There's something about rallying together, over the course of 76ish miles, and getting it done. All kinds of grit. Lots of perseverance. A few tears along the way. An endless supply of support, encouragement, and laughter. And a finish line like none other.
I'm talking about the Market to Market Relay. And the sisterhood of six other runners and myself. And 12 hours (and nine minutes) of running. And a crowded van. And a nearly 18-hour day together...
The day was Saturday, May 14th. We loaded a van with all of our gear, including a couple of coolers (stocked with water and food). At 4:45 am, we departed town.
Destination: Jefferson, Iowa
|at the start line...(l-r):myself, Mae, Nikki, Lauren, Mary, Barb, Rebecca|
The 7:00 wave start (for our team) was ideal...not too early (some teams started as early as 5:30), and not too late (others started as late as 8:30). We arrived around 6:30, giving us plenty of time to hit the porta-potties, grab a few team pics, and allow Lauren (our first runner) to warm up.
Although this wasn't my first M2M Relay experience, it was my first time with the Grinnell Girls Gone Running team (I had been on a team of co-workers previously, in 2014, 2017, 2018 and 2019). M2M had to go virtual in 2020 (#Covid), and it didn't happen last year (again, #Covid), so it was exciting to see this event return in all its glory and fanfare
Similar to a Ragnar relay (but on a smaller scale), M2M incorporates an approximate 76-mile route. There are 18 exchange points along the course where the teams rotate runners and swap out each team's running batons (in this case, each team has a slap bracelet). Each team is comprised of 6-8 runners, and there are various team divisions based on gender, age, co-ed, collegiate, and corporate. Many of the teams have their vehicles decorated and many of the runners are in costume. It's quite an event!
With our team (#216) of seven, I was the third runner (thus, my bib number was 216-3), so my first leg wouldn't be happening for about an hour (or more), giving me plenty of time to stretch, eat and change into my running shoes. Mind you, there isn't much downtime between the running legs, since we have to drive ourselves to each of the parking spots near the exchange points. The runners are on the paved Raccoon River Valley Trail (for most of the course), but the vehicles are off-course (and given maps, with detailed directions).
|the orange route is for the teams' vehicles; the green route is for the runners|
The temps weren't too warm, just yet. I'd be mostly in the direct sun, though, so I anticipated I'd warm up pretty quickly. As you can see from the elevation map, there were some rolling hills but nothing too steep or strenuous. Overall, I felt alright, but definitely felt under-fueled. By the time I made it to the exchange point, and handed over the baton to Barb, all of my water was gone and I was feeling more tired than anticipated...probably from the extra effort it took to keep moving forward amidst the hunger pains (#mybad). Total miles: 5.36, average pace:9:22
It always feels good to finish your run! Back in the van, we made our way to the next exchange point. It would be several hours before I'd have to run again, so I changed out of my running shoes (and sweaty socks) and grabbed some real food to (finally) eat. Meanwhile, we took turns driving to the next six exchange points, and compared notes on what our various weather apps were showing for temps and humidity.
|(same as before...orange route: vehicles; green route: runners)|
Fortunately, this leg of the route did offer some intermittent shade as I made my way towards Adel from Kennedy Station. We all know I love my hot summer running, but when it happens in the middle of May (without any warning or acclimation), it's a tough scene. I was depleting my water faster than ideal and my body was feeling exhausted. I made it to the halfway mark and decided it best to take a short 1-minute walk break. About a mile later, I took another break (and yet another, near the 4.5-mile mark). Finally, I spotted Barb, off in the distance, awaiting the baton handoff. This leg had been difficult, physically and mentally. I didn't see many other runners until a gal passed me near the fourth mile. Total miles: 5.1, average pace: 10:15
We all know there's strength in numbers, and all seven of us commiserated on the tough conditions with the unusually warm temps. That being said, we still took the time to laugh and periodically don the Lucky Charms-inspired headbands in between our stops at the exchange points.
|(again...orange route: vehicles; green route: runners)|
It was approaching 6:00 when I grabbed the baton from Mary and headed down the hill, onto the Bill Riley Trail. I was thankful for the shade, for a brief while, but my body did not want to move. Even though I had not been running for the entire 14 hours of action (thus far), it very much felt otherwise. This stretch of the trail was pretty flat, but the temps were still crazy hot. I didn't see many other runners for this portion of the run, either, until a guy passed me (slowly, around the 2-mile mark). He commented that this was pure torture, and I had to agree (but I didn't have the strength to switch hands with my water bottle to high-5 him, LOL). I never tripped or stumbled, but I could feel my feet dragging. I did resort to a few more walk breaks, because I knew it was the right thing to do given the weather conditions and my state of fatigue. Finally, I spotted Barb, around a corner after a long, straight stretch of the path, and I held out the baton with the biggest sigh of relief ever. Total miles:3.51, average pace: 10:02
Oh, did it feel good to be done! After almost 14 miles of hot weather running, it felt great to reflect on the day. Below: Driving through the dusty gravel roads (with Mary as my on-the-spot navigator), my annual ride-the-slide in Redfield (Station 8), Lauren captured my hair acting as wings (though I was far from taking flight), and ringing the cow bell in front of the bell tower in Jefferson (near the start line).
Anyways, after I'd gotten back in the van, we made our way to find a parking spot near the finish line. We rallied, grabbed the headbands for one last time, and waited for Barb's arrival so we all could run across the finish line with her...as a team.
...and there we go! GIRL POWER!
|(l-r): Lauren, Rebecca, Mae, Barb, myself, Mary, Nikki|
How did we do? How does a fourth place finish grab you?
After the finish line, there's a decent post-run shindig. It's only right we celebrate our accomplishment, right?
The swag was on-point. The shirts are tech fabric, with gender-specific sizing. The medals were new this year...in years past, all participants received glass pints with the M2M Relay logo on them. These medals are actually bottle openers. Score!
An added bonus ,this year, was having our team featured on the M2M's post-event video! I bet you didn't know we were famous, did you?
|(screenshot of the video from Pink Gorilla Events )|
And that's a wrap!
Have you ever heard of the Market to Market Relay? Ever participated in a team relay event?