A couple of weekends back I participated in the Texas Independence Relay (TIR). The TIR is a 203.2 mile relay race from Gonzales, TX to the San Jacinto Monument. The course covers 203.2 miles in remembrance of the Texas fight for independence from Mexico in 1836.
The TIR is a challenging and wonderful event where you spend much time time in close contact with your team as you work to pursue your race goals. Most of my running was done in fairly secluded Texas country, often with only the cows and horses on nearby land as my company. My first leg was on isolated dirt roads where the support vehicles were not allowed to travel. In this area it was just myself and the the countryside, although I happily enjoyed an almost all downhill run with the wind at my back! I think my favorite leg came around 2:25 in the early morning as I ran down an empty stretch of Texas highway mostly alone, able to enjoy the stars and the sounds of the owls in the night. For the most part the only signs of other runners were the faint signs of scattered blinking lights strapped to runners in the distance ahead of me and the occasional support van driving by. The best view during this dark run had to be while crossing the Brazos River and I could see almost nothing but dark countryside and a star-filled sky in almost every direction. In the span of this relay leg I only crossed the paths of 2 or 3 runners in the 45 minutes inspect running, and I enjoyed every minute of this nighttime run! I thoroughly enjoyed TIR. While it is not easy, it is a very rewarding effort. I was surprised by how many runners I knew on the various teams and by how easy it is to make new friends as you interact with all the other teams around you. I often run events for enjoyment rather than speed, and I have to say that this was the most fun I have ever had at a running event.
One commonality shared by most of the teams is a desire to have fun and a strong feeling of camaraderie runs through the teams. In addition, it seems the desire to have fun is also a shared trait as shown in particular (almost to an extreme) by some teams. A friend of mine ran for Team TAGND (The Athletic Girls Next Door) and wore matching Catholic schoolgirl type costumes. Another Team named The Mullets has created their own Facebook page which also lists themselves as professional athletes, and they certainly displayed their unique hairstyle during the event. Other teams had names such as Wolverine Express (a member of this team serenaded a member of my team at a relay exchange point while they were waiting for their team's runners to come in), Most Likely to Secede, and 2 Slow 2 Win 2 Dumb 2 Quit give you an idea into the state of mind of some of the competing teams.
For anyone desiring to put together a relay team for this (or a similar) event, my best advice is to understand the logistics needed to move runners ahead on the course to be in the right place at the right time. However, the trouble is well worth going through for such an incredible experience.
In this photo I am at the base of the San Jacinto Monument with several of my teammates just following our successful completion of the event in 31:24:59.