United Relay

“Disclaimer: I received entry into 5 stages of the United Relay – red route, to review as part of being a BibRave Pro. Learn more about becoming a BibRave Pro (ambassador), and check out BibRave.com to review find and write race reviews!”

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The United Relay is a coast to coast relay across the United States, with 3 different routes. Each route consists of participants running or cycling stages, which they pick from the website, and then in turn raise money for a charity (many options to chose from.) Each stage was about 8-12 miles, and in big cities there were group stages ranging from 3-4 miles. Each route starts in a different location on the west coast, but all end in New York City, where there is a concert by Alicia Keys. 2016 is the first year for the event.

*I chose to run on the red route for the Boston Children’s Hospital – here is the link if you want to donate (as long as it’s still open)

Registration: Available through the website. Cost was $50 per stage, or you could join a stage for $25. A cotton shirt was free, with code, but $5 shipping and handling. (I don’t need another shirt, so I did not buy one) Tech shirts available for purchase.

*This being the first year for the event I know they needed participants, so I am not sure if you ran multiple legs if you had to pay multiple times. They also had cyclists fill in last minute, as the relay was first designed to be running only.

Runners got to pick the stages they wanted to run, so the course scenery and elevation was up to each participant. Runners were to maintain an 11 min pace. The idea was to have local runners run a stage near them, so they knew where to go. The race organizers sent emails with GPS coordinates of the starting and finishing points, and the stage leaders would plan the routes. The emails also included phone numbers of the route leaders, and the participants of the surrounding stages.

The website had a variety of information available, and was easy to navigate. There was a page for your fundraising, a live map to show the progress of each route, and a sign up page to know who was running where & what route.

Check out my Bibrave review or add your own

I ran 5 stages of the relay in Illinois. I kept a “diary” of each leg as I went. That will be detailed below.

I was nervous going into this, there were some emails that provided the GPS coordinates of the beginning and ending of each stage, and if you were the first (or only) person running that stage, you made the route. I was not from the area, and luckily was provided a mapmyrun suggestion map. I would use this as a guide, and hope I got to where I needed to go.

In addition to GPS coordinates I was given phone numbers of the team leaders, Ben & Richard, and phone numbers of anyone doing stages before or after mine. I still didn’t feel like I had enough info.

I arrived at my first leg to meet the team leaders. I had made arrangements for them to move my car along the route, as I was alone. The idea behind the relay was someone else (family or friend) would be with you, or you would be running a stage close to your home area, and you would know where you’re going, and the relay team leaders would just be along the route for minor support.

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We had time to make introductions, as we waited for the stage before me to run in the baton. I told them about my running background, and we discussed the proposed route.  We made a plan, Richard would drive my car, and Ben would meet up ahead for the next person’s stage. (which would be a cyclist, who would be doing 60 miles overnight)

Stage 285 – Old Rte 66 MCT Quercus Grove Trail to Staunton, 11 miles. 5pm, 79 degrees, sunny

Gear – Orange Mud hydraquiver vest pack 1, Sparkle Athletic red dots skirt,Pro Compression heart socks, Running Warehosue shorts, brooks ghost 8 shoes, BibRave shirt, UV Buff, Louisiana Marathon Headsweats visor, XX2i Hawaii1 glasses, Garmin Fenix 3, Road ID, Champion sports bra

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This was actually a paved trail (bike) – flat- through a cornfield. Some trees for shade.

It was warmer than I was used too. I was worried about pace and may have started too fast, However I kept with pace.

I received the baton from Heather and her friends. Richard “crewed” this stage, as he made sure I turned the right direction at every intersection, and navigated the towns I passed through as there was a part in Hamel where there was no trail. He also made sure I was doing ok, by asking for a thumbs up. Even though I was running with my pack, I had more aid in my car, and could stop and grab what I needed. (PS, I never actually ran with the bulky baton)

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I handed off to John who would cycle the next 60 miles…

Stage 292 – Interurban Trail to Lincoln Park (Springfield) 7 am 55 degrees sunny – got hot quick…8 miles

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Gear – Orange Mud pack, Sparkle Athletic donut skirt, ProCompression pink/stars socks, Adidas shorts, brooks ghost 8, BR shirt, Survivor Buff, xx2i Hawaii1 glasses, Garmin Fenix 3, Road ID, moving comfort bra

Started on 2-3 miles paved trail, rest in city of Springfield, flat…some hilly areas

As I mentioned before there were many cyclists filling in the legs, which changed the pacing, and I was spoiled as most of my legs were sandwiched in these. I was able to start this route early, as John ended at midnight, he cycled the stages between mine…which the crew just took a rest until it was time to go in the morning….hence why I got an early start…. I was still worried about my pace to not hold up the next stages…

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This was just like my stage before, Richard drove my car and “crewed” along…he gets all the photo credit… I really didn’t need anything…but when I was running through Springfield, it was nice to know where I should be going. I did put the ending point on google maps, and listened to turn by turn directions on my headphones. However, I pushed forward to a next song and missed a prompt…oops.

I had time between this stage and my next stage to do what I wanted. I strolled around Springfield as they were having an Arts Festival, then I traveled Historic Route 66 to my next stage. In search of a diner with some salty fries and a milkshake.

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I have done multiple runs in multiple days, and it’s never the running that is the hard part, it’s the lack of sleep and weird diet. I was also running in warmer temps than I was used to, so I was making sure to take in salt and drink all the water and G2.

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Thanks to my Bibrave friends for the snacks!!!

Well I didn’t find much on this section of route 66, lots of abandoned things. I did get to Altanta (the next stage early) where I found the diner I had been looking for.

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After a great meal, I drove my next leg, it was along the highway to Funks Grove, which isn’t anything, but a maple “sirup” stand. Then I came back and took a nap in my car under a shade tree.

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Stage 298 – Atlanta to Funks Grove – HOT 80 when started, started early. All on historic route 66, saw a guy with a hot dog statue, flat…9.5 miles

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Gear – Orange Mud pack, Sparkle Athletic white skirt, ProCompression pink/stars socks, Adidas shorts, brooks ghost 8, purple tank, , BibRave hat, xx2i Hawaii1 glasses, Garmin Fenix 3, Road ID

I got the hand off from Josh, who was doing 20 miles or so before me, but it was hot, and he switched to the bike and cycled into town early. Josh ended up doing multiple stages for the relay, even on other routes.

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This was another route where there wasn’t anyone scheduled behind me unless Ben or Richard cycled. So I had the luxury of going whatever pace, and I even started early. I did try to be fair and kept the 11 min pace, even though it slowed as I went.

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Towards the end, I got spooked by a coyote. I often wonder what to do out running in the middle of nowhere and an animal comes out of the ditch.

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The crew stayed near Dwight for the evening, and since I was once again the first runner of the day… I was able to start early

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Stage 305 – Odell to Dwight – supposed to start at 8:20, but started early, as I had my eyes on the weather, sunny, getting HOT!!! started at like high 60’s-70. 10 mile route on historic route 66, FLAT

Gear – Bibrave tank, Hawkeye dri-fit hat, Bibrave Buff, xx2i Hawaii sunglasses, Aftershockz Trek Titanium headphones, Brooks Ghost 8, ProCompression USA socks, Sparkle Athletic gunmetal skirt, Garmin Fenix 3, Road ID

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Was able to run on/off the old hwy bed, which was good as the traffic was fast on the road, and the shoulder was narrow. One point a semi never got over, buzzed so close my hat flew off…I even got as far off the road as I could even stopped running as I saw this semi wasn’t getting over.

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Talked to my dad on my the headphones, and got tired…took a break at mile 7, I was hungry – ate gummi bears – really starting to slow the pace. Chatted with Richard, who crewed my entire stage…then passed this small park with 2 packs of geese and their young….luckily Richard came back to give me a 100 ft detour around them. Geese are mean!

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It was getting hot, but finished a little early and saw the next guy, who would be doing 3 stages, in the heat…John…who cycled 60 miles a day before. Ok so he was running almost 30 miles…This relay was bringing out some major badasses!!

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I had until 3:50 when I was to start my last stage. I hung out with the team leaders for a little while. They had more crew join them, Mandy & Laura, who were running the Chicago area stages, but were there to help before they got there.

I stopped at a Casey’s for some lunch, but it was getting hot and even though I needed to eat, I wasn’t hungry. I slowly made my way along route 66, to my next stop, but I caught up with the team, and we all traveled together for a while.

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The team met up with John, who switched to bike some miles, it was hot, and there was no shade, and he only had a hand held with him. I waited at the trail head.

My left foot had some pain on the forefoot and my right calf was sore.

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While waiting, John switched to running again, as he hit the gravel trail. It was a nice area.

John came in earlier than expected, which meant I could get out earlier too, this leg I would have to get to the next one on time as Chris would be waiting for the baton. It would only be 8 miles, but I was tired and it was hot.

Stage 309 – Symerton to Manhattan – Wauponsee Glacial Trail – gravel trail, no shade first 5 miles, about 80-85. Flat! 8 miles

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Gear – Orange Mud pack, Bibrave tank, Hawkeye dri-fit hat, Bibrave Buff, xx2i Hawaii sunglasses, Brooks Ghost 8, ProCompression jail break socks, Sparkle Athletic red skirt, Garmin Fenix 3, Road ID, moving comfort bra, 2Toms

Richard ran with me, we ran the first 3 miles, then it was struggle city. The no shade and heat had done me in…but we kept moving, and it was great to have the company.

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Mandy and Laura were moving the cars along, and even popped out of nowhere along the trail for a picture. We made sure to run as they snapped the pic.

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Once we were close to Manhattan, the trail had shade, and I took advantage and did a lot of walking, I think the overall pace was 13 min miles. I was appreciative of the time buffer I had. Happy to have had Richard on that last leg… otherwise I might still be walking out there right now ….

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I was sooo happy to be done, I was sooo tired….It was also nice to see the support team there.

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I was dreaming about watermelon, so we all hopped into the car, as we were early, and went to the grocery store, and I got a slice of watermelon! That last stage was brutal.

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When we got back to the park, Chris was there. It was nice to see the excitement from someone running their first stage…while I was exhausted.

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I really enjoyed this relay. I was soo nervous going into this, but the laid back road trip was awesome!! Just needed to get the baton to the next point, really nothing more simpler than that. Made a lot of new friends, and enjoyed checking out more parts of the USA. It’s why I love running the most, the community and chance to experience new things.

I wish I would have known about it for a longer period of time, before I signed up, to get more people to run this. I also wish it came through Iowa, maybe next year….I’ll see you then…we can all run in skirts…

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Fellow Bibrave Pros also tackled stages of the relay: Erica  – Jessica – Cassie – Samantha

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