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Published January 17, 2011, 12:00 AM

Wagner: Relay adventure races offer a break from marathon training

Alligators, ocean-side running and two vans filled with friends. Add in a Key Lime milk shake, 190 miles of inside jokes and amazing food, and you start to get the idea of what it’s like to run the Florida Keys Ragnar Relay.

Alligators, ocean-side running and two vans filled with friends.

Add in a Key Lime milk shake, 190 miles of inside jokes and amazing food, and you start to get the idea of what it’s like to run the Florida Keys Ragnar Relay.

For the past three summers, I’ve been fortunate to run with a

12-person relay through Wisconsin and Minnesota for Ragnar’s Great River version. But about four months ago, my teammates called to ask whether I’d join them for the relay series’ race from Miami to Key West.

It was a no-brainer for me, especially since Ragnar races are more an adventure than a running event.

And it didn’t hurt that the Florida Keys race fell in January, about the time when those living in the Northland look for a little relief from Old Man Winter.

After returning last week from the race and a few extra days tacked on to vacation, my running has been reinvigorated.

It needed something, as training for a marathon next month has been tough, especially long runs with subzero temps and snow-packed roads being the norm this winter.

A trip to Florida, offering 70-plus degree days and fast running conditions, seems to have renewed my vigor for running, much like the Ragnar race in the summer provides motivation during fall marathon training.

As I left Key West, this thought seemed to stick in my mind: I’d much rather run winter relay races than a marathon.

It’s less grueling, but more importantly, it’s a chance to hang out and share the entire experience with friends. It’s a twist on a normal vacation and helps one forget the guilt from eating whatever catches your eye.

A relay adventure race is more than a running event. It’s food for the soul. It’s a way to share laughs with friends, explore the country and leave with unforgettable memories. In many ways, the running is one of the least important aspects of the event.

While running provides motivation to participate, the overall experience is what brings me back year after year.

Inforum searchword: travel

Forum News Director Steve Wagner writes a running blog, which can be found online at runningspud.areavoices.com. He can be reached via email at swagner@forumcomm.com.

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