Should You Sign up for a Relay Race?

Rate this Article:
pros and cons of running in a relay Should You Sign up for a Relay Race?

For some the word “relay” evokes flashbacks to epic track & field events or high school gym class where you were forced to wear smell, itchy ill-fitting uniforms. The good news is for those of us who are no longer in high school, we have grown up, and so has the relay.

Relays have gained popularity Since the inception in 2004 of the Ragnar Relay series, relays have gained popularity. Participating in a Ragnar Relay race, or the like, can be a ton of fun, but can also be a large time commitment and requires a lot of planning. Luckily, there are plenty of other options out there, including some of the “regular” races you are already running.

Whether you aren’t quite ready to sign up for a full distance race such as a marathon or you’d like to get a group together to accomplish a goal such as raising money for a good cause, signing up for a relay race with a group of friends who also love to race can be an exciting change from running a race alone.

Though they are designed to be fun, like everything else in life, relays can have their fair share of headaches.  Before you round up your friends and sign up, take a look at the pros and cons of running a relay.

Different Goals

Most of the time people run a relay for the same reason as their teammates– a common goal. And the reasons can vary. Maybe they want to have fun with the other people on their team.  Or perhaps they are more competitive and looking to place with a group super speedy friends. Sometimes, however, over the months of training, goals can change for one or more of the team members. Not an ideal situation if you have a couple people really reaching for a goal and a couple others being flippant.

U.S. Air Force photo by Duncan Wood

The good news is the goal of having fun is rarely going to change. No one is going to look around and decide to have a bad time. And if fun was the main goal from the beginning, but the competitive nature comes out in a teammate and they suddenly want to race, it’s easy to tell them they can try to make their split the fastest but you signed on for fun.

A New Perspective

In a longer race like a marathon, not only will you be on some of the freshest legs out on the course you’ll be seeing that portion of the race with fresh eyes. We all have spots in our races where our spirit, our energy, our legs, our motivation starts to waver. Call it “The Wall”, call it your Achilles Heel, no matter the name we all could stand to evaluate that certain portion of our race. This would be a great time to do it.

If you go out too fast or hit a lull as soon as the back half starts or even just have a mental block at a certain mile, ask to have the leg that incorporates your problem area. Being able to be in a race at that trouble spot and not feel your normal issues may enlighten you. Sometimes it’s simply passing the Mile 23 sign one time in a good head-space that could help cure you.

Change of Plans

We all know life happens and when it does we understand. If someone loses a job and can’t afford to travel or someone get pregnant or injured and racing isn’t a viable option, it’s disappointing but those are understandable and reasonable reasons to make changes.

Just as life happens, so does people changing their mind. Even those your trust and know the most can just decide they no longer want to run, leaving  you and the rest of the team in a lurch. It might get especially sticky if loss of money is involved. It’s always a good idea to have a backup plan or back up person so friendships can stay intact and no one feels that they are on the hook if they do just change their mind or have a situation arise.


You might really like the teamwork. For most of us, it’s been a long time since we’ve been able to run on a team and some never have.  Some might be taken back to old cross country days or re-live track & field wins. It’s pretty hard to begin your leg of the race and not feel the support of your teammates and their counting on you.


The exchange itself is also exhilarating. How often do you get to pass off or receive your race from someone else? It’s a special feeling.  And while it’s probably normal for your relay team to be the people who celebrate your other race accomplishments, there is nothing like celebrating a finish that you accomplished together.

You Might Learn Something about Yourself

Relay races could teach you a little bit about yourself and what it teaches you could be a good thing or a bad thing, so be prepared. It could become glaring obviously to you that being on a team doesn’t work for you, or that you are too competitive. Alternatively, you might be assigned a funky distanced leg that you aren’t really used to and absolutely kill it, finding a new race distance you really excel at running. If you are the most seasoned runner on your team, you might find yourself doing a little bit of coaching and find out you not only like it, but are good at it.

Like all of running, a lot of the end result is in the journey getting there. You can expect this new relay endeavor to expand and grow you like others.

Bottom Line

It’s always fun to try something new or change up a boring old race by incorporating others. That’s one of the nice things about running; you always have options to change and never have to remain running something you are not into.

For the most part, runners in general are always down for a good time and taking a few friends, running a race together and celebrating crossing another finish sounds like about the most fun a runner can have.