done six times with my seventh on the way.  (It's always fun when the team members complain about a bad start time and tell you it's your fault, after they refused to register until the very last minute.)

After running five marathons, 11 Ragnar Events, 1 Red Rock Relay, and a handful of other races, I've learned to deal with the cost and find a way to cover it.  (My dad thinks I pay for it by avoiding his requests to reimburse him for the registration and other costs).

Along the way, I've developed what I call "Jarad's Ragnar Etiquette: Dos, Don'ts, and Absolutely Do Nots, or Common Sense and Courtesy."  I spent some time contemplating these in great depth during the Ragnar Del Sol 2014 while some of my teammates took all the sleep time and I navigated.  (Please excuse some of my underlying negativity as these thoughts were developed and formalized by a sleep deprived mind.)

Here a few of my rules of etiquette:

Registration and Race Prep
  • If you commit to the team to run, then do everything you can to run it.  If you can't run it, it's your responsibility to help find a replacement.  
  • If you pay your money for the registration and then back out within three weeks of the race, you forfeit your entrance fee.  That belongs to whatever poor, fortunate schmuck who gets pulled in at the last minute without the proper training.
  • Respond in a timely manner to your team invitation.  Don't leave the team hanging for a final pace and start time because you can't open an email and log in.  If you're too busy to complete the registration, then you're too busy to run a Ragnar.
  • Put an accurate pace in your profile.
  • Spend some time training--at least enough that you don't get life threatening blisters on your feet after the first three mile run.
  • Bring snacks and drinks to share with the other runners.

Running the Race and Riding in the Van
  • Cheer your runners and other runners on as often as you can, especially those running their third leg in the middle of the heat on the second day.
  • Decorate your van, at least with some drawings.
  • Costumes are optional but please don't try to make other runners vomit by wearing an outfit that is inappropriate for anyplace except your bedroom or the mental hospital.
  • Learn how to eat appropriately so that your not anxiously awaiting the Honeybuckets at every single exchange.  
  • Be courteous to those who are experiencing digestive problems.  It's in your interest to get them to the needed facility in time--no need to make the odor problem worse!
  • Take turns driving and be patient with the navigator especially from 1:00am to 6:00am.  Mistakes are natural for the sleep deprived.
  • Take a water or gatorade to the exchanges for the runners coming in--even if they don't want, it's nice to know that your team is thinking of you. 
  • Always feed your hungriest runner when he or she needs it--otherwise they'll complain about the need for food at 3am when nothing is open. 
  • Run in together as a team at the finish line.  If you're the last runner, slow down enough to allow your sore and stiff teammates to keep up.  No need to sprint at that point. 
  • Lock the door of the HoneyBucket/port-a-potty when you are inside taking care of your business.  Nobody wants to pop the door open to see you in the act, hear you scream, and see the look of terror on your face.  LOCK THE DOOR.

The Don'ts
  • Don't hog all the sleep time by allowing your teammates to be responsible for getting you everywhere.  Help with navigation, cheering, and driving.  Remember, if you are sleeping the whole time while others are driving you places, they may be considering places to drop off your body in the desert.
  •  Don't be grumpy the whole time.  Some grumpiness is expected and acceptable.  Remember, your teammates don't have to pick you up after your next run.
  • Don't overreact to others' grumpiness.  Some reaction is fine, but keep it at a level that will keep you out of jail.
  • Don't tell the overweight runner that it's easy and they should just keep running instead of walking.  Tell them they're doing great!
  • Don't put your sweaty body or sweaty clothes on others' clothing or stuff.  
  • Don't hog all of the phone recharging time.  The world can live without your witty posts for a few hours if your phone dies.  My witty posts, however, tend to keep people going and are necessary.   
  • Don't ignore other runners when they greet you in passing.  Even a grunt in reply is better than ignoring another runner. 
  • Don't accidentally navigate your van to Exchange 30 when you are supposed to be going to Exchange 24.  You will not get the sleep time you need, your driver may abandon his post, and the runners in the other van may put out a professional hit on you.
  • Change into clean running clothes at least once.  (Some think you should put on clean running clothes for every run.  I think that's bad for the environment.)

The Absolutely Do Nots
  • Do not consume alcohol on the course.  It's not worth getting killed or killing someone else because your in desperate need of a buzz.
  • Do not honk in residential areas at night during the quiet time.  The Ragnar staff works hard with local cities and authorities to get us great routes for our runs.  Don't ruin that by being stupid and inconsiderate.
  • Do not cheapen the experience by pulling your runner off of the course and driving him or her further down.  Do everything you can to complete the course.  
  • DO NOT use another person's body glide.  Some things should NOT be shared.
  • DO NOT run out of medals at the finish line.  Really, you didn't know that many teams were going to be running?
Please let me know if you have any rules of etiquette that you would like to add.  

And remember the most important rule: Ragnars are supposed to be fun.  HAVE FUN or GO HOME!

(Just don't go home until you finish your last leg because I don't want to have to do it for you.)

For more entertainment and enlightenment, please check out my other Ragnar Blogs:
Why I Ragnar
Confessions of Ragnarian
Profile of a Ragnarian
Ragnar Zion - To the Trails
Experimental (Trail) Running - Ragnar


Kristina Cervone said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Kristina Cervone said...

Do not talk excessively in the van and try to "one up" everyone about everything. It is annoying under normal conditions let alone these conditions.

Anonymous said...

Do not ignore your team mate when they are sick. It is rude.

Anonymous said...

I have one, how about not blocking the road so the people who don't have anything do with Ragnar can get to where they are going without a 1 hr traffic/runner jam in the middle of the mountains!!!

Anonymous said...

Don't cut in line at the port-a-potties. So frustrating to be in line to pee when you are next and your runner is due in any moment...to the have 4 people join their friend in front of you. Grrr. Also, changing your clothes in a store bathroom at an exchange with no port-a-potties while a big line forms outside. Grrrr! Change in the van!

Do cheer on runners not in your team! It is so nice!

Anonymous said...

Do keep track of the time you're supposed to be in the chute for your exchange and get yourself and all your running stuff there in a timely manner. NEVER leave your runner cooling his/her heels at the exchange while you leisurely get ready to run.

Anonymous said...

We all understand the need for caffeine and will do almost anything to try get your fix. DO NOT insist that it MUST be Starbucks at 2:30am in the middle of nowhere.

Anonymous said...

Do not hang your nasty, sweaty running clothes on the back of the seat in front of you. Someone has to sit there.

stefer said...

Be prepared to run an extra leg for an injured runner... We had THREE last year!!! It's called taking one for the team, and Ragnar is ALL about the team!!! Looking forward to another great Colorado race this year!

Anonymous said...

Relax when the van is not there at the exchange waiting on you, it just means we went to the next exchange and are on our way back.