By Nick Worth
Holbrook City Finance Director Randy Sullivan doesn’t normally dress up like a pirate and run in a relay race in the middle of the night. Still, he thought he’d give it a try when his brother Mike asked him to fill in for a team member who had to drop out of an upcoming Ragnar Relay Race from Madison, Wis., to Chicago, Ill.
That’s how Sullivan found himself a member of the Jesters of Tortuga, Mike Sullivan’s Ragnar Race team.
If you’re wondering what a Ragnar Relay Race is, Randy Sullivan explained.
“There are two ways to do it,” he said. “You can have a 12-man team or a six-man team, called an ‘ultra team.’”
The Jesters of Tortuga is a 12-man team.
“At the start, the first runner, that was me, runs five miles,” Sullivan said. He noted that the other 11 runners are in two vans and drive ahead to an exchange point, where the first runner then takes the slap bracelet off his wrist and slaps it onto the next runner from his team, who goes on to run the second leg of the race.
“Each runner runs three times,” Sullivan said. The distance they cover usually ranges from five to 10 miles.
“One runner may have 11 miles one time and only three miles the next time,” Sullivan said. “There’s no stopping. We ran all through the night.”
The race continues non-stop until the prescribed distance, usually about 200 miles, is covered.
“Our race was actually 197 miles, “ Sullivan said, “but they had us detour around a bridge and that added another 2.8 miles onto the run, so we came out pretty close to 200 miles.”
The races got their start when Dan Hill and his college roommate, Tanner Bell, organized the first relay race, the Wasatch Back Relay, in 2004. In the race, runners traversed 188 miles from Logan to Park City, Utah.
As for the name, on the Ragnar website it states “Ragnar was a king and hero of early 9th century Scandinavia. He was a conqueror, a wild man, a leader, fearless and free-spirited.”
Sullivan said although the Ragnar races originated in Utah, the sport has grown and races are now held all over the U.S. A check of the Ragnar Relay Series website showed upcoming races scheduled for such diverse locations as Cape Cod, Mass., Niagara, Ontario, Canada, Aspen, Colo., Napa Valley, Calif., Key West, Fla., and Lake Placid, N.Y.
Sullivan said his brother Mike has run in three of the races with his team. In addition to the Sullivans, the Jesters include Adam Erickson, Jake Rigert, Jillian Rigert, Neal Ritter, Brandon Cole, Karl Goeke, Barry Luff, Scott Conley, James O’Brien and Ashley Lacy.
Even though there were two women on the team, the Jesters competed in the category for an all men’s team.
Sullivan said the schedule of running every two hours or so was grueling. Theoretically, the runners should be able to get a little sleep, but Sullivan said it was impossible to do so with the movement of the van and the other runners entering and exiting the vehicle.
“My first two runs I did fine,” he said. “The third time, after 24 hours with no sleep, it was tough.”
When the dust had settled after the race, the Jesters of Tortuga finished in 78th place in a field of 448 teams.
“We finished in just under 28 hours,” Sullivan said. “Our time was 27 hours and 58 minutes.”
Sullivan said he enjoyed the accomplishment of running in the race, though he admitted to having second thoughts.
“At the time I was thinking ‘this is nuts,’” he said, “but it’s really very rewarding.”
By Nick Worth