I’ll start with this: Would I do it again? Yes, absolutely, in a heartbeat. Captaining was a great experience and I recommend it. I’ve now run on a team where I had not met anyone (except my husband) until Thursday night, and run on a team where I knew everyone. The beauty of Ragnar is that they were both great experiences.
Captaining means more work, but also, I think, more reward. Among comments I’ve gotten from the team:
“I’ve found my love of running again, and it is thanks to you, the team and Ragnar.”
“This is the most fun I’ve ever had.”
“That was my favorite run, ever.”
Most importantly—just about everybody has indicated they’d like to do it again. I consider that a success.
Of course, success does not equal perfection! So, here’s what I learned in case you are considering putting together a team.
- Don’t focus on building a team based on speed. An older, wiser teammate in Chicago shared this advice, and it’s true: In Ragnar, here’s what’s important: Do they love running? Can they take off work to travel and run for 2-3 days? Are they willing to spend the money to do it?
I would add, ‘Aare they enjoyable to be around?’, but of course that’s somewhat subjective.
Those were my basic criteria, and the fact that I ended up with a speedy, scrappy team was just bonus.
Talk up Ragnar, get other people excited about it, and you’ll find the right people to do it. They may seem random, but if they get the ‘spirit of Ragnar,’ they’ll be a good fit for your team.
- Reserve your vans and hotel rooms early. Like, before-you-buy-the-team-early. We probably could’ve gotten 15-passenger vans if I’d booked earlier, and while the 12-passenger worked fine, I’d recommend the 15. These are reservations that can be cancelled or changed later, but doing them early is important.
- Create a private Facebook page or other group for everyone to communicate before and after the race. Ours has had so much activity since last weekend. It’s nice to have a place to share our inside jokes and, believe it or not—plans for our next Ragnar.
- Have a team meeting before Ragnar. Especially if you have rookies, this will help get them the answers they need and feel more comfortable with the people they’ll be in the van with. I didn’t realize how anxious a lot of my team was until we had the meeting. It helped solidify some things for them but also made me aware of some things I needed to do to make them more comfortable, too. We Skyped in our long-distance members so they could ask questions and feel less outsider-y, too.
- Scope out the food situation near the Major Exchanges. We were spoiled in Chicago—there were food options 24-7 very near the course. In Tennessee, there were very few options for anything other than fast food. I wish I’d planned more and given the team more direction to that end. Even the places with food along the course were iffy in that they sold out of certain foods, so it’s hard to plan around that unknown too. Next year, I’m contemplating having the team potluck to bring a whole bunch of grilled chicken breasts and pasta salad and such in the cooler so we have the option to do that. Not every runner can subsist on pumpkin bread and pita chips for that long.
- Light your team up like a Christmas tree! Extra blinkies, extra illumination. Not just in case anyone loses one on a run, but so that, if you are running open roads, you are even more visible. We saw a lot of runners who were not as lit up as they could be. You’d be amazed at how much more you can see someone who has just one or two extra lights on them. The more visible your runners are, the safer they are.
- Support your runners on the course and off. Make sure they are eating and re-hydrating after the run, too. Avoid what we now call, a ‘Nutrition Situation.’
- Wet Erase Chalk Markers. Get them. The big, fat ones. You can order them online; I found ours at Sam Flax, an art supply store, in Atlanta. They are expensive but worth it; they just make your vans look better. Make sure each van has a couple once you hit the road so they can add on to your van art and tag other vans.
- Invest in or borrow electric inverters for the vans. With everyone on their smartphone and using their Garmins 24-7, you’ll be glad to have the option for electric. Just remind everyone to bring both car AND phone chargers if they have them.
- Get individual bottles of water, not gallons to refill personal bottles. We’ve tried both, and it’s just nice to have individual bottles to grab. A Sharpie to write their names on the bottle is a nice idea, but I’d also suggest getting different brands so that it’s even easier to keep track of whose is whose.
- Definitely get team shirts. I love our start line pictures in our bright blue shirts. Ours benefited my friend Scott, so we got to help someone out while adding to our team unity, too.
- Have a video camera in each van. Even if you aren’t entering the Ragnar video contest, it is both a way to entertain yourself and to relive your memories after the fact.
- Don’t expect to sleep, at all. You’ll either be making sure your van is okay, or checking on the other one. Make time in your schedule the week after Ragnar so you can recouperate then, or you’ll be miserable.
If you are considering captaining a team, I say, do it. I feel like some kind of running ambassador now–like I have opened up a new door for enjoyment of the sport to a bunch of people who might not have had it, or, worse, who might have lost their love of it amidst constant training and racing and injury-fighting and all those other things that can dim your initial passion for running. I can also tell-they now have friends, and friends of friends who are interested in Ragnar-ing, too. And that, is an awesome thing to have done.
If you ask me. 🙂